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Think strikes are about workers’ greed? Turn that on its head.

Posted on December 1, 2022

You’ll have noticed by now. Nothing works.

In the third decade of the twenty-first century in the fifth largest economy in the world, it’s practically impossible to see a doctor face-to-face. A child dies because he lives in a mouldy house and another does so days after being sent away from a hospital. That’d be a hospital outside which ambulances queue while paramedics do their best to ease the discomfort of the patients on trolleys. Inside, underpaid nurses and auxiliary staff attempt to keep things rolling while waiting for the appearance of one of the few frazzled doctors available. The long-term sick cross their fingers as waiting lists lengthen.

Trains, especially anywhere north of the Home Counties, are unreliable, crowded and dirty, forcing more people to drive cars on roads already beyond capacity and, in many localities, in need of desperate repair that will never be provided by councils, starved of cash by a central government that shamelessly blames them for being skint. There is no discernible strategy for cutting the emissions that will increase the hell we are bequeathing to our children. Going to work no longer guarantees an income on which people can survive. Try to keep yourself out of a care home because, well, there’s nobody there to care for you.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this. To avoid the pitfalls of work that doesn’t pay, a health service that doesn’t serve, fuel bills that send meters whirring like a hamster wheel, just do one simple thing. Be richer. Being rich solves anything. There’s your clear and simple route out of the mire. As always, it’s been left to the dynamic intellect of the Tory party to point this out to us. ‘People know that when their bills arrive, they can either cut their consumption, get a higher salary or go out there and get that new job,’ explained its chairman Jake Berry (no relation). Doh. Thanks, Jake. Just for the record, Jake tops up his annual £84k as an MP and £67k as a Cabinet minister with a sly £42k as a consultant to a law firm, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The record doesn’t show whether Jake is mates with Tory life peer, Michelle Mone. He’s possibly not in the same league as someone who made her fortune from selling saucy underwear, fake tan products and dodgy weight-loss pills criticised by the British Dietetic Association. Like rising reality star, Matt Hancock, Michelle wasn’t going to let a good pandemic go to waste and so used her connections to ensure that the firm, PPE Medpro, got access to the ‘VIP lane’ for the supply of this vital equipment and there, hey presto, a few weeks later she pocketed a cheeky £29million bonus from them. Just get rich.

To be fair to Michelle, the bar on dodgy PPE contracts had already been set pretty low. Before he heeded Jake’s advice and got himself a better job on the telly, Matt was stumbling along on about £120k, minus significant expenses, charged with running the country’s health service. With this insight into financial deprivation, he decided to help out his mate who once ran his local boozer and awarded him a £40 million contract for the production of glass vials for Covid tests. No, of course he didn’t have medical experience but he had a better qualification than that – he knew someone who could make him rich.

And there’s the rub. Those at the very top of society are driven by the need to get rich and then richer; to make profits which they pocket, treating investment for a better future as a mugs’ game. Any sane society, facing the destruction of the very planet over which we have temporary stewardship, would harness our enormous technological expertise and intellectual ingenuity to serve basic need and plan for the future. Instead, in a country whose Prime Minister is cossetted and coddled by eye-watering personal wealth, our leaders don’t even have the nerve to tax those who are degrading our own fragile environment.

So, we have to take heart where we can and scream from the picket lines and demonstrations  that we can and must make things work again. The wave of strikes from posties to transport workers, to nurses, to teachers and lecturers, ambulance drivers and paramedics aren’t about the tired old Tory maxim of holding the public to ransom. Workers are the public. They’re striking because they realise that it is they, not the profiteers, who are the hostages here. They’re not even trying to get rich; they just want to do a decent job, provide some service and go home to a hot dinner and a warm house. And if that means forcing people from Jake Berry’s stable to think again about what’s important in life – not hugging more cash to their plump bosoms but meeting the needs of ordinary people – let’s keep those strikes coming until they get in into their greedy heads.

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