The Nanny State Made Me by Stuart Maconie

5 out of 5 stars

People have different views as to the role of the state in people’s lives, I tend to think that when a population reaches a particular size then the state is an essential thing that actually can be a great benefit to the people that it serves. Those of a more right-wing bent, tend to think that too much state is a bad thing and that private enterprise is the way to ensure a smooth-running society.

The answer is somewhere in the middle. Companies are very good at doing some things well and there are other things that the state is much much better at doing. Maconie is one of those advocating for stronger state institutions in people’s lives and in this book he is putting forward his point of view by taking us through how the state has been there throughout his life since birth.

According to this book, he was the 8,047,970th baby born since the NHS was started in 1945. How he found that out, I have no idea! His first few days were spent in the hospital under the care of the nurses. This free healthcare meant that his parents didn’t have to pay money for a midwife to come to their house to help deliver him. The NHS was there to ensure that he had the inoculations he needed to ensure that he had the best start in life.

As soon as he was old enough he went to school, another service provided by the state. He started at St Joseph’s a catholic primary school and soon after they were moved to a new part of the town and a new school, called St Jude’s. HE was of the age just before they moved from the eleven plus to comprehensive education and was lucky enough to pass and go to the local grammar school. He never really thought about the direction of his life if he hadn’t made it. This also gives him an opportunity to talk about private schools and the massive disproportionate influence that they have over life in our country today.

There is a whole chapter on libraries, one of the public services that I think should be much better funded than they currently are. It was one of his favourite things to do on a regular basis and he is not alone in seeing how the benefits that they bring to society are deep and long-lasting. But, the deep and long cuts that they have suffered have had an impact. This was just one of the services that are provided by local councils, the other being leisure facilities, in particular parks and swimming pools. It brought back memories of going to the pool in Woking that the council thought would best built in the centre of a roundabout…

He has a particular gripe about the state of our transport systems. The long-held aim to privatise everything has meant that the current rail and bus services are not cheap, frequent or reliable, however, the shareholders and directors have made a tidy sum from it, so that’s ok then. Maconie has been a radio presenter on the BBC for many years now, so I would expect some positive bias towards his employer. However, he does make some good points as to the continuation of this national institution, even though it has a raft of issues to deal with I still manage to broadcast a range of quality programmes for people of all walks of life.

I thought that this was excellent. Maconie has a distinctive voice that comes through strongly in this book and he is not afraid to put forward his point of view about the failing of the current government and those that have gone before. It is more than a middle-aged guy having a rant too. He looks back at the way that the state enabled him to be able to participate in society by having a properly funded education and health system and he is seething that those opportunities have been successively taken away by Tory governments over the years.

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  1. Sarah Turley

    Oddly, the boy on the front cover is a Boris Johnson doppelgänger. Someone who definitely didn’t go to a state school or have free school milk.

    • Paul

      I see what you mean now you have said that, Sarah. I wish he had gone to a state school…

  2. Liz Dexter

    I’ve flirted with the idea of this one – I liked his Jarrow March one and all the other travel type books. I expect I will get to this one day! Sounds like he has some good points to make that I would agree with.

    • Paul

      I like his writing, He is forthright with his opinions which I like and he brings a Northern working-class perspective too

  3. Sheryl Butler from London

    I listen to Maconie regularly so I knew I was in for a humorous but frank story. The book is well researched, with a dose of personal anecdotes. With chapters on the NHS, libraries, transport we see the good and more recently bad of our public assets.
    I can only hope that books like this encourage others to see the value in our state run services and spurs on the fight to save those we still have and may be bring back some of those we have lost.

    • Paul

      I missed your comment, Sheryl, so apologies for the tardy reply. I hope so too, they will never know what they are missing until it has gone or they have to pay for it.

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