Monday, 25 October 2010
You Gotta Keep the Hamster Alive to Keep The Wheel Turning
In the wake of Chancellor Osborne's wielding of the £83 billion axe, decapitating a headcount of 1-in-10 public sector workers, coupled with the government's refusal to end banker's bonuses, cap footballer's pay, plug the brain drain or address the criminal wastage in the NHS, I find myself distinctly underwhelmed, if not exactly turning French to take to the streets.
And the French only have to work to 62 and there's riots in the streets – whereas we have to work to 66 and merely shrug our shoulders about it! Though of all the injustices to protest about, you'd think there was little arguing against the fact that most of us are now living longer, save those who worked in manual trades, and where allowances could more fairly be made than by the former system of gender division.
Meanwhile the banks continue to refuse to lend money to small businesses, systematically strangling the life blood out of one of the few resources for job creation, while companies large enough – even James Dyson - have stiffed the British economy by making their names here and then largely relocating to take advantage of cheap third world labour, expecting us (shortly with no jobs) to carry on buying their products.
In the midst of the number of jobs being slashed in every sector and quangos being quashed, the coalition government has decided in its wisdom that benefits are to be cut for the long-term unemployed and those on long-term incapacity benefit, in tandem with the drive to force, er persuade, people to work longer into retirement. Never mind where are the jobs for all these people, shortly to be unleashed onto an already oversubscribed labour market, but where is the back-up training and support they are going to need if they haven't trained or worked for years, if at all? And in these cases, confidence is as much an issue as training and the jobs for them to go to. This plan also presumes a society which has now successfully dispensed with ageism – one of the main reasons older redundant workers are actively encouraged to develop depression and a drink problem and opt for long term incapacity benefits. It's just easier and there's no need for them to show up on those inconvenient jobless figures.
Does it not occur to the Government that every time a job is cut, so is a consumer and that UK employees are also UK customers in many cases? If every former consumer is to be reduced to rent, bills and bread subsistence level, then all other goods and service providers may as well shut up shop, reducing wage bills still further.
But is the Big Society for the people or what? Is it about to decree a 'right to work' alongside its enhanced legislation against disadvantage in the workplace on the grounds of disability, gender, sexuality etc, and is the 'right to work' a philosophical or an economical question? We live in a society where women walk around believing they have a right to have babies. Or not have babies. We believe we have civil rights, democratic rights and entitlements from the State. Some of us even believe we have a right to be happy, despite lacking a constitution on this. But what about the 'right to work' for every man and woman from 16 to 66? Would industry be forced to redistribute itself more evenly across our green and pleasant land to accommodate? And would we get to decree our hours, pay and commute time preference?
Previous governments have decided that the right not to starve, or die for want of affordable medical care, is more achievable, hence the inception of the 1948 Welfare State and its promise of care 'from the cradle to the grave'. If this government seeks to erode that promise, it better jolly well have a superior idea up its sleeve as countless generations fought, suffered and sacrificed to attain that basic birthright, abused as it may have been by the feckless of later generations.
But I suppose we are luckier with the coalition government than Eire is with a premier who looks like he just lost the country in a game of gin rummy for College rag week.