Our revered leader tells us that he wants to clear ‘Backlog Britain’ by the end of September. Somehow, I can’t see that happening. Bunter hasn’t a hope in hell of persuading cosseted civil servants back to their desks for a long time yet.
And why would they go back damnit, when MPs have just taken off for their six weeks’ summer holiday? If the Government was serious about getting the country up and running again, Parliament would surely have scrapped the summer recess.
It is not as though our overpaid MPs have been rushed off their feet lately. Most of them have been content to stay at home, working out how to spend the extra ten grand they awarded themselves to cope with the coronabug crisis.
They should be at Westminster damnit, subjecting the Government’s increasingly baffling and inconsistent Covid response to proper scrutiny. But while MPs are enjoying their holiday perks, the unions would howl outrage if their precious civil servants were ordered back to work.
Given the way ministers caved in to the teachers, I cannot see the remotest possibility that the Civil Service will be back to normal by September. The backlog of passport applications, driving licences and birth certificates will only get worse.
Of course, the Government could have set up a simple system which would have allowed people to download the documents online. They could have issued six-month or one-year extensions, complete with readable bar codes, to be attached to licences and passports.
It surely should not be any more complicated than Amazon’s system for returning unwanted or faulty goods, but it would call for innovation, flexibility and political courage and that would seem to be in short supply at the moment. However, the all-powerful unions would never agree to it, so I am afraid it won’t happen.
I can’t see the backlog being cleared before the middle of next year I’m afraid and even that might be wildly optimistic The way things are going, I am not sure we will ever catch up. Civil servants have no incentive to get back to their offices. Like the rest of the public sector, they are all drawing their full salaries.
There is a clear distinction at the moment between those who kept the country ticking over – the police, NHS frontline staff, supermarket workers, dustmen, etc – and the vast majority currently ‘working from home.’ By and large, it was the private sector that ensured Britain was fed and watered during lockdown. Even BT rose to the occasion, maintaining reliable broadband connections for the most part. Yet this hopelessly muddled government are handing out pay rises to public sector staff – not including nurses and carers!
Last week, even teachers were given increases of between 2.75 and 5.5 per cent. I am sure there are dedicated teachers out there but surely, they don’t deserve that pay rise when unions have been refusing to let them report for work.
Imagine how that must have gone down with low-paid delivery drivers and others who have worked throughout, trying to make ends meet. Plenty of parents have lost money because they have been unable to go back to work while the schools remain closed. The news that teachers are getting a pay rise must have been a real kick in the teeth.
It’s not only pay, either. The mounting job losses over the past few weeks have all come at private companies, from Marks & Spencers to Rolls-Royce and many other major companies. I certainly have not heard of anyone working for local or national government being made redundant.
I seem to recall Mr Johnson telling us with apparent sincerity that ‘we are all in this together’ but those words sound somewhat hollow at the moment and it is not only confined to the public/private sector divide. Even though the Government has eased social distancing regulations and encouraged the economy to start opening up again, millions are reluctant to return to pre-lockdown normality.
Some major firms, including the banks, have no intention of reopening their offices until the New Year at the earliest. By then, it may well be too late for the shops, bars, cafes and restaurants which rely on the custom of office staff to turn a profit and keep people in jobs.
Unfortunately, the white-collar classes have become accustomed to ‘working from home.’ So much so that they now look on it as an entitlement. Listen to the phone-ins, read the surveys. They are loving their new work/life balance.
Crisis, what crisis? To adapt that famous quote from Harold Macmillan – some people have never had it so good.
‘I’m better off than I’ve ever been,’ they say. ‘I’m not missing the usual commuting, I am saving on my season ticket. Why would I want to pay a fiver for a sandwich from Pret or buy an expensive cup of coffee from Costa? Plus, I am seeing more of my kids. Go back to the office? No I don’t think so.’
It doesn’t seem to have occurred to these people that this is not the way any economy works. Money makes the world go round and there can be no prosperity if nobody is spending.
Most of the big cities have now become deserted parking lots. Those stores and cafes which opened again recently are starved of customers. If they don’t see a dramatic increase in takings soon, they will have no alternative but to shut for good.
If city centres die, millions more will lose their jobs. The tax base will collapse, the benefits bill will go through the roof and there won’t be any money to spend on the NHS – or anything else for that matter – let alone pay the interest on the billions of pounds the Government is borrowing every day.
