General Election blues … and greens

Charles Cowling

Signpost, political parties


Posted by Richard Rawlinson

With Funeralworld including many small businesses, will their owners and employees be voting in the 7 May General Election for the party they feel supports the UK’s 4.9 million small businesses the most?

But what can a government actually do other than make supportive noises encouraging enterprise, and championing the role of small businesses in economic growth? Cut business red tape? Improve access to finance? Lower business rates?
One regret for me is that the Tories have allowed environmentalism to become a left-wing cause (eco-warriors fighting for the future victims of capitalism). In fact, environmentalism is not just about the radical re-ordering of society, but also about conservative causes such as conservation and safeguarding resources. It’s what Edmund Burke describes as a partnership between the dead, the living and the unborn.

It was the state-controlled projects of the Soviet empire that destroyed landscapes and poisoned waters. It’s private ownership that more often than not confers responsibility for the environment.

A fine example of this is woodland burial sites. It’s a shame that these pastures green are sometimes perceived as more for alternative types than mainstream conservationists who are equally keen to leave nature in good shape for future generations.
Will any of the party’s manifestos propose, even in small print, legislation in favour of the re-use of graves after a period of, say, 50 to 75 years? Doubtful given the fear of tabloid headlines about MPs digging up great grandma.
When reuse has been piloted in London, there’s only been praise that traditional graveyards are no longer dead space.

In Greece today, and some other Orthodox countries, a body is buried only for about six years, at which time the grave is reused. There’s no scandal when, in a religious ceremony, bodily remains are dug up, the bones cleaned and stored in an ossuary.

Perhaps the disused crems of our utopian future could reinvent themselves as ossuaries.

10 thoughts on “General Election blues … and greens

  1. Charles Cowling

    Enjoyable post, Richard and I do agree with you that concern for the environment should be universal – we all live in the same world even if we disagree about who should own or run it!
    Good points about the reuse of graves too. I often wonder if letting cemeteries fall into disuse, once they are full places them at risk in all sorts of ways. Increasingly unvisited, costly to maintain and keep safe, are they more at risk of redevelopment? Could we lose them altogether?

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling

      Good additional point, Vale, about the risk to cemeteries of redevelopment.

      Construction of the HS2 rail line between London and Birmingham is set to begin in 2017, and to run through enough cemeteries to affect the remains of tens of thousands of people.

      Sticking to the political theme, the high speed line is supported in principle by Labour, Tory and Lib Dems, and opposed by UKIP and the Greens!

      Personally, I wouldn’t oppose it on the grounds of graves, as long as they’re disinterred and relocated sensitively. As for the plan generally, I’m torn between the pros and cons.

      Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    That would be an interesting finding, Charles. My unqualified guess…

    Cooperative Funeralcare: Labour.

    Traditional independent undertakers: more likely to be Tory, with a few attracted to Ukip’s mid-20th century nostalgia. Their primary customer base (old people) also includes a high proportion sharing this political leaning.

    Green-focussed undertakers: if not the Green Party, then Labour, for the reason I touch on in the second segment of the post above.

    Civil celebrants: a mix of Tory and Labour with the more ardent BHA atheists perhaps leaning more to the left.

    C of E clergy: more Labour and Lib Dem, I suspect.

    I wonder if there’s a difference in voting habits between those working at council-run crems and private ones?

    Gravediggers? No idea!

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling

      Who do you think I might vote for?
      Tim Morris
      Chief Executive
      Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management

      Charles Cowling
      1. Charles Cowling

        I’ve just spent five minutes googling you for clues, Tim. I have a suspicion which way you vote but I don’t want to say in case I’m off the mark! Care to enlighten us? It was good to stumble across this in my search though, a subject touched on in the post:

        Charles Cowling
        1. Charles Cowling

          Some clues for you Richard.
          Chronologically within the cemetery and crematorium world:
          Gardener, cemetery foreman (and gravedigger), assistant cem & crem registrar, cem & crem registrar. All in local authorities with a four year spell in the private sector. Moved back to local authority cem and crem service and worked in spare time for the Institute. Full time for the Institute since 2001. Subjects/issues that I spend much time on and are of concern to me include diminishing burial space and baby and infant cremation.

          Charles Cowling
          1. Charles Cowling

            An impressive CV, Tim, but I still don’t want to guess! I asked without answering the question whether the ratio of voting patterns differs between public authority and private funeral employees. You’re in a position to perhaps enlighten us! And also maybe to share your experience of the varying politics of undertakers running small businesses—to test the political temperature of the industry, if that can be done?

            Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    It may well have been.

    I wonder how the Dismal Trade votes. Not all for the same shower, obviously. But a preponderance for…

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    A Celeb

    I agree with David. I don’t think politicians are interested in funerals (apart from their own maybe). I’ve spoken to our local MP about it (looked blank and his eyes glazed over) and a couple of local councillors (looked a bit scared). But that could have been me.

    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    I don’t think politicians generally have any interest whatsoever in funeral world. As a one-off purchase, they believe our clients and the market can decide for itself?

    Re-use of graves makes a lot of sense, I was in one South Coast cemetery this week, a huge space, but apparently full. I couldn’t believe how badly laid out it was – far too much space between and around the graves. Elf n safety perhaps?

    I have appreciated the small business rate relief – a Tory policy. Long may it last. That said, I’m still paying £1,000 a month for my the modest premises.

    Charles Cowling

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