Tuesday, 3 February 2009

State of the Nation - A Rant

I have been silent for a while (getting Ma‘s house finally emptied, getting it ready for renting out, trying to arrange renting things, so much to do). But it has allowed me time to ponder on many things these past six weeks.

So many of my overseas friends have asked me recently: How are things in London at the moment? What is life like in Britain today?

And this, in part, is my response. What mere print does not do is adequately express the anger, the suppressed frustration and continuous rage that is all-pervading in this country amongst those of us of a certain age group now.

You wanna know what life in this country is like at the moment? We have no life here. We merely exist, trying to get through each day, while being bombarded daily with yet more government incompetence and high-earner corruption. Call this a democracy? Don’t make us laugh!

What a mess. What a terrible, terrible mess. And you know what?, nobody cares anymore.

Over the past decade or so the industrial infrastructure has been knocked out of this country. And now the emotional infrastructure of this country has disintegrated. There is no sense of community anymore. People have lost the capacity to CARE.

Oh, I could go on about this useless, incompetent, broken country; the laughing stock we have become.

Let’s take, as an example, the severe weather we’ve had these last few days. We knew it was coming. We were warned about a week ago. Did the authorities do anything about it?: prepare the trucks for the grit and salt? Work out contingencies for the transport infrastructure? Of course not! This is Britain! what do you expect?

The snow began on Sunday (1st) but really came down and settled as soon as we hit Monday morning. By 1.am it lay at least four inches deep….

…and suddenly a Newsflash splashed across BBC 24 News channel. It read: “Extreme weather expected to cause disruption”.

I suppose that’s what they used to call British Understatement. In the circumstances it just looked foolish.

Then Transport For London (the organisation that oversees all the transport links in the capital - and who run their empire like some Stalinist Politburo) calmly announced there would be no London buses running of any kind on Monday 2nd, All Day.

Even Hitler failed to stop the buses running at the height of the Blitz during the Second World War!

The only initial joy was the radio reports of various Bendy-buses sliding and crashing into lamp-posts. Ordinary buses seemed to be OK. You have no idea how much we Londoners detest those bendy buses. Mayor Boris was part-voted into power with his promise to scrap them. They will go eventually, it will just take time.

So when we woke up in the morning, with (at most) six inches of snow around, the entire country was told to “stay at home”. Bloody typical. A drop of snow - or the wrong type if leaves on the line - and the entire bloody country grinds to a halt.

They tried to impress upon us this was the worst winter weather we’ve had in 13 years. So bloody what. The country was Paralysed. Yet Again.

The fact was: by 11.am. most of the main road arteries had been cleared and cars were happily driving along them. So where were the buses? They didn’t escape from their garages until Tuesday!

For as much as I am a fan of Bo-Jo (Mayor of London, Boris Johnson), this is the first time he has been required to step up to the plate and make a quick and effective decision, and he has been found wanting. [I now withdraw that last statement. It has now come to light - 2nd March - that Transport for London took the decision to withdraw the buses at 11pm Sunday night, announced it 1.am Monday morning, yet Boris Johnson was not even informed of this decision until 6.am… see what I mean about TfL running themselves like a Russian Politburo? - Shameful].

Besides the absent buses, the tube trains were severely disrupted (some complete lines closed) and the overground trains completely ballsed up. Most airports closed too.

The M25 (the ring road that goes around London?) - had a traffic jam of 50 miles long. Fifty bloody miles. The same could be found across the country.

Of course they could’ve brought the gritter trucks out…. But somebody realised, er, you have to lay down salt first?????? Er, where are the salt trucks? Er, we ain’t got any!

Today, Tuesday 4th (i.e. the next day), the authorities have just announced that the local Councils are rapidly running out of salt and grit.

Oh, and the next wave of blanket snow is expected Thursday and Friday. You just can’t wait for it really, can you. Bring on the chaos.

I look around this country and I see a paralysed, useless Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) at the head of a bankrupt administration (supposedly) in charge of a broken country.

I am reminded of those old Spike Milligan comedy series from the 1970s (pre-Python): Q7, Q8, Q9 etc. Whenever they did not know how to end a sketch or were lost for a punch line, the entire cast would suddenly freeze, rooted to the spot, then stare straight at the camera lens and recite in unison: “What are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do now?…” as they slowly shuffled off sideways out of shot.

THAT is the state of this government and of this country. Paralysed. What are we gonna do now?

At least in America, now, with Obama, there is a sense of, not exactly unity, but at least a sense of "coming togetherness" to fight this recession.

But the UK? Bankrupt is the word: bankrupt of ideas, bankrupt of nerve, bankrupt of will to do anything to get us out of this shit.

Let me give you an example: last week the International Monetary Fund brought out a report that said the UK economy was the worst placed to deal with the recession of all the westernised countries. But Brown's government rejected the report's findings....so that's alright then, isn't it...?

