SIMPOLITICS: Remember This 5th of November

It was pure coincidence that I happened upon those firefighters protesting outside of Aintree Community Fire Station in Liverpool, today. Tomorrow is Bonfire Night, one of the most celebrated days of the year in the UK. It is also the most explosive and dangerous, because for this one night of the year, adults get to play with fire and things that go Boom! before an impressionable young audience!

Yes, it's fun, it's exciting and it's one of the few events we have to usher in the cold, dark nights in a country that seems to be in less and less of a celebrating mood. But someone's health is always at risk and so when the displays get out of control, or when somebody irresponsible gets their hands on something flammable, or worse, who is always on hand to protect you?

Simpolitics: Remember This 5th November
Change.
This Bonfire Night, this 5th of November, I am calling on you to think about the dedicated and enduring workers of the Fire Service. You see, they need us as much as we need them...

It should be old news that the government has been planning to outsource the Fire Service for some time now, and to bring in the private contractors instead. It's already happening in parts of the country. Lincolnshire's fire engines are owned by a company called AssetCo. East Midlands Airport owns its own private fire crew and this has been made possible because the change in law now allows people to be employed as firefighters without having been trained through the correct authority. 

In February of 2013, Labour MP Chris Leslie stated just how furious he was that Tory Fire Services Minister Brandon Lewis actually used the Parliamentary Regulatory Reform Committee to make changes, unbeknownst to the public, rather than introduce a new bill.

Essentially, and as always, the Tories are going through private channels to make changes that will allow them to take one less shred of responsibility for the wellbeing of their own country, and to further reduce the sense that we are living under a democracy. Democracy, it seems, is now only for those with wealth and power; the corporation.

"We're in this together!"? I am beyond laughing at that statement, and I am beyond the false impression that the leaders and followers of Con-Dem government are practicing austerity in their own lives as aggressively as they are with the rest of the country's infrastructure.

As teachers and NHS staff strike, humble firefighters fight privatisation when they are not fighting fires.
The boys at Aintree Community Fire Station
I dropped by the station around mid-afternoon and spoke with the firefighters, banded together around a rusted old oil barrel in which one man fuelled a modest but warming fire with cardboard and scrap wood from old pallettes. They were from different shifts, dressed ready for work, regardless, and in high spirits. Longmoor Lane is a busy road and for every time I asked a question, I found myself having to speak up over the constant honking of horns as passers-by expressed their support.

It's understandable, these guys are heroes!

However, what they had to tell me was nothing less than sobering, and as much as they were laughing and joking at every opportunity, it wasn't hard to sense the frustration and disappointment in their words as I asked them about the current situation. As much as the peaceful protest was affording them droves of moral support, who knew whether they were really getting the notice they deserved.

Bonfire Night will pass over quickly, and then when we're done thanking Guy Fawkes (because it's the thought that counts), we will move onto Remembrance Day, thanking all soldiers that have spared their lives for peace and democracy. The Internet might even stop ranting about #GamerGate long enough to find some relevance from that message, but overall, what's so frustrating to these firemen is that they get a tiny mention from the mainstream media and then they're forgotten. So is their message.

Aside from worrying about the threat of privatisation and being outsourced, these brave livesavers face the prospect of having their pensions cut. Imagine you had risked your lives for the wellbeing and the livelihoods of your own community, only to be told that it was all for nothing. In that light, it's also uncanny that this particular fire station sits adjacent to the expansive, sprawling Kirkdale Cemetary. Am I dramatising now?

Tell me if I am, because privatisation very well may be the death of this society, but it sure as hell won't be the birth of David Cameron's pipe-dream, Big Society. Not unless his plan all along was the death of Community and the great unveiling of Corporate Rule.

Think about it for a moment. What will a privatised NHS give you that this one can't? Retail-standard customer service? Pay-As-You-Go treatment for the poverty stricken and contracts for the rest, or maybe the opposite? What about the privatisation of the police? First come, first serve basis for the corporations and strict curfews for the community? Well, that's already halfway to fruition, but the privatisation of the Fire Service?

Privatisation, unless you are a mercenary, is all about reducing the value of the work force, making them work harder for less. If any of us should suffer that, it should not be those whose job is to risk their lives to save ours.

Here's a pun for the Tories; play with matches and you're going to get burned. But ask yourself if the very people whose jobs and pensions you're threatening would piss on you if you caught fire, because I wouldn't. But when you turn to contractors to issue priorities, like ATOS who couldn't even tell a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis from an angst ridden teen, it may come to that, only it's sadly clear already who's urinating on who.

The sign at the fire station said it best:

A message to the government from the Fire Services
Message.
It was no big deal, bailing out the banks, but after deciding that you're going to make spending cuts stretch to the 80% mark by 2018, you still don't have pockets deep enough to ensure the safety of this country's emergency services? It's like you're trying to remodel this country entirely out of matchsticks.

Readers, thank you for diverting your attention this way. Please share this with your friends and make sure that the message travels as far as it can go. If even the Emergency Services of this country don't deserve a safe retirement in the eyes of the Tories, what the hell are any of us worth?

Remember that this 5th of November, and this Remembrance Day, too!

-Dan Ashley
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