“I’m from the Government and I’ve come to help you.”


I’ve mentioned the three great lies before.

Of course I’ll still love you in the morning.
The cheque is in the post.
I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.

It’s just that yesterday I was with a group of people whose long term aim is to overthrow society as we currently know it, and the discussion came round to the state.

Let’s be clear about this, having spent a lifetime in agriculture I don’t need convincing that the machinery of government is designed to run for its own benefit and the rest of us are just grit in the wheels that will have to be cleaned out or crushed to dust, (it doesn’t really matter which.)

But I realise a lot of people are under the misapprehension that it’s their government and should in some way represent their ideals. At the very least they expect it to treat them with respect.

We were told yesterday that government has decided to bring in Civil Penalties. If you make a mistake on an application form for benefit, they can fine you £50. This isn’t because they think it was fraud, this is just for making a mistake and wasting the valuable time of petty officials with far better things to do than cope with the ignorance of the public who pays their wages.

When told that my reaction was ‘Only £50? In agriculture they can take up to 30% of whatever they’re paying out, even when they accept it’s unintentional.’

Another thing that was commented on by several people was the need for advocacy. If you have an ‘ordinary member of the public’ dealing with the bureaucracy, things tend to go badly. But if they take with them an ‘advocate’, perhaps someone from CAB, or some other charity, then suddenly things are done with speed and despatch. The medical inspection is done absolutely by the book, or the official admits that, yes, actually, she can deal with that now and she cannot understand how it was that the ‘client’ was given the run-around previously.

Problems that dragged on for months (with the ‘client’ getting more and more out of pocket) are suddenly resolved in minutes.

Last year I claimed Employment Support Allowance twice, both times for a fortnight. This is because I was off sick for that long after my cataract operations. In the process of dealing with the bureaucracy to get this money (because I’m self employed and have no employer I cannot get sick pay) I was lied to, misinformed, and dealt with people who frankly didn’t have much of a clue about the regulations they were supposed to be implementing.

At one point I was told that I couldn’t be paid because I hadn’t filled in a certain form in time. When I told them that actually, on the previous occasion I had been paid without filling in that form; I was told I might be prosecuted for fraud. To this I replied that I would expect to be sharing the dock with a number of that person’s colleagues who had advised me wrongly and would ask for the telephone logs to be supplied as evidence.

At this point it was suddenly decided to resend me the form so I could fill it in and nothing more was said about time limits.

I’m literate, well read, cocky and frankly I probably have a bad attitude. I had got to the stage where I’d paid my stamp since 1975 and I was going to get the money I was entitled to if I had to pick up the First Lord of the Treasury, turn him upside down and shake him until the money fell out of his pockets.

A lot of people out there do not have my advantages. Who is willing to be their advocate?


There again, what do I know, just ask the dog


As one of the reviewers commented “Wit, wisdom and just a wee dram of whisky

This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

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8 thoughts on ““I’m from the Government and I’ve come to help you.”

  1. Kay Kauffman April 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. 😀

    • jwebster2 April 13, 2014 at 6:03 pm Reply

      Glad you liked it Kay 🙂

  2. willmacmillanjones April 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm Reply

    Many years ago, I needed some help from the State. Although I was due the help, it wasn’t forthcoming. Until I rang the local office of the DSS and told them that tomorrow I and my infant son would be arrested for stealing food from the supermarket, as they hadn’t paid. The official was entirely uninterested until I told a small untruth: that a close friend of mine was a photographer for the Sun and he would be on hand to photograph my arrest, and quote the official’s name in the article.

    Funnily enough, an emergency payment was arranged within 15 minutes.

    I felt terrible later about the falsehood. The photographer worked for the Sun, and so would never be one of my friends.

    Beaurocrats will never change.

    • jwebster2 April 13, 2014 at 7:22 pm Reply

      The bureaucrats are the ones who keep pushing paper and drawing salaries whoever is in power. I’m growing genuinely concerned about the attitude that the civil service seems to be developing towards the people who pay their wages.

  3. M T McGuire April 13, 2014 at 7:41 pm Reply

    Class post. Really good.



    • jwebster2 April 13, 2014 at 8:22 pm Reply

      Thanks MTM
      It was one of those meetings where you suddenly realise you’re not a lone cynic, but that there are people out there with the evidence to support your suspicions.
      One fear I have is for those who work in the bureaucracy and who struggle to keep their humanity and not just tick boxes.

      • M T McGuire April 14, 2014 at 3:59 am

        Yes I think there are a couple.

      • jwebster2 April 14, 2014 at 6:27 am

        It must be really difficult to keep your own humanity in those situations and not just give in to the machine

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