And what was Mr. Gordon Brown’s primary concern amidst all this chaos? At the same time as the I.M.F. report he made it publicly known that he was worried that cartoonists in this country make him look “too fat”. This is true. What a sad, sick joke it has all become.

On top of all that, we now have wildcat strikes, blockades and pickets at various refineries and power plants because ‘foreign workers’ (from the E.U.) are being given jobs before UK / Scottish workers.

Such a pity that one of Brown's mantras at his party's conference last year was (and I quote) "British Jobs for British Workers".... but he's even back-peddled on that one now saying he didn’t really mean it like that......

It seems to me this is simply the latest logical step in the rise (and increasing popularity) of various far-Right organisations, the most high-profile being the BNP (British National Party). They have already made considerable inroads into local politics, getting Councillors in impressive numbers (even my local Council has a BNP Councillor. I predict they will have at least 3 - a minimum of 3 - by the time of the next local elections in a couple of years time).

But already the two main political parties (Labour and Conservative) are trying to link in our minds these protests and the BNP. You can begin to understand just why the main parties fear these "upstarts" and are prepared to use any tactic possible to do them down. Trouble is, the more they try to slag-off the BNP, the more that uncommitted middle-of-the-roaders start to sympathise with them because (as they perceive it) they are clearly having their democratic rights of freedom-of-speech restricted. Duh!

I do urge you to track down a film from the 1970s called Network, starring Peter Finch. He plays a newsreader sick of reading out daily garbage news stories and he snaps, on-air, and during the transmission he urges all the viewers to go to their windows, open their windows and yell at the top of their voices: “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore”. And soon the populace across America are yelling this mantra.

These conclusions I’ve reached have not come to me in recent months (‘credit crunch’ and all that), but have been brewing in me since the scales first fell from my eyes about seven years ago. It was the local elections and I was approached by one of the major parties, and they asked “would you be interested in becoming a local Councillor?” I said to them “Well, what’s in it for me?”. And these are the exact words that were said to me:

“Don’t you worry. You stick with us. We’ll make sure you do well out of it”.

WHY did I turn them down?

(Moreover, a colleague of mine was approached at the same time - but by the other major UK political party. He asked the same question and he was given, pretty much, the exact same response as I received).

Is it my age? I just feel so tired and beaten-up these days, sometimes even defeated. This Government bleats on about this recession lasting for about two years before we’re through it. But I listen to my friends and contacts, and every banker pal I‘ve had a coffee with recently, every accountant I know, every estate agent I’ve spoken to agree on the same thing: this one is going to last more like 9 years (yes, that’s NINE years).

I shall turn 57 next month, in nine years I shall be 66, and I have to ask myself this: do I really want to spend the next decade of precious years of my life in this miserable, miserable country?

Believe me, the prospect of my relocating to a permanently sunny place attracts more and more. I already planned to be travelling thru 2009 looking at places….. Caribbean…USA maybe….. Any suggestions? - I just want a place that’s warm (but not humid - humidity kills me), and somewhere with a slight breeze off the sea (has to be near the sea), and somewhere where I can wear all my suits everyday and not feel uncomfortable about it).

I always said I would do it once I got the house sorted out and renting...looks like that will be a reality in the next few weeks....

State of the Nation? ‘State’ indeed. What a state!


Sadie said...

I can appreciate your frustration, you have more snow than we have at this time. As far as Pres. Obama goes, I can only hope he can pull us out of this recession, the highest unemployment in this country since 1974. Everyday I listen to the news, do depressing, more layoffs. I haven't had a real job in 2 yrs. Was laid off from a good job 2 yrs. ago and have just temped here and there, currently unemployed.

initials CG said...

Network? Was that with Faye Dunaway and a well aging William Holden? The network decides to shoot him on live TV in the end. I ask because I just saw it on television here in Italy the other night. Of course they changed the name into 'il quinto potere' (the fifth power). Creepy film because it seemed so damn close to today when they talked about the recession...

Ray...I know what you mean. I joked about how ridiculous things were in California, and that the country was in such bad shape that if there should be a downturn, it would be devastating because there was nothing real left. That was in Feb 2000.

You can't wear your clothes in the US. They probaby outlawed it by now....I left to get away from the vulgarity. Yes, the vulgarity. IMHO, the real culprit of the decay of western society...9/11, Gov. Arnold (though I joked he would be elected president in early 2000 way before he became Gov of California).

I'd suggesst Isla Margherita north of Caracas, Venezuela. Or Istanbul? At least I'm thinking along those lines....
Great posts, BTW!


Grk! said...

Sobering stuff indeed. No matter how things deteriorate, I hope you don't desert this island. You're needed in the Campaign Against Oafism!