SHED NOTES 51: Some policy advice

The Shed likes to recall Denis Healey saying that being Labour did not stop him having “dark Tory urges” and the trouble with the liberal left is its failure to recognise the same thing in most of its missing voters.
Somebody probably should have stopped her, but Kathryn Hughes tested the patience even of Guardian readers on 28.1.15, with an attack on Kirstie Allsopp for her crusade to catch a litter lout. Full version at
Summary follows …

Last Friday morning, Kirstie Allsopp thought she saw someone throwing litter from a car. Most of us would feel momentarily irritated, but Allsopp was downright furious and decided to tweet the offending numberplate. Her accompanying message exhorted her 369,000 followers “don’t be scared to say Tosser”.
You might think that this self-righteousness need not detain us for longer than 140 characters and a furtive glance to see if we recognise the car that caused Allsopp to see red. But it strikes me that behind Allsopp’s apparently commonsense approach to people who litter the streets lies the toxic conviction that her values are the right ones, the ones by which the rest of us should live.
Litter is, of course, unpleasant to be around. Seeing a Coke can bobbing on a pond or a fag packet trampled into the verge, or even a bit of chewing gum stuck to a bus seat, lowers your mood and makes you feel grubby. But it is not, in and of itself, evil or disgusting. To adapt the anthropologist Mary Douglas’s classic formulation of dirt, litter is merely matter out of place. Restore it to its rightful surroundings – the wastepaper basket, the street bin, the recycling box – and order is resumed.
But who decides what that proper place is? Kirstie Allsopp, apparently, and anyone else who feels that their values are so obviously the right ones that it gives them the moral authority to take the law into their own hands when they come across someone who thinks differently.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Allsopp came to fame on a television programme helping nice, sensible people buy their dream house. Encoded in all those early Victorian terraces and mid-century modern detached houses is a vestige of the 18th-century belief that, in order to have the right to political representation, you must first own property. Only then do you have a stake in how the country is run.
Vigilantism is rightly deplored as mob violence that has been given a free pass to enforce its own dominant codes. But taking the law into your own hands when it comes to litter louts is really no different. I have no idea if it’s a crime to tweet someone’s numberplate and encourage derision, but I rather hope it is.

nevisthecat, bless him, told Kathryn through the Guardian website:
This article is utter utter drivel.
It is nothing to do with middle class and being smug and all to do with some scummy b*stard throwing litter.
Do your job – you say you’re not sure if it is illegal to Tweet the number – go and check before firing out this dross.
As someone from solid working class stock, who’s parent and grandparents abhorred dirty nets and a mucky front step it’s all about respecting other people.
If I catch whoever is dropping their Maccy D bags in the lane by our house I’ll wrap my Defender around their head.

The Shed can only raise its cuppa to that summary.

The important thing about littering is not that it divides the working class from the middle class but that it divides the good working class from the divs and any political party which picks up on that properly will have its problems solved.
The Shed has in fact previously proposed that municipal support grants, and preferably dole too, should be penalised on the basis of density of chewing-gum stains in the town centre and styrofoam cups in its hedgerows –figures which are already gathered, as it happens,for the measurement of local government performance. Why not make it community performance?
Point being, for the benefit of Kathryn, that if the spitters didn’t know they were doing wrong before, they would soon bloody learn. We think Denis would approve.


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