Posts Tagged ‘Europe’
Several of us headed off in the van yesterday to collect some chicken coops. Being nincompoops we travelled back in the rush hour, and boy did we regret it. The motorway was jam-packed, the service stations resembled a Lady Gaga concert. The country is seizing up was our rather gloomy prognosis, as we spent forever crawling behind a van bearing the inaccurate boast that “We never slow down on customer service”.
And it is not just grumpy old men that watch despairingly as our roads, our hospitals, our rail services, our sewage and water supplies et al, are becoming ever more inundated. In our angrier moments we blame the cuts, the politicians, the banks and every other curse that comes to mind. But the reason for it all is quite simple, our population is rocketing past the levels at which a small island’s infrstructure can cope.
The latest projections from the Office of National Statistics predict that by 2043 Britain will be the most populous country in Europe. Our population will have swollen to 74 million, outstripping France and Germany. The landmark figure of 70 million is expected to be reached within 16 years. In fact over the next decade the population will increase by the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds every year. The official estimate is that the number of people in the UK will grow by 491,000 every year through to 2020, the fastest sustained growth for 50 years.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migration Watch UK, tells us what we already sense. “These figures conirm that the UKs dramatic rise in population will continue unabated”. He added that “two thirds of the increase is due to immigration and as people return home this evening crammed into public transport and on congested roads, they could well ask where all of these people are going to fit”. Indeed they may!
The one-third that isn’t due to immigration relates to the fact that we are all living longer. At the end of last year there were 1.4 million aged 85 and over, this is forecast to double by 2035 and the number of over-95s will quadruple. Nothing we can do about that except be thankful to the NHS.
It follows that immigration must be reduced, or even stopped. The irony is that anyone saying that is immediately accused of being racist. In fact the unchecked flood of people entering the UK is giving succour to vermin such as the BNP. The issue has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with the obvious fact that the place is full beyond its capacity.
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, in commenting on the projections, said yesterday that “there is more to do to bring net migration to the order of tens of thousands per year and ensure migration which benefits the UK”. He is right to try because, as we have learned recently the world population is itself set to rocket. But – and it is a very big but – so long as we are party to the EU open doors policy the government remains powerless to stop the flow of immigration from within its borders.
Right now we are seeing the fallacy of the one-club EU approach. Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany and France are unhappy at the thought of constantly bailing out smaller and more economically-fragile countries over which they have no budgetry control. Thanks largely to Grumpy Gordon we are not in the Euro. However we are an obvious destination for people in the countries insufficiently resourced to cope with the recession, and they are pouring in. Ultimately that damages not only this country but the ones being deserted by skilled workers.
On Monday half of David Cameron’s MPs refused to support his denial of an EU referendum. Since then various Conservatives who supported the prime minister have warned that they will not do so next time, amongst them was the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He knows that the clock is ticking on the cost of population explosion, not just on services but on their costs plus those of pensions and benefits.
By contrast Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband continue to ridicule any worries about over-population. Perhaps they would like to tell us just how many they believe we can accomodate without bringing about a total collapse!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Ray Parker Jr. 2. Bolton 3. Twelve 4. Pigs 5. Pain 6. Switzerland 7. In the morning 8. Overload 9. President Marcos 10. A lie detector.
When I penned my recent piece on the death of democracy I underestimated the willingness of at least some MPs to stand up for it. In last night’s debate in the Commons on the need for a referendum on Europe, an impressive number of Conservative MPs made it clear that having been party to a promise to consult the people, they had no moral alternative than to vote for a national vote. Despite a three-line whip imposed by the prime minister, 82 voted for a referendum and a further 15 abstained. In all about half of all Conservative members, outside the “payroll vote” of ministers and their aides, defied Davd Cameron and the barrage of threats to which they had been subjected. Of course the motion was lost since Cameron can rely on his lapdog Lib Dem partners, and his dormant Labour opponents, to support him.
The point here is that the vote was not about leaving Europe, loosening our ties, or staying in. It was simply about the right of the people to express a view on an issue that impinges on every family in the land. If truth be told when, in the run-up to the election, Cameron pledged to force a referendum at the “earliest moment” he was of course indulging in the type of politics that has brought the art so low in the public view. The reality undoubtedly is that whilst he does have reservations about Brussels, he has even greater reservations about the concept of listening to public opinion. For different reasons Miliband feels much the same way.
One of the most dramatic moments of the debate came with the resignation of Philip Hollobone, an aide to David Lidington, the Europe Minister. He pointed out that the debate was the result of a public petition and said that supporting the referendum motion could help to “restore public confidence in politicians and Parliament”. He went on to say: “Heres our opportunity to show people that actually the system can work; that representative government does actually continue to function in the land where it was nurtured and developed; that patriotism, putting your country rather than your own interests first, is not foreign to this House”. He was followed by Stewart Jackson, another PPS, who also resigned, accusing Mr Cameron of “catastrophic mismanagement in terms of my party”. He in turn was followed by a large number of other Conservative MPs most of whom emphasised the importance of keeping promises conveyd by them to their constituents.
None of them were heard by the prime minister who left the House after giving his own version of things. He didnt have a good day. His analogy of helping a neighbour to put out a fire was ridiculous. Yes, one would do that but that doesnt imply that one would also allow the neighbour to impose countless rules on ones own household. But, as is often the case anything daft said by the king of spin was more than matched by Ed Miliband. He said that when the French President told the prime minister to shut up he was speaking for Britain. Mr Miliband clearly hasn’t spoken to many of what he terms ‘ordinary people’.
A new poll out today reveals that almost 75 per cent believe that the British people should have the opportunity to express a view on the EU. Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have shown total contempt for that view, clearly they hold a very low view of the people and of the democratic process.
I suspect that their view of us all is reciprocated. I thought I would never say this, but I admire the 97 Conservatives who at least demonstrated that not all MPs are simply ‘voting fodder’ and there is some point in electing representatives.
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Most of the allotment folk own a car but the appetite that once existed for ‘going for a spin’ has long gone. I remember taking my old Morris Eight up the newly opened M1. Empty tarmac, a relaxed and restful experience. I remember Sunday afternoon trips out into the countryside, memories etched in bright colours that never fade. And now? I have a smarter, faster car but, as each year passes, I seem to spend more and more time sitting in traffic jams.
