YOU can just imagine the scene – a shadowy cabal of government officials gather to figure out how best to exploit the upcoming anniversary of the Supreme Leader’s birth:
...many people are not happy about being told to clean the streets by a group of folk who probably don’t even have to clean their own houses
“Right-oh chaps, the commoners seemed to like the Jubilee and the wedding and all that. It’s the Queen’s 90th birthday coming up, how do we dupe people into doing something disgusting under the guise that it’s some jolly knees-up street party?’
“Well you just sell it to them like they are doing something lovely for their dear old Gran, but the catch is that we need a clever slogan. Any ideas?
“How about get lean for the queen – tackling the obesity crisis?
“Yes well the only problem is some of us might have to lose weight too. More ideas please.”
“Going Green for the Queen, we get people to care more for the environment.”
“Bit lefty don’t you think? We’re more into fracking these days. Turbines are out.”
“How about Be Serene for the Queen, we could institute a nationwide programme of mindfulness courses.”
“Oh not more of your hippy nonsense, Dave. Do shut up about mindfulness for once.”
“Take Mescaline for the Queen sounds good to me.”
“Oi, who let Corbyn in here? Out you scruffy beggar!”
“I know, how about Clean for the Queen. The streets are filthy since we forced councils to reduce cleaning services by cutting their funding by up to 40%. We make it sound like it’s just a good tidy up for a sweet old lady instead of another way of extracting goods and services from the populace, and, this is the best bit, not only get the serfs to do it for free but get them to pay for their own branded equipment by selling them a few purple bin sacks and rubber gloves with a knock-off of that twee logo that was everywhere five years ago.”
“I think Tristam’s got it, fantastic day’s governing everyone - we can all knock off early. See you next Tuesday, chaps.”
Perhaps this scenario is a tad on the paranoid side, but, as Clean for the Queen, a national litter-picking campaign, launched this weekend, many people are not happy about being told to clean the streets by a group of folk who probably don’t even have to clean their own houses on behalf of a woman who believes that the entire country smells of paint.
Some argue that it’s a slap in the face to those people who have been laid off from their custodial jobs by stretched councils (though it has to pointed out that Manchester City Council has already contracted out its street cleaning to Biffa). Others point to the irony of the sponsors (Greggs, Costa, KFC) being part of the problem and that bunging a few quid to the government to pay for an advertising campaign hardly makes up for their culpability in this issue.
But for me, it’s about the aesthetics. A couple of twits who have never got their hands dirty are probably not the best poster-children for this campaign. Seeing Boris Johnson looking like an overgrown sixth-former with a bulging purple sack (insert your own joke here) is enough to dampen anyone’s community spirit. The rip-off of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ logo. The idea that it’s like some mash-up of How Clean is Your House and Red Nose Day that schoolchildren will just love (good luck picking up those syringes and dog faeces, kids), all the while the Government snip snip snip away out our services without reducing any taxes. And if you imagine the Queen has anything to do with this or cares what the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal looks like, then you probably believe that old Boris is just a loveable buffoon straight out a PG Wodehouse novel.
At this point it’s important to state that DROPPING LITTER IS A BAD THING. As if the vast majority didn’t know. This article is not about the merits or the demerits of littering itself. Though I can tell you it is an especially important topic for people in urban and deprived areas (of which Manchester has its share), where the majority of littering takes place. Littering is a quotidian example of what philosophers call the ‘problem of the commons’, which is to say that people treat things held in common ownership with much less care than they treat their own possessions. So someone who would never toss old chip papers on their lawn might do it outside the football ground, for example. By feeling a connection with our community, the thinking goes, we are less likely to litter, and we are much more likely to feel a part of that community if it is lovely and well-kept. So, littered areas attract more litter, a vicious circle which you can bet does not plague Michael Gove in his Surrey constituency.
Oafish and patronising it may be, but at least the campaign has got people talking. Keeping our city clean is only going to work if the vast majority get on board, so spreading the message is key. How many of us have heard of Clean City, Manchester Council’s own environmental health project? And there are many fantastic local projects that have been going on for ages that work towards making our city a fairer place to live. Gorgeous Gorse Hill, for example, gathers groups of volunteers to pick litter, plant bulbs and install bird boxes in the Stretford area. And it certainly is wonderful that schools are educating kids about not being litterbugs (though I draw the line at sending them out to pick up cigarette butts – don’t we have child labour laws anymore?). Worrying about the government’s intentions doesn’t undermine the work that the actual people are doing, whether it’s with this campaign or under their own steam.
So, just because a few politicians decided to hop on the bandwagon doesn’t mean we can’t take pride in our surroundings. Clean for the Queen? Let’s Clean for Ourselves, more like. Don’t let Boris & co mess that up.
You can find out more about Clean for the Queen activities here: cleanforthequeen.co.uk
Litter - how much is it costing?
- It costs taxpayers almost £1 billion every year to clean up litter from our streets
- The cost of cleaning up chewing gum from a town centre is up to £60,000
- Fly-tipping costs Network Rail more than £2.3 million each year
- According to a 2014 Keep Britain Tidy report, if we recycled 50% of items littered in England, it would have an economic value of at least £14.8 million
- The fine for littering in Manchester is £80
- In 2014, Manchester City Council installed over 600 new bins across the city. The bins cost £239 per unit plus the cost of delivery/installation was £54 per unit. So use them!