One of the many drawbacks of a life dedicated to public office are the enforced absences one's family are inevitably subjected to from the pater familias. Subsequently it was decreed last week-end that a trip to the moving picture house in Bath was somewhat overdue and I dutifully set off with several young Moggs in tow to a three dimensional cinema presentation entitled The Smurfs.
Sine ira et studio, I was parted from the best part of a fifty pound note and duly took up my generously proportioned seat armed with a pair of spectacles, which my wife later commented made me look not unlike a young Ray Charles.
After several false starts, we were eventually transported to the land of the diminutive gnome-like creatures of the title. Initially unmoved, as the story unfolded I became more and more drawn in, as it became translucently clear that the Smurfs, with their protestant work ethic, close knit co-operation and refusal to kow-tow to accepted norms regarding state hand-outs and 'big government' are the very definition of the Big Society in action.
As with Margaret Thatcher's superb and much maligned concept of 'Care in the Community' the weaker inhabitants of 'Smurfland' are not consigned to asylums or 'day care centres' but are instead looked after by the other members of their clan. Rather than using his clear lack of co-ordination as an excuse to scrounge 'benefits' off the other villagers, 'Clumsy' seeks to rise above his disablity and is ultimately (like Prometheus) unbound when he overcomes the evil Gargamel (a hideous individual clearly based on Gordon Brown). The other characters are similarly motivated in their determination to climb out of the pit of their limiting epithets with Papa Smurf defying his his five hundred and sixty years (no early retirement for him!) and the delightfully sexualised 'Smurfette' refusing to be tied to worn old stereotypes about female emancipation by gleefully stealing a designer wardrobe from an up-market toy store.
In short, The Smurfs work hard, while adhering to a clear hierachy in a world in which each of them knows his place. They are blue for a very good reason and it seems more than appropriate that their greater homeland of Belgium appears to be taking 'a smurf out of their book' by riding out the global economic crisis via a combination of non interference, small government and thrift. To misquote George Bush Senior we should perhaps be 'more like the Smurfs and less like The Gallaghers'.