And with the entire economy in free fall, it won’t be long before the jobs of all those ‘working from home’ start to disappear, too. Those lucky enough to be kept on will have to swallow substantial wage cuts. The rest could see their jobs outsourced to cheaper people working from home in Bangladesh or Eastern Europe. That could happen sooner rather than later unless the Government takes the lead and hits the restart button with a vengeance.
Never mind the latest madness about having to wear masks to buy takeaway food, but not to eat on the premises – and in shops, but not pubs. Had they decided that from the start, then perhaps, but at the moment, it seems rather like old Nero doing his fiddling gig while Rome collapsed around him. Formerly Great Britain is on the brink of economic collapse, yet MPs head off on their summer holidays!
It can’t go on. Parliament should be recalled and the Civil Service ordered back immediately. Instead of continuing to chuck money we don’t have at everything from the extended furlough scheme to half-price hamburgers, the Chancellor should be offering generous tax breaks or whatever else it takes to get factories and offices back up and running again.
Never mind Backlog Britain, it’s Bankrupt Britain we should be worrying about now.
But there was minor good news last week. An award-winning charity boss who was sacked for criticising the Left-wing agenda of Black Lives Matter was happily reinstated by a new board of trustees.
Last month Nick Buckley was dismissed by the trustees of Mancunian Way, a ground-breaking charity he himself founded nine years ago, after an online mob accused him of ‘inappropriate’ and ‘insensitive’ views and demanded his removal.
He described BLM’s policies as ‘neo-Marxist’ and said they risked dividing communities in a blog published in June after protests erupted in the UK following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Campaigners immediately branded his post racist and set up an online petition demanding he be removed.
Within a week, Mr Buckley was sacked by the trustees but he was supported by the Free Speech Union – whoever they may be – which got behind a counter-petition and found him a top lawyer in Geoffrey Davies of Keystone Law.
. Mr Davies said: ‘In their anxiety to be politically correct the trustees simply ignored their contractual obligations. When these were drawn to their attention the trustees realised the dreadful mistake they had made and agreed to resign and reinstate Nick as CEO.’
Mancunian Way, which helps young people in Manchester avoid a life of crime, said the trustees have resigned and a new board has asked the fifty two year old Buckley to return to his former role.
The ‘crime’ for which poor old Buckley was fired came when he wrote about Black Lives Matter ‘What is happening in the UK over the last few months has very little to do with the horrendous death of George Floyd in the USA.
‘It is better described as part ‘new fashion craze’ and part ‘an opportunity for anarchy.’ Do you know who Black Lives Matter are? Do you know what this self-proscribed political movement wants? According to their website, they want to end white supremacy, disrupt the Western prescribed nuclear family and dismantle the patriarchal practice. These are fancy words but what do they mean?
‘They are exactly what post-modern, neo-Marxists use when they call for the destruction of Western democracy and our way of life.’
Referring to Floyd’s criminal convictions, he questioned why the demonstrations were focused on the ‘unlawful death of a career criminal’ in the US rather than UK issues including knife crime, female genital mutilation, honour killings and a lack of house-building.
The response was immediate and furious. Writing on Mr Buckley’s LinkedIn page, Reece Williams, a poet who works for a mental health charity in Manchester, said: ‘Please know that we will be doing everything in our power to have you removed from your position. Expect us.’
A few days later, an online petition calling for Mr Buckley’s removal was posted on Change.org by Karlet Manning, who also works for a mental health charity.
The petition claimed his views ‘undermine the Black Lives Matter movement whilst working in a diverse community’ and were ‘inappropriate, insensitive and have since been deleted.’
The row then exploded on Twitter when the petition and Mr Buckley’s comments began to be tweeted by Left-wing campaigners and anonymous accounts. Two days later, Mr Buckley received an email from the charity’s trustees informing him their relationship with him was ‘terminated.’ A red flag and the word ‘victory’ was later posted on the Change.org petition page.
Mr Buckley said he stands by what he wrote, although he accepts that he could have better conveyed some of his arguments. He said he had declined an offer from his trustees to issue an apology for the blog.
‘That’s the coward’s way and I’m not a coward,’ he said. ‘If I had the guts to say what I said, then I need the guts to stand up and continue to say what I said.’
He holds no ill-feeling towards the trustees. ‘They are lovely people but they weren’t ready for a fight. They found themselves in a terrible situation not of their making – pressure online.’
I had never heard of Nick Buckley or his charity but I am pleased for him. More people need to stand up to the bullying of the social media pratlets and let us all get on with our lives.
Yes, black lives do matter, but this whole movement is out of hand and making life miserable for the very people they profess to be looking after. If racism is to disappear from society, then this is not the way to go about it.