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.


Steve said...

Whilst I lament the state of this once green and pleasant land I can't help feeling we are still (at the moment) better off than many of our counterparts in the states who are reliant on the US's inadequate welfare and literally don't get enough to eat. The times they are tough. Alas our politicians don't seem to be up the challenge. Anyone can make cuts, but to make a strategy to encourage growth seems beyond them.

Nota Bene said...

There's wisdom in them there words...I can't understand the ridiculous salaries and bonuses given to the bankers and footballers.>>I'm all for reducing the number of public sector employees...but the slash and burn approach seems daft, and worrying given that the intention is that the private sector will take up the slack..which seems unlikely...I think there is a real opportunity for radical reform that creates a fairer society, but the politicians have a vested interest in not changing too much...

Steerforth said...

I think that Gordon Brown should take the blame for expanding the state to a level that wasn't sustainable in a recession, but the present government's policy of slashing jobs on the one hand and stigmatising unemployment on the other seems rather muddled.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've never been able to understand the weird mathematical formulas used by countries when economic austerity is called for.
Everything calculates to zero in this dimwit's brain. Maybe I'm missing something?

Owen said...

Wow Laura, you said a mouthful there ! And well said at that.

Better start stocking up on hamster food, because pretty soon there may not be anything else left to eat...

France, UK, US... all seem to be having major identity crisis issues at present. God only knows where it's all heading.

Onward through the fog, eh ?

The Sagittarian said...

Its the same the world over it seems.
Anyone want to help me circumnavigate the world looking for a quake free zone where we can all eek out a decent living?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Steve, I cannot disagree. We still have a better Welfare State than many countries. Until such time as the government find a way to completely dismantle it.

Notabene, thanks. I've since read that 60% of employers are made up of small-to medium sized private companies, many of the very same the banks are refusing to lend to, the selfsame which are supposed to take up the slack one the public sector is slashed.

'Muddled' is the word Steerforth. Though perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if a coalition government develops a rather schitzophrenic way of going about things.

WWW. An interesting thought, but I doubt they possess something so sophisticated as a 'scientific formula'.

Owen - Thanks. Yes, food security and fuel security are going to be the next big issues to hit us no doubt. Shoot me now!

Sounds like a darned good plan Sagittarian - let's start our own colony!

Tessa said...

Looks like another winter of discontent might be looming in Britain, although Thatcher having drawn the unions' teeth, I'm not sure how it will be managed. You Brits are just not good at taking to the streets and tearing up flagstones, the way French and Greek protestors do at the drop of a hat. The disparities between loutish bankers and their bonuses and the rest of the populace are mind-boggling.