Last week I drove to Oxford on the M6/M40. Near to Birmingham the signs were warning of delays, and that proved an understatement. I sat for over an hour in a solid mass of trucks and cars. I must admit it was instructive, for the young woman immediately in front of me used her mirror to indulge in an elaborate display of face-painting and eyebrow-plucking. I had never realised just how many processes are involved. To my right was a van bearing the inspiring slogan of ‘We never stop working for you’. It had certainly stopped then and the driver was eating a doorstep-size sandwich whilst reading the Sun.
By the time I reached my destination it was time to head back. I then encountered a further long hold-up and this was worse given that there was no demonstration to watch, merely the back of a large Transit van caked in mud in which unrepeatable advice had been etched.
The whole experience prompted me to do a little research on the internet. Even more revealing than the young woman’s mirror! The Road Users Alliance (RUA) has just published its ‘Road File 2011′ report. It states ; “Britain now has what is one of the poorest motorway networks in Europe while the nation’s other trunk roads are woefully inadequate – and matters are getting worse”.
It adds that businesses could lose up to 656 million man-hours by 2025 if the situation does not improve, and the government has no plan to increase spending. A few more clicks and I found other interesting material. Road-users now pump £48 billion into the Exchequer; in exchange for a paltry £4.8 billion in road improvements and an obviously inadequate £4.8 billion on road maintenance.
A few more clicks reveal that the number of vehicles increased by 21 per cent between 1999 and 2009, a result primarily of the rocketing population fuelled by record immigration. Over the same period the road network expanded by only 1 per cent. To say that we are lagging behind other European countries is the understatement to beat them all for our 3,670km of motorways compares with the more than 10,000km of countries such as France and Germany.
Try using rail? As a long-standing train buff, I would love to but the dirty, crowded and unreliable trains in our neck of the woods really are offputting. I genuinely believe that our island is seizing up, on occasions journeys that once hardly merited comment are endurance tests almost on a par with Scotts trip to the pole.
I read the other day that David Cameron’s top priority is the restoration of Libya’s road infrastructure. Once he has done that is there any chance that he might have a bash at ours?
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Balmoral 2. Mince and slices of quince 3. Vera Lynn 4. Yorath 5. Sid Vicious 6. Stephen Hawking 7. the Unknown Soldier 8. Lactic acid 9. Kevin Kilbane 10. Emile Ford
The worst morning of the new ‘winter’ greeted us this morning as we arrived at the allotment. Yes, the sun was glaring from a blue sky but everything was frozen. All the chicken’s water containers were a block of ice and the stock of lettuces had turned as brown as Albert’s vest overnight despite being inside. Anyone seeking encouragement to try self-sufficiency would be ill-advised to seek inspiration right now from this gang of grumpy old men. It is on mornings such as these that buying eggs in Tesco boxes doesn’t seem quite so heinous. But at least a couple of our number were in high humour!
Bob and John are both rabid eurosceptics and have often reminded us forcefully of all the alleged shortcomings of the takeover of power by what they like to call faceless EU bureaucrats. When the news of the Irish bailout broke they were quick to remind us that the amount being handed over by Britain was equivalent to all the savings forecast to result from the cuts now decimating many of our public services. I recall John saying that maybe someone will now realise just how disastrous our membership is proving to be.
It seems that someone has. Yesterday the Daily Express became the first national newspaper to launch a ‘Get out of the EU’ campaign. Banner headlines on the front page of the Express suggest trouble for the coalition since, as it showed with its Diana obsession, this newspaper above all tends to be persistent and dogged. We may wrap our fish ‘n chips in yesterday’s edition but you can bet your muesli on those of the next weeks, even months, repeating the theme!
What interested me above all else was the identity of those who led the day-one attack. Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP and wants to see the UK out of the Union. It struck me as being a little like turkeys voting for Christmas but he is scathing in his condemnation of Brussels and all its works. He starts his assault by pointing out that the ‘Irish’ £7 billion is in addition to the £14 billion which we pay each year. For good measure he advises that there is now another £435 million to be found to help fund the increases which the EU people have decided to award themselves.
All that we knew, but his statistics on red tape are truly astounding. Internal market commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, has carried out a survey into the cost of regulation in the EU. He established the cost to be 600billion euros a year. If you then compare that with the European Commission’s own figures covering the advantages of membership you arrive at £120billion per year. In other words, Eurocrats themselves admit that the costs of the EU outweigh the benefits by five to one!
The other thing that surprised me was the information on trade with Europe. We currently have a £14.4billion deficit, in other words our purchases from EU countries exceed our sales to them. Amazingly Norway and Switzerland both sell around twice as much per head to the EU as we do. And they are thriving independent states outside the EU membership.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, is another supporter of the Express campaign. He warns that we may be obliged to pour billions into saving failing euro economies such as Greece and Portugal and he is angry at the threat to British democracy by what he calls “meddling Brussels bureeeaucracy”. Mr Davies and other MPs also point to the destruction of our laws and commonsense by the EU Convention on Human Rights and the destruction of immigration controls due to freedom of movement laws for EU citizens.
There is a great deal more and most of it is damning. Of course up to this point anyone questionning EU membership has been brushed aside and any thought of a referendum dismissed. One suspects that the decision by the Express may trigger a more difficult problem for the government. Presumably an equally great problem will be the fact that over one hundred Tory MPs are already declaring support, leaving ministers reliant on the support of the Lib Dems who believe not only that we should be in Europe but that we should embrace the euro too.
In this daily blog I really try to be even-handed but I am struggling on the EU for I genuinely don’t understand what the avantages of membership are supposed to be. And if MEPs don’t understand there is little chance of my enlightenment. Even my self understanding offers nothing. Part of me suggests greater strength in numbers but another part suggests that we are enduring hardship here and pouring money out across the channel. Occasionally I remind myself that some of my best mates are europeans but that clarifies nothing for they too regularly rail against the idea of a single European State. They may not have our advantage of the English Channel but they do have our sense of national identity.
There is only one way of resolving this massive issue and that is a referendum. One suspects that the reason for Blair and Brown denying us one was that they expecetd to lose it. But the will of the people should surely prevail and at the very least we would have a reasoned debate in which the case for staying in could be explained.
