Magazine article The Spectator

Get Your Hands of My Light Bulbs, Big Brother

Magazine article The Spectator

Get Your Hands of My Light Bulbs, Big Brother

Article excerpt

Call me old-fashioned, as Dame Edna says, but I don't fancy spending my remaining years in semi-darkness because this poxy government has performed yet another knee-jerk reaction and decreed that all incandescent light bulbs will be phased out, whether we like it or not. A warning bulletin from Defra informs us that should we be careless enough to break a long-life bulb, we must immediately vacate the room in which the tragedy occurs for at least 15 minutes. Then we are not allowed to vacuum up the broken glass because that will spread mercury droplets around the entire house. Instead we must don rubber gloves, sweep up the glass and place it in a sealed bag while making sure not to inhale any dust (does glass make dust? ) before disposing of the toxic waste in a proper container. That is if by that time you haven't lost the will to live. What joker writes this stuff? Can it be ghosted by Ed Balls to justify his surname?

Let me sketch a Monty Python scenario for you. Picture a typical British family gathered together in the gloom and squabbling over the best way to assemble a flat-packed Ikea dining suite they have just bought. Suddenly the two expensive energy-saving sources of illumination which, like the Third Reich, have not lasted for a thousand years selfdestruct simultaneously (as is the wont of light bulbs). This calls for urgent action and the father is fit for purpose; he orders everybody out into the street where, unfortunately, one of his brood is immediately mugged by a binge drinker out on bail for a previous offence. Unaware of this new tragedy, the father risks dying from mercury droplet poisoning, dons rubber washing-up gloves, sweeps up the debris but, stupidly, puts the resulting toxic debris in the recycling bag intended solely for green wine bottles. His error is detected and traced and he is prosecuted. He claims protection under the Human Rights Act and the resulting court case costs the taxpayer only marginally less than the Diana inquest.

OK, I've stretched belief a fraction, but only a fraction because, more and more, the headlines bring us fresh evidence that we are living in a Lewis Carroll world. How about the case of the part-time coastguard who rescued a young girl perilously close to death having fallen down a cliff? Far from being commended, he was given a bollocking for having failed to observe healthand-safety regulations. Acting under the same lunatic rules, an amateur pantomime cast are required to put their prop wooden swords and guns under lock and key in case they are used for mass slaughter. Of course, should anybody wish to acquire a real gun, this presents no problems.

Then we have the spectacle of hitherto unknown junior ministers, who presumably live on another planet, trotted out on Newsnight to justify the massaged crime statistics. Unbelievably, NHS staff need to be given basic instructions on how to wash their hands and avoid the spread of disease (it's rocket science -- you have to turn on hot tap, apply disinfectant soap and scrub).

Every few weeks we are insulted by some fatcat pundit from the latest, unelected quango telling us that the Olympics will come in on budget, or that the 160,000 new boxes designated as houses will be built on known flood plains but somehow escape disaster by divine intervention. Incompetence is now allowed as justification for the offence of concealment. Those who govern us are confident that we have been so brainwashed by a decade of economies with the truth that we will accept every fresh lunacy. …

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