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Am I standing on my head?

A few weeks ago the largest ship ever to visit the River Tyne brought a cargo of American coal - yes coal - to Newcastle. Nothing is unthinkable anymore. It gets you reflecting on just what else has changed over recent years.

In the rail industry, train companies have their profits boosted by hundreds of millions of pounds through subsidies - money that should be used to improve the industry but instead benefits shareholders and inflates their directors’ remunerations packages. Meanwhile fares go up above the inflation rate and staffing levels are cut to the bone, risking safety and standards.

Over the summer a reduction in police numbers allowed uncontrollable street riots and the spectacle of our political leaders having to be recalled from all parts of the planet while the rest of us enjoy staycations. At least if it kicks off again next year we will be able to get the great and the good back quicker as they will all be found in the best seats at the Olympics opening ceremony and 100 metres final.

While bosses are paid obscene bonuses on top of over-inflated salaries (and campaign to have the 50% tax rate abolished), workers are laid off and those who are left have their conditions eroded and wages frozen or cut. Bricklayers, chippies and electricians sit at home while building sites stand idol in a country which has a chronic housing shortage.

Bricklayers, chippies and electricians sit at home while building sites stand idol in a country which has a chronic housing shortage.

On wholesale markets, oil drops in price but goes up at the pumps. Police stations and A&E units close overnight while supermarkets stay open around the clock. We enter into new wars at the same time that we scrap aircraft carriers and make soldiers redundant. Having given the world railways, we push the UK’s last remaining train builder to the edge of bankruptcy by buying fleets of new stock from Germany. Big stations are redeveloped into shopping centres, then we’re charged 30 pence to use the toilet. We de-staff small stations and turn them into wastelands for vandals. While workers’ pension schemes wither, bosses’ pension pots grow bigger by the day. Apparently we can do without thousands of frontliners - police, hospital staff, builders and the like - but paper shufflers, head nodders and box tickers are vital for our economic prosperity.

All our privatised commodities have been sold off to international companies, prompting prices to rise steeply and profits to leave the country. Ordinary folk pay the price, falling into fuel poverty as parasite companies screw them for every penny; meanwhile the have-lots are left to count their pounds. Snouts and troughs come to mind. Our millionaire prime minister insists that he shares our pain and that we’re all in it together!

Three senior executives eagerly await their bonuses.
Photo: US Department of Agriculture

To cut costs and create jobs we need to simplify work and reduce mega-overheads: projects should do without gluts of consultants, months of pointless meetings attended by unproductive bureaucrats and shelves full of reports that nobody ever reads. All of this bumps the price up, causing politicians to back away from starting such work in fear of the spiralling expenditure. It makes you wonder what Brunel would have achieved if he had been hamstrung by today’s ‘due process’.

I’m off to retrain as a lobbyist; this is a growth industry. I intend to attach myself to a good mate of mine at HQ so that I can travel with him and attend meetings. The rich can buy political influence; ordinary folk are threatened with eviction if they try to make their point. Society has gone to pot. Will the last person to leave please put the light out - we can’t pay the electricity bill.

Story added 1st November 2011

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