This is infinitely more important than the referendum planned for a change to our voting system. After all if our integration into Europe goes all the way we won’t need a voting system at all!
JUST HOW TOLERANT HAVE WE BECOME?
Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has published a report on a visit he made to northern Afghanistan where he managed to gain access to a group of Taliban. He was taken to a secret location to meet the Taliban district chief who apparently acts as a sort of magistrate amongst the local population.
The reporter met a number of those engaged in the fight with American and British forces and was, to say the least, surprised to meet British citizens amongst them. One of the fighters was ” a burly bearded man with a hint of a London accent”. He admitted that he is a mini-cab driver in London and “makes good money there”. He said that he and other cabbies collect money for the jihad all year round and then travel over to join the fighting for three months of each year.
No surprise really but it does perhaps remind us not to be rude to our driver the next time we visit London! Remember that our Taliban cab drivers have human rights!
ENGLAND NEED A SWANN SONG!
It isn’t only Old Trafford that has rain. The second day of the first Ashes Test at Brisbane ended early due to a surfeit of the wet stuff. At least we nighthawks were able to go to bed!
Sdaly it was not another huge success story for our favourites and the most worrying feature for me was the ease with which the Aussies handled Swann. He could prove the real difference between these sides and we urgently need him to get into his spinning groove.
He has rightly been compared with Warne but so far has looked more like Phil Tufnell of sacred memory!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1 1976 2. Transkei
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which organisation proclaimed 1975-85 as the Decade for Women? 2.. The status of Sikkim changed in 1975. What did it become?
It has stopped raining so miracles do still happen! But the weather over the past couple of weeks has been depressing. The condition known as SAD often kicks in at around this time and small wonder. However to describe those allotment members who have to visit several times each day to care for animals, the word sad seems inadequate. It is only when members gather in the shed that the mood rises a little, and then once Albert has passed round the flask to help the hot tea go down it soars. Of course if you gather a dozen or so men and women from all walks of life together it is not long before disagreements surface. In days long gone politics or religion were the flashpoints but no one seems to mention those anymore. Now it is usually the EU that divides opinion.
This morning Phil was talking about the latest EU financial crisis. Both Greece and Ireland appear to be in trouble and there are fears that the contagion could spread to other deeply indebted countries such as Portugal and Spain. In an extraordinary speech this week the President of the EU warned that it is now “locked into a crisis of survival”. He went on to warn that “if we do not survive with the eurozone we will not survive with European Union”. Even allowing for the fact that Herman van Rompuy appears to be as daft as a coot it was an odd thing to say. The result was an outbreak of panic.
More to prevent us going out into the rain than anything else i suggested that old Herman intended to trigger a panic. He may look like a clown but he is actually a shrewd operator bent on fulfilling his dream of a single European ‘superstate’. By whipping up fears of meltdown he can then argue that the only solution is deeper integration, the surrender of national sovereignty and stronger central control from Brussels. But would it really be disastrous if the whole bureacratic pack of cards collapsed?
One thing is for sure. The Euro has proved an abysmal failure. It has delivered none of the achievements that its creators promised. Instead it has engulfed its members in bureaucracy and excesive regulation. After 11 years the euro states are more ill-equipped than ever to meet the challenge of competition from Asia and South America. It has also failed completely to impose financial discipline across Europe. Instead profligacy and irresponsibility have become its hallmarks. And the grotesque waste and extravagence are out of control, as demonstrated by the current proposal for a near 7 per cent increase in budget.
In reality the eurozone was, and is, a political project rather than an economic one. Its aim is to allow an unaccountable elite of federalists to achieve their dream of unity. Judged from an economic standpoint it was always an absurdity to put into one pot such disparate economies as Germany, France, Greece and a good many minnows. The Irish crisis could have been averted had the nation’s central bank been able to calm the property market with interest rate adjustments, but imprisoned within the eurozone it was impotent.
Of course those who plot and plan for a single European state will continue to warn that a collapse would mean the end. But of what? It could well prove the beginning of a return to national pride and initiatives. It would automatically increase the wealth of member states whose contributions have climbed beyond any forecast levels. And trade? The idea that the EU in some way makes possible trade between the member states is absurd. It is no coincidence that the two most propserous nations in Europe, Norway and Switzerland, are both outside the EU. And Britain was the world’s greatest trading nation long before the EU existed. Trade would continue, nations have to buy and sell. And defence? We have already signed up to a long-term partnership with the French.
Of course some of my pals do not agree and they may be right. But it seems to me that the eurozone cannot be propped up for ever. Ultimate bailouts have to be paid for through more borrowing or printing money. Britain is not even in the eurozone but yesterday Osborne was keen to say that whatever is needed to avert a crisis we will be happy to help. For heavens sake, we are skint!
I am not a little Englander, nor an isolationist, but I do believe that the European superstate is nonsense and ultimately destructive of national pride and cultures. Let it collapse and within twelve months the major players will wonder why on earth they ever enlisted. Yes the smaller economies will miss the handouts and the guaranteed emigrations but those are follies that no one can really afford to underwrite.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT; THE MONEY WASTERS!
When it comes to self-indulgence and the wasting of public money the top people in local government would take some beating. In fact the Local Government Association, a pressure group that exists to argue for town halls to be paid even more taxpayer’s money, has a chief executive who earns a massive £302,000!
John Ransford is the man who must believe that Christmas dawns each day. And his executives are also earning the sort of money that most people can only dream about. Money may not make you happy but these folk can certainly be miserable in considerable comfort.
The Association is funded by town halls across the country which suggests that despite all the cant about service cuts, they can find cash when it suits them. It is high time that they applied cuts to Mr Ransford and his entourage. A fifty per cent cut would still leave them overpaid but it would be a start!
You might care to ask your local councillor to justify this obscene extravagence!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. John Stonehouse 2. Australia
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who was Jimmy Carter’s running mate in the 1976 presidential election? 2. Who wrote ‘The Honorary Consul’, published in 1973?
Suddenly the trees are bare, the 95 mph gale first destroyed our hen runs and then, by way of atonement, provided us with a thick carpet of gold. Over a period of years a lot of work had gone into those chuck homes and the ability of nature to sweep it all aside in a thrice is a humbling experience, not to mention a damned annoying one. The only member of the gang who seems to regard the devastation with equanimity is Tony who perversely draws satisfaction from the fact that the Blackpool Lights suffered greater punishment. How that helps us I know not but ever since he crawled the two-mile lights with his grandchildren asleep in the back of his Mini, Tony has always had a downer on the not so golden mile. Only the EU beats Blackpool on Tony’s hate list.
