Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Closing something because people don't like it = health and safety madness

Earlier this week David Cameron trailed an announcement about "the end of health and safety madness", which was predictably lapped up by the tabloids. Richard Littlejohn was clearly worried that this might leave him with nothing to write about*, as he makes clear in his latest column:
"For the past 15 years, this column has made a good living out of elf'n'safety. Now, though, the Government is promising to put an end to the madness, scrapping the stupid rules and risk assessments, and derailing the spiv lawyers cashing in on the com-pen-say-shun culture. No one has told Lancaster City Council, which has banned revellers from watching the city's annual fireworks display from Castle Hill, citing - you guessed - elf'n'safety."
Something else you can probably guess is that Littlejohn isn't telling the whole story. As is so often the case you have to go to the local paper to get some actual journalism with a bit of balance. Over in the Lancaster Guardian we learn that:
"Lancaster City Council has decided not to allow people into the Castle and Priory area on November 6, citing negative feedback from visitors last year and potential safety issues."
Right from the off they're clear that the dreaded safety issues are just one of the factors in play, but Littlejohn overlooks this as it doesn't fit his narrative. The Lancaster Guardian also spoke to the council’s "assistant head of community engagement", Gill Hague who said:
"Visitors told us that the castle precinct was cramped and is not a particularly good area from which to view the fireworks due to its historic layout. Many people found that their view of the fireworks was blocked by spectators, buildings and trees. Last year we experimented with limiting numbers at the castle but we received similar comments.”
Which begins to make it sound like the primary reason for closing the hill is not "elf and safety" at all - it's just not a great place to watch fireworks from something that the council learned by SPEAKING TO THE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WENT THERE, something highly paid migrant Richard Littlejohn can't be arsed to do.

The only mention of safety comes when Ms Hague states that

"...People's safety was one consideration."
So not the only consideration. Yet even if it WAS the only consideration, is this necessarily a bad thing? Littlejohn trots out the favourite line of the "common sense brigade" when he states that
"...it has taken place for the past 18 years without anyone getting hurt."
But is this really relevant? As the Lancaster Guardian states:
"the event has grown in popularity over recent years, making it increasingly difficult for people to get into the Castle area and see the event."

So if more people are coming to watch than in previous years, the area will become more overcrowded and hence more dangerous - especially in the dark, in potentially bad weather and with lots of small children, all of which are expected at bonfire night displays. The council isn't banning fireworks, it's not stopping the display, it's not insisting that kids wear goggles in case fireworks fall out of the sky and impale them. It's just closing one viewing area that is getting too crowded for people to enjoy and too crowded to be policed safely.

If this is the sort of elf-and-safety gone mad that David Cameron wants to ban, we may be in more trouble than I thought...

*Apart from the Muslims and the gays and the immigrants and the gay muslim immigrants, obviously. Oh, and the feminists - bunch of lesbians, the lot of them.

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