I love the hairdresser thing, don’t you?

In a splendid return to form, Demos has silenced rumours that it is all thunk out with a proposal that hairdressers be invited to shape local government policy…”Our research has led us to conclude that hairdressers are the most authentic voice on the high street,” says Demos’s Sam Hinton-Smith, “and that they should be given a formal role in urban policy-making.” Not only that. Hairdressers “act as counsellors and social workers”.

The most authentic voice on the high street – really? More authentic than the voice of the fishmonger? The traffic warden? The shopper for dinner and a newspaper and some lightbulbs and a DVD? The panhandler? The market surveyor? The random pedestrian? The non-random pedestrian? The inebriated teenager? The vomiting inebriated teenager? Who is to say which is more authentic? Who, ah, who?

Already there have been protests from street-cleaners arguing that, being both dirtier and closer to the high street, they have a superior claim to being its “most authentic voice”.

Well exactly. And people who actually lie down in the high street and take little naps are even closer.

How authentic is a dialogue that may be inspired, principally, by a need not to offend the person standing close to your face with a pair of sharp scissors (and a disinclination to spend an hour in awkward silence)? Would the conversation remain so relaxed if clients knew their confidences about boyfriends, shoes and minor operations would be translated, come break time, into a raft of initiatives for the delivery of local services?

Oh, come on. If you look at it in the right way, a dialogue inspired by a need not to offend the person standing close to your face with a pair of sharp scissors is the most authentic kind of dialogue there can possibly be. Very existential, very coalface, very gritty and real and down to brass tacks. Not like all this artificial effete superficial dialogue we have as a matter of choice with people who don’t have sharp things in their hands – that’s for sissies.

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