In that respect at least he is not alone. A few weeks ago we had a visit from a group of French farmers who were staging a market nearby. To our surprise we learned that they distrust the Brussels bureaucracy just as much as we do and they claimed that their attitude is little different from most of their countrymen. In fact the only person we have met who sings the praises of Brussels and its million laws is one of the local MEPs. Mind you he does seem to have a vested interest with a salary upteen times that of the Westminster lot and a workload that probably qualifies him for Duncan Smith’s list of the workshy.
I must confess that I have never understood why we need more than a trading arrangement with the rest of Europe. It costs us a vast amount of money and is about to cost us even more given the refusal of the European parliament to heed calls from various leaders, including our own, to rein back on extravagence. Neither do I understand why our politicians are so keen on creating a sovereign state of Europe which sounds like Turkeys voting for Christmas. I exclude Blair from that, he wanted it so that he could be its chief honker-tonker.
It may be that we doubters could do with some education for when we think about the EU at all we tend to ask what is in it for us. The only half-convincing justification I have heard was shared defence but the fact that we have signed up to a 50 year deal with the French tends to rule that out. This must all be very irksome for politicians who fear offending 35% of the electorate by pulling out, or the wrath of 60% who are becoming distinctly hostile. The other five per cent in the latest poll presumably consists of those who hadn’t heard of it and still believes that Churchill is prime minister.
During the election Cameron and other leading Conservatives let it be known that they would hold a referendum on the Treaty that has ceded so much power to Brussels. Suddenly Cameron has his Nick Clegg moment for he didn’t really intend to honour that idea. So he has come up with what sounds a wizard wheeze. We are to have a Referendum Bill. Once this is enacted, Britain will not be able to agree to hand over further powers to Europe without a referendum. But the government risks accusations that it has watered down its promises after allowing a loophole to evade a referendum in circumstances “where it does not consider the EU legislation significant”.
Perhaps I am paranoid but that sounds like an open gate. And my paranoia wasn’t helped by the comment from the Foreign Office. It said that Parliament will retain the final say on which laws take effect in Britain but added that this is purely symbolic. What does that mean?
Because I and my pals are doubters we tend to note what the powerful Conservative Bruges Group has to say. They claim that both Cameron and Haigh have already given up more power to Brussels. Yesterday they added that the referendum and sovereignty lock (the new Bill) are “just fig leaves designed to hide Cameron’s blushes after he and Hague dropped the ‘cast iron guarantee’ to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty”. Given their tendency to say the first thing that comes inbto their heads we tend to take less notice of the Lib Dems but, for what it is worth, they said that we must not “downgrade Britain’s importance in the EU”. The Labour Party said nothing, it was too busy rowing with Harriet Harman.
So there we have it. Has another major election pledge been broken? Is the Referendum Bill the safeguard we have dreamed of, or is it just a figleaf for the Old Etonians? My own question is a simpler one. We are frequently warned that if we don’t do this or that we will fall foul of the European Court. What could it actually do? Surely an invasiuon is now off the cards given that the French now share our one aeroplane-less aircraft carrier!
CHELSEA SHOW THEIR TRUE COLOURS!
It didn’t surprise me one little bit to learn that Ray Wilkins, the only Premiership top man with self understanding, had been sacked by Russian owned Chelsea. Frankly he just didn’t fit.
Wilkins was one of the few Premiership bigwigs who came across as totally honest, pleasant and fair. He would always lean over backwards to highlight the strengths of his opponents alongside his own team.
He really seemed the odd man out amongst a group of unpleasant bullies. Hopefully he will now return to TV commentary where he always impressed as someone determined to see the best in others. It is hard to think of anyone else in the Premiership of whom that can be said.
I HATE TO DOUBT DR REID!
John Reid, the former Health Minister and Home Secretary, popped up on Radio 2 last week to join the debate about airport security following the discovery of bombs on cargo flights from Yemen.
BA Chairman, Martin Broughton, argued that it was time to relax some of the mind-numbing checks but Dr Reid was having none of it. The job of government he said gravely “is to protect its citizens”.
And what is now the job of Lord Reid? Though he omitted to mention it, he is now a director of G4S, the self-styled “leading provider of private security solutions to airports and airlines”, and a partner in the Chertoff Group, a security agency whose clients include the leading manufacturers of “full body scanners” for airports!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Caribbean Common Market 2. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did Harold Wilson’s government make a social contract with the TUC? 2. In denmark what is meant by Folketing?
Yesterday’s howling wind had headed off to torment someone else and we walked down to the allotment in a world suddenly quiet and sunlit. Even the pond fish were coming up for food as if to make the best of an autumn that yesterday seemed to have raced into winter. Tonight we have to put the clocks back so to maximise the hen’s allocation of light we all have to foresake our beds somewhat earlier from now on. Annoying though that is it does serve to remind us that everyone needs some reason to get up each morning!
Sadly Phil’s son suddenly lacks that basic spur. A few weeks ago the company he has worked for all his working life announced swingeing redundancies. From that low point he has sunk ever lower for his constant visits to the Job Centre reveal that jobs in this area are as rare as hen’s teeth and there are certainly none calling for his engineering skills. He has been urged to compose a CV, a difficult task for one who has only ever worked for one employer and at one location. His greatest fear now is a long period of job-hunting for prospective employers are reluctant to take on anyone who has been unemployed for a long time.
All this was in my mind when I watched a programme on the Beeb yesterday evening. One of the unemployed featured was in much the same situation as Tom, having worked for British Rail and the privatised companies that succeeded it. The last of these was Jarvis and they ended up in receivership. Suddenly he found himself on the streets and has quickly found that there is no demand for highly skilled train maintenance fitters. He was angry and depressed and talked of being written off at fifty.
Another victim had been unemployed for a long time, yet still bravely pestered every potential source of work. He is now living in a tent which is an appalling fate in the winter months. He refuses to seek state aid and survives on one meal a day provided at a York drop-in centre. This articulate and decent man desires only the chance to work and pay his way. To date the only opportunity has been an agency which provides occasional work and when his phone rings he has to go to local facilities to smarten up for fear of the company finding that he is ‘living rough’.
