Some jobs are a way of earning money to pay the bills while others are more than that. As I’ve probably said before, I have been lucky enough, for more than 30 years, to enjoy what I do for a living. I now work from home and commute about 8 yards each morning to my place of work in the corner of the conservatory. So I am a lucky member of a lucky generation. I count my blessings while getting angry that my good fortune is not shared by all. Ever the idealist, I am told. Well, maybe, but also, ever the pragmatist. The latter quality is, I might add, based on realism which is something that politics needs to be based on. Unfortunately, the latter also needs to take account of the general public’s perceptions and the propaganda, disguised as fact, contained in the popular press. So how do governments square this circle, that of perception and/or reality?
Well, to start with, they have an understanding of that reality and the lives of the people in the country they govern. They also need to have experienced a degree of living themselves, preferably outside the bubble that is the House of Parliament. Above all, they need to have a modicum of courage. Unfortunately, in most countries we are painted a picture in which we, say, the English have more in common with one another than, say, the French. A hierarchy, in fact, of nationality. Yet you have only to look around you to see that that is far from the truth. What we have in fact, almost irrespective of national boundaries, is a hierarchy based on wealth, power and influence. Wealthy people, in whatever country, have more in common with one another than they do with poor people in their own country. Similarly with those poorer people. What they experience in their day to day lives determines those lives and their view of the world. Working in the voluntary sector, I hear once that Prince Charles thought that the English were a nation of DIY enthusiasts, mainly because every community centre he ever visited smelt of fresh paint. I hope the story is apochryphal but, I suspect not. So, once again, where am I going with this?
Well, those who have had to struggle in life know what that struggle is about on a day to day basis and it is one that, for most, is not getting any easier. Need it be so? Well, maybe to some degree. What would be better for us all, though, would be to share the load. Remember, we’re all in this together? A fact that has been noted by Sir John Major today when he mentioned the fact that divided political parties don’t win elections. The same, of course, could be said of countries in the global economic race. There is no point in having a system that is, supposedly, based on letting the weakest go to the wall in any country when others play by a different set of rules and leave you behind in doing so. If we try to compete with low wage economies, we are entering into a race to the bottom which we cannot win. There are, in fact, too many countries below us with wage rates that we could never match. I also read of another interesting fact last week which was that the wage share of the country’s GDP fell from 61% to 56% even before the crash. This at a time when an estimated 4.8m people earn less than the living wage and in which two thirds of poor people are actually working. It also seems that working is no longer the way out of poverty. Well, if it isn’t, what i?. It’s all that working people have to offer. Yet, at the same time, boardroom pay among the FTSE top 100 companies rose by 27% last year. Interestingly, it appears that the Royal Mail may have been undervalued by about £1.3bn when it was recently sold. This is more than the total planned benefit savings for 2013/4. All in this together, my backside!
So, let’s start on a different course. One in which governments stand up to companies, especially those which tell us that they will not be able to meet our energy needs without massive price rises. Again, refer to my backside. Let’s provide a living wage, let’s have a nationwide home insulation programme to save energy, provide jobs and reduce bills. It ain’t rocket science and it will demonstrate that we truly are all in this together.
More of this next week. I might even call it Plan B.