I am sure that right now there are thousands of people struggling in this way. In constantly banging on about people getting back to work, Osborne is doing many a great injustice. It is simply not true that all unemployed people are work-shy, the truth is that unemployment is rocketing and there are no jobs to be found. Of course there are malingerers and the state must stop pouring money their way, but there must be jobs to force them into.
The depressing aspect of the coalition’s approach is that it addresses only part of the problem of unemployment. It rightly identifies the nonsense of paying benefits so large that there is a disincentive to work. But without vacancies this is a recipe for trouble. There need to be work centres that provide hope for the conscientious and a resource for officials ruling that those less so must pay their own way.
And neither this government nor the last has shown any imagination in tackling this dilemma. Some years ago a group of us retired old ‘uns helped to set up a number of low-cost ‘mini workshops’. They specialised in packaging and in renovation. We avoided the astronomically high management costs which now bedevil every large British Company and were able to set very competitive prices. Today those workshops have expanded and are now profitable.
Such a scheme could become a national blueprint. Young entrepeneurs could be given incentives to launch their own local enterprise, and a small amount of the vast resulting savings in benefits payments could be used to fund the launch on a repayable basis. Many good men and women who want to work would be plucked out of abject misery, the legendary shirkers we hear so much about could be obliged to join or face a life without hand-outs.
Undoubtedly better brains than those of ferret-men could come up with better ideas. It is high time that they did, for to plough on with a massive campaign on benefits wihout an option of employment is to court disaster. If this policy is pursued it will not just be the malcontents who man the barricades and placards. Thousands of men and women who desperately seek employment will eventually be stung into joining the mobs.
Everyone so affected would feel a whole lot better if government was seen to be at least trying to create employment rather than banging on about the private sector solving the problem unaided. That isn’t going to happen anytime soon and stories such as those of British Airways will simply increase doubt and resentment. That company is going to enormous lengths to reduce payments to cabin crews whilst awarding bosses such as Willie Walsh and Keith Williams pay rises of over 12 per cent to pile on top of astronomic salaries. They are far from alone, as this site revealed yesterday all the Directors of our major companies are pocketing millions whilst reducing the number of people employed.
As a chief executive I expected to earn more that the workforce to compensate me for the pressure and time commitment. I always saw a ratio of four to be justified. Now that is obsolete thinking and executives expect to be paid two hudred times the amount of men and women on their ‘shop floors’. Greed pervades the land and job creation is the last thing on the minds of our noveau rich.
Politicians are held in low regard now but they are the only show in town. Unless they decide to take imaginative initiatives and stop pandering to their wealthy business tycoons the situation will progressively worsen. And at some point they will regret the decision to eliminate police resources for handling demonstrations!
VICTORY IN EUROPE? HARDLY!
The Prime Minister headed off to Brussels promising to cut or freeze plans for a huge hike in the EU budget at a time when every member state is cutting everything that moves and most things that don’t. He returned having conceded a rise of at least 2.9 per cent which will cost Britain around £430 million, money we haven’t got. That is not victory Mr Cameron, it is defeat!
To make things worse a European Commission official was quick to point out that such decisions do not rest with the Heads of States but with the European Parliament which is expected to restore the originally planned masive hike of almost 7 per cent. Once again we learn of aspects of the Treaty that have signed away our sovereign powers without any consultation with the British people.
At least David Cameron undoubtedly spoke for the majority yesterday when he declared that he is a Eurosceptic. He is sceptical about “granting yet more powers to Europe” and “that money is well spent”. We cannot know whether this truly reflects his self understanding. But his deeds have not matched his words and there is every indication that he too is going to duck out of the committment to hold a referendum when the new rewording of the Treaty now being demanded by many countries takes place.
The only consolation in a scenario that sees the undemocratic and bloated EU crowd take full control of these islands is that we can make savings by dispensing with Westminster and all its works!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Feyenoord 2. Watergate
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did Genral Franco die? 2. What position did Andrey Gromyko hold in the Soviet government in the 70s?
We awoke to blue skies this morning and when I reached the allotment shed the whole place was aglow with an all-is-well-with-the-world ambience. So powerful was the sun that its rays penetrated the shed windows, long a stranger to Windolene. In the corner Eric was already chiselling away at his latest creation. An accountant for all his working life, Eric is now a self-taught joiner of no mean ability and loves to tell all who will listen that he derives more pleasure from a completed chair than he gained from a hundred completed audits.
Our time on the allotment is spent on important work or, if you prefer the verdict of she-who-must-be-obeyed, messing about. Either way it has had a remarkable effect of considerable impact on a bunch of men most of whom spent their earning-days sitting behind a desk. Speaking for myself, I cannot claim to have discoverd skills to match those of Eric, but I remember vividly the first attempt I made to construct a gate for the chicken run. I visited B & Q, borrowed some tools and proceeded to make something that fitted and opened to the touch. I was amazed. Right up to that day such a task would have meant reaching for the yellow pages. Suddenly I felt fulfilled. Suddenly, at the age when I should be sitting on a banch watching equally ancient codgers playing bowls, I was embarking on a new life. It has proved to be one in which neighbours with a DIY probelm send for me. The effect on my self-esteem has been uplifting. Now I won’t die, just wear out amongst fellow craftsmen!
It was that eureka moment that had me looking for books on the subject of manual versus brain work. An early read was ‘The Case for Working with Your Hands’ by Matthew Crawford. ‘Real men’, he wrote, should stop being slaves to their screens and Wi-Fis. They should drive nails into planks and wield spades. Crawford had noticed that graduate entry into professions like his was plummeting, with those supposedly educated for them drifting into listless semi-employment, ” a state of uncommitted future potential”. But he also noticed something aboiut himself. He worked as an academic but worked on motor-bike restoration in his spare time. He noticed that he was always exhausted after a day at the former yet felt strangely exhilerated by the manual labour on the bike.
In his book ‘Craftsmanship’ sociologist Richard Sennett describes a similar reaction. He concludes that the handling of tools is far more than just a passing phase in human evolution. There are “skills in manual labour that link hand and brain and which are still not recognised” he argues. To Sennett it is downright cruel to “assume downward mobility in those who love working with their hands”. It is a natural human activity. Sennett even cites the satisfaction a parent gains from caring for a child. Childcare, he points out, is skilled manual labour that delivers more than just family bonding.
In a way the case for manual labour relates to what is happening to the economy. Ever since tha Thatcher era when technical colleges were replaced by academia there has been an increasing shortage in specialist skills such as plumbing. Apprenticeships have almost vanished except for those in Sugarland. And now graduates are pouring off the academic production lines with skills unsuited to the vacancies of tomorrow. We face a permanent reduction in professional, managerial and financial areas. Consumer spending will shift towards leisure, towards live activity. This covers ranges from hobbies, exploring, riding, festuvals, concerts, restaurants and tourism. Yes they will demand skills such as salesmanship, but most will provide jobs that are literally hands-on as in building, equipment maintenance, cooking etc.
In other words the jobs market of tomorrow will require craftsmanship that we as a society have almost lost. We will not be able to outsouce the mending of a broken pipe to India. If we cannot adjust back to the days when working meant using ones hands we will need to rely on migrants from places such as Germany and East Europe where the tradition of high-status technical education and apprenticeship has not been eroded by the ‘humanities’.
So, like it or not, the majority of careers of tomorrow will require the very manual skills which for generations we have downgraded. But if the experience of we old yet born-again allotment men means anything it is that therein lies self-esteem and job satisfaction long lost in our society. And the powerful message from people such as Crawford and Sennett is that the carpenter, engineer, plumber, needleworker or any other craftsman or woman is pursuing a route back to the inner self that may indeed be more direct than working solely with the head – or the screen.
As we young-old man of the allotment like to cry come back Bob the Builder, all is forgiven!
ANY QUESTIONS CAN BE A TURN-OFF!
Did you watch last night’s ‘Any Questions?’ on the Beeb? I did for a while before turning it off in sheer exasperation.
The first question concerned the proposed changes to child benefits and the audience was largely hostile. Each of the non-politicians gave an honest and sensible answer which is that, whatever ones beliefs on the welfare state, the mathematics used whereby one household will lose benefits whilst another, with no one higher taxpayer but a higher total income, will retain it is nonsense.
But the politicians waffled about the mess left by Labour, the dire straits of the country and anything else that came into their heads rather than contemplate that an error had been made. One of them was called, I think, Lady Warsi. She simply refused to stop babbling on and even David Dimbleby was hard put to get a word in edgeways. At one point when for the umpteenth time she said that the coalition had not realised that the country was in a mess, hence their not including benefits in the manifesto, Dimbleby exclaimed that the Conservatives had fought the election on the basis that it was in a mess. She babbled on.
The concept of the Thursday night show is good but it would be even better if the Beeb excluded political parrots whose self understanding is lower that that of my hens!
STRANGE DECISION BY ED MILIBAND!
I have just heard an unofficial story that Alan Johnson has been appointed Shadow Chancellor. If correct this is surely an odd decision by the new Labour leader.
Former postman Alan has distinguished himself in various offices and was an excellent Health Secretary. But is he a qualified accountant and has he the relevant experience at a time when finance looms large?
In terms of relevant ability we already have a poor Chancellor, having an equally inadequate shadow does not sound reassuring!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. U Thant 2. Manchester United
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which newspaper stopped its Saturday edition in 1974? 2. Which group sang ‘Seas of Rhye’?
The new found power of the web has been demonstrated vividly by the response to calls to secretly move copies of Tony Blair’s memoirs to the fantasy shelf. News reports tell that all over the country would-be buyers are searching through the autobiographical sections in vain. But in reality Mr Blair is not alone, every so-called plain-speaking memoir is inevitably selective with the truth. After all, only Mother Theresa would contemplate going to the trouble to prepare a book only to provide self-condemnation.
Of course some efforts are more obviously a fake than others. We really didn’t need a host of people named by Blair to testify that his account is somewhat slanted. But for him the book represents an attempt to protect his reputation, no matter how many eggs people in Ireland throw. In most instances the publication is simply a last chance to make a pile of money before the final curtain falls. I am not suggesting that every author lies but rather that the sins of omission outweigh those of commission.
Today we have yet another memoir to pore over thanks to the lucrative practice of selling serialisation to a newspaper, in this case The Sunday Telegraph. The former head of the Army, Sir Richard Dannatt, has seemingly accused both Blair and Brown of letting down the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Amongst his many claims is one concerning accessibility to Prime Ministers although he does mention various ‘breakfast meetings’ with Brown. More specifically, he claims that Brown, as Chancellor, was guilty of malign intervention by refusing to fund what his own government had agreed. For his part the then prime Minister, Tony Blair, lacked the moral courage to impose his will on the Chancellor. I have no doubt that that is the truth as Sir Richard sees it, but is it what really happened?
Nowhere in the account are to be found suggestions that the heads of the Army took a hard stand on behalf of their cause, nowhere is there the suggestion that maybe the administration was other than perfect or that supply requirements were inadequately forecast. Perhaps they were, perhaps not, but a book headlined ‘we were partly to blame’ would hardly be a best seller would it?
Having said all that, I have considerable sympathy foranyone attempting to prove a point via the written word. Many years ago I was engaged in a dissertation on which rested my hope of a good degree. I was attempting to prove that Kier Hardy was not in fact, as many claim, the founder of the Labour Party. I had access to comprehensive archives covering the Labour Representation Committee of 1900 to 1906 and found thousands of original documents which supported my argument. However from time to time I found pieces that cast reasonable doubt and the temptation to forget that I had ever discovered them was almost overwhelming. Only my self understanding saved me for I knew that my delight in bragging would be wounded beyond repair if I omitted anything relevant. Translate that example into a memoir and it is easy to believe that selective memory kicks in.
Perhaps a better example is the History of World War 2 which won Winston Churchill worldwide acclaim and a Nobel Peace Prize into the bargain. It is only in recent times that I have researched the role of the resistance movement across Europe and what I have found tells me that even great men are guilty of passing over issues that show them in less favourable lights than they would wish. Winston mentions the movement only once in his six volumes of detailed hist0ry yet records show that he was constantly preoccupied with creating a huge organisation whose role it was to covertly arm and incite ’underground ‘ resistance right across occupied Europe. He was constantly at odds with his military commanders in believing that herein lay the route to rapid victory.
In truth, with the possible exception of Tito’s ventures, no reistance movement achieved anything that influenced the eventual victory. In fact every instance of sabotage or killing of German troops led to horrendous reprisals leading to deaths far outnumbering anything achieved. Churchill was constantly warned that armed insurrection against overwhelming odds could achieve nothing and would waste precious arms and ammunition, but to the end he lived out his fantasy. Perhaps understandably what he didn’t do when he came to write was to so much as mention it!
There is little one can say about memoirs published by sports stars or celebrities which are invariably written by a ‘ghost’ writer. I remember Steve Harmison commenting that he hadn’t read his when challenged on a point of detail. And in almost every book one reads it is quickly apparent that this is not a warts-and-all account of life at the top but an attempt to tell the fans what they want to hear and, maybe, to have a pop at this enemy or that into the bargain. The latter is usually embellished by the ghost to provide the ‘buy me and be amazed’ factor.
None of this is hardly a revelation. The most read book in history, The Holy Bible, has provided scope for thousands of scholars for hundreds of years. Most conclude that the events described did take place but equally most claim that there are omissions, events not covered. And of course there would be, for the gospel writers, like every other, were bent on proving their point.
So all those people with nothing better to do than snuffle around Waterstones with concealed copies of Mr Blair’s fantasy should perhaps linger longer and transport all the other supposedly authoritative tomes which masquerade as the truth but specialise solely in either the prosecutiuon or defence case. Come to think of it, perhaps the book retailers should delete the term autobiographical from its shelf-headings and stock the whole lot in fiction.
For that is what they are. I have promised my fellow ferreters that if I ever come across a memoir or autobiography that clearly tells both sides of every instance I will eat it. I don’t anticipate indigestion any time soon!
CRICKET IS HEADING FOR WIPE-OUT UNLESS ..!
Today’s News of the World is not good reading for cricket lovers. Only the alleged misdemeanours of Wayne Rooney keeps it from the front page headlines but there is a special supplement headed ‘The Fix’ superimosed over a picture of burning stumps.
The inside story of the Lords no-balls scandal is included and appears to provide absolute proof of appalling corruption. Even more worrying are the pages packed with further revelations which suggest that match-fixing and cheating are rife and worldwide. It really is hard to imagine how cricket is going to recover from this unless the International Cricket Council takes draconian action. If ncessary it must expel entire countries from the game. An amputated limb is better than death!
I’m about to watch the first Twenty20 match between England and Pakistan and have reached the mental state where almost anything that happens will appear suspect. It is a total and absolute disgrace!
PLEASE MOTIVATE ME TO GO ON !!!!!
I (and the ferreters) have now written over 140 articles on this site and the number of ‘hits’ is very gratifying. However the number of comments is very low and it sometimes feels as is there is no one out there, Signing in is easy and your identity is not revealed if you use a pen-name. Do please leave a comment, however brief.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. William Brown 2. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which Apollo mission was cut short by an explosion in an oxygen tank? 2. The U.S.S Nimitz was commissioned in 1975. As what sort of ship?
I have often read of this G20 summit or that but it is only now that I understand what the G20 Club really is. Having researched the organisation that regularly draws in the vast majority of world leaders my conclusion is that G20 is the ultimate con-trick, one that props up the wealthy financiers and hammers those already on the economic floor.
I am not referring here to such as the children living in abject poverty in shanty homes in Manila for they, and countless millions like them across the world, are not given so much as a moment’s thought. I refer instead to the poor and marginalised across Europe about whom the EU human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, has issued a cry for help. His report identifes 150 million of the EU’s total population of 800 million as living below the poverty line. He clearly feels, as so many of us do, a sense of impotence born of an acceptance that the only hope is to follow the lead of financial experts. But who translates the supposed expertise into action?
The answer is the G20 Club. What is it? As part of its coverage of last week’s summit in Toronto the Canadian newspaper ‘Globe and Mail’ published an explanation. It seems that the whole idea was conceived back in 1999 during a meeting between Canada’s then Finance Minister, Paul Martin, and his US opposite number, Lawrence Summers. That in itself is interesting since Summers was then playing a key role in creating the conditions for this economic crisis, allowing a wave of bank consolidations and refusing to regulate derivatives. The two men wanted to expand the G7 Club but only to selected countries. They lacked a piece of foolscap and sketched out their framework for a new world order on the back of a manilla envelope. Thus was born the G20!
No surprise then that from day one G20 tended to view the world economy though Banker’s eyes. And nothing has chnaged as one realises when examining the outcome of last week’s gathering. The final communique includes no penalties for the Banks or in respect of financial transactions. Yet it instructs governments to slash their deficits in half by 2013. This is massive. With the elitist world of finance left to pursue its reckless and self-opinionated indulgence the burden will fall on such as students who will see their public educations deteriorate as their fees rise, pensioners who will lose hard-earned benefits, public sector workers who will lose their jobs… the list goes on and on. Only one section of the populations covered by the G20 leaders will bear the pain.
And how did things reach this state? Largely because when the G20 met in London in 2009, at the height of the financial crisis, it failed to agree on any significant method of regulating the financial sector .Instead we had empty rhetoric and an agreement to pour trillions of dollars and pounds in public money into the world banks as a means of propping them up. And even now there is total resistence to any serious action in regard to the financial sector which, despite having received enough public money to float a million recoveries, is still failing to advance loans or to stimulate economies. And, in the case of many Banks, is stiill recording record profits and paying equally large bonuses. At the Toronto summit the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, convinced the rest that it would be unfair to punish the Banks since not all of them erred . But there were no concerns about the lack of fairness in punishing millions who were blameless and whose lives will be destroyed by droconian measures.
Whilst few of us undestand the machinations of G20, millions are already crying enough is enough in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Greece. And the protests are not, as they are often portrayed in the media, simply mindless selfishness. Many of the demonstrations are demanding a financial transaction tax and one on pollution. In other words people are sensing that those that caused this collapse are continuing on theirnlucrative path whilst the mass of the population is to carry the burden unaided. And of course some suspect that such a crisis enables governments such as the UK to introduce policies such as a reduction in state services to proceed under an apparent rationale of no alternative.
Naomi Klein, the author of ”The Shock Doctrine; The Rise of Disaster Capitalism’ has pointed out that the G20 has none of the legitimacy of the United Nations and has suggested that since it is lumbering all of us with a huge bill for a crisis we had no hand in creating we should take a cue from Martin and Summers. We should , Naomi says, write on the back of their envelope ‘Return to Sender’.
I guess that in reality there is little any individual can do about what is really the greatest con-trick of all time. The revelation that the so often quoted G20 is little more than a institution of apologists for the bankers and financiers increases the sense of injustice that builds with each new announcement of cuts in services on which so many depend.
This seems an odd question to pose on the day after the Cup Final but the annual event raised some worrying issues. One of the contestants is fortunate to be in the hands of a rich and dedicated owner and flinches not an inch at a weekly wage of over £100,000 per week for top players. The team that they defeated were relegated Portsmouth who are in administration and are faced with losing both players and manager. According to the Sunday press a centre-back is likely to be packed off since his weekly wage of £20,000 is too expensive. All credit to their loyal supporters, no credit to those who saddled the club with debt.
The worry for all those who love the game is that the advent of astronomic transfer fees and wages has already created a multi-layered league. At the top end are clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City which are fortunate in being blessed with rich owners whose sole intent is to create a world-beating side. Also there are others such as Manchester United and Liverpool but here one finds doubts amongst supporters about the intent of the owners and the debts they have accrued.
In the middle section lie many good clubs which are feeling the pressure of the high wages they must pay if they are to compete. And the lower section comprises clubs who clearly cannot afford the highest priced players. In their desperation to retain their Premiership status some have gambled and some, Portsmuth being the immediate example, have taken themselves into debt.
The manager of one of the clubs competing for promotion from the Championship remarked this week that he expects to come straight down again but the adventure would be exciting. Even before he arrives this wise manager has recognised that if big money buys success he must expect to fail.
It seems reasonable to assume that the secure and wealthy clubs at the top will continue to use their financial muscle to ‘own’ the most talented players in the world. The equal probability is that some others will try to follow suit and that the rest will settle for the vain hope of developing their own. I use the word vain because the likelihood is that should they discover another Wayne Rooney someone at the top will reach for his or her cheque book.
The most positive outcome over the next decade or less is that the premiership will become a very one-sided affair with the majority outside of the top six simply making up the numbers. Perhaps even the most ardent fan will tire of seeing his or her team winning or losing by huge scores on a regaular basis? The again perhaps not but the big question must be the one of financial viability.
Unless many of the also-rans resign themselves to continual failure on the field many will follow Portsmouth. When weekly wages equal to that of the average earnings by fans over several years are regarded as reasonable the warning bells must start to ring. Throw in the possibility of higher taxes. Then add to the mix many one-sided matches becoming unattractive to armchair viewers and the resulting reduction in TV earnings and the recipe for many insolvencies is complete.
The probable eventual solution will be the formation of a European League of rich clubs. But the supporters who devote so much of their hard earned cash and emotions deserve better. If the obvious power brokers across Europe were to agree a maximum wage and transfer structure, costs would come hurtling down with the added benefit that lower leagues would be adapt their financial behaviour too.
The instant objection is that the players would not accept it. Really? A wage of 250,000 per year as against per week is still very attractive and if the only people able to pay more agreed to accept the ceiling for the greater good of the game where would the players go? Their present wages are totally unrealistic. However good a player, he cannot be worth more in a fortnight than a brain surgeon earns in a year.
What worries me and, I suspect, many fans is that no one will take any initiative. The dream of being the best will prove too heady. But will being the best of a collapsing pack or even a form of isolation in Europe really satisfy anyone?
Hopefully Porstmouth did more that just put on a final brave performance yesterday. The Pompey chimes rang out but so did a warning of things to come!
Tomorrow; An English triumph to lighten the gloom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The official ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day rekindled a lot of memories. I was a 12 year old schooboy and remember clearly the party held in a taxi-firm’s garage. As young boys do I watched with interest the reaction of the adults as I munched on my Spam sandwiches. Some wore party hats, some didn’t. Some wept tears of joy, others of deep sorrow.
For some there was little to celebrate. Many of the men -as we lads saw them- who just a few years before had taken part in our street football would never do so again. Others would and their folk seemed to stifle their elation, overtaken by a sense of guilt at being ‘the lucky ones’. For years the street had seemed a place of hope amidst the raids and deprivation. Suddenly it felt hollow, a place of echoing memories.
In fact there never were the universally riotous celebrations written about by historians. For on that day not only were many facing a life without their breadwinners but others were anxiously awaiting news from the Far East and were later to hear tales of atrocities too terrible to bear.
So it isn’t a display of relief and flag-waving that I recall. But there was pride. I heard many sing the familiar ditty about ‘It wasn’t the Yanks that won the war, the Oxford and Bucks got there before’. Everyone seemed determined to avoid any recognition that the Americans had, after their late entry into the conflict, swung the balance. Strangely enough I remember but two lauded heroes being toasted that night. They were Churchill and Stalin. Yes, Stalin. This weekend’s TV pictures of the Welsh Guards marching in Red Square would have pleased those who believed that it was the might of Russia that saved us. Few probably realised that it lost 3 million souls in doing so.
I find myself wondering what those young men that never returned woiuld make of today’s ‘home fit for heroes’ to which they never returned. My guess is that they would look askance at the present machinations of our three would-be leaders. Two of them would definitely not have had their approval for there seemed then an innate distrust of ‘toffs’. Even Gordon Brown would be seen as a pale-pink socialist. The men and women who swept Attlee into power in 1945 were, by today’s standards ‘hard left’.
And what they would think of the Europe they had shed blood to conquer now being our effective master doesn’t bear contemplation.
Even for those who survived, the dream faded within years. The Labour government of ’45 was a reforming one and many social changes took place , not least the birth of the NHS. But the need to give priority to the starving masses in Europe led to austerity at home and by 1951 the dream of a better life, a better world, was fading fast. In frustration the people turned back to Churchill but the magic of those war years no longer encircled him.
Perhaps the best we can say in retrospect is that we survived to fight another day. The dream that carried so many brave men across Europe and lightened the days of endurance at home was just that, a dream. And history tells us that the outcome of wars is invariably negative and eventually yet more early deaths of young men and women told to dream of a better tomorrow.