The little island where I was born seems to have many names. United Kingdom, and Great Britain are just two, and to the car industry I’m sure up until recently it was known as Treasure Island. It is a shame that I have to admit, that right now it is neither united nor great, for a plethora of reasons.
Growing up in England, living here all my life I have seen many changes, and most of them have not been for the better. Also, as I have grown up, (mostly), and paid my tax and national insurance, become older, and not necessarily wiser, I have slowly begun to question where my money goes and what I get for it.
Sure, three things I want to say from the outset here. 1) I haven’t lived anywhere else and the grass is always greener, 2) Very difficult unfortunately to mention England and not talk about Brexit but that is only the tip of the Dover cliff and 3) I know England is not like other countries where there is no freedom, or there is a regime, and a dozen eggs costs a weeks or a month’s wages.
But, my view is that a Country should improve and get better with time and England hasn’t. It is going backwards, in some very scary ways and at an alarming rate.
Let’s quickly get Brexit out of the way first. David Cameron was naive and foolish in the extreme to allow the British people to vote. We should have voted on whether we should be allowed the vote, not the vote itself. The media, the government, and all opposition handled the lead up to the vote incomprehensively badly and the general public, for the most part voted without all the facts, or the facts misinterpreted or the facts lacking in detail, which has led to the catastrophic mess the Country is in now. We have Theresa May who is between a rock and a hard place, with a party in freefall. A Labour party in disarray, most Politian’s involved manoeuvring for their own political brinkmanship, the media reporting any and every detail and scenario, all of which for the most part inaccurate and just to get as many viewers as possible, and an EU consortium that wants to make an example of England.
In the lead up to the referendum where was the talk of the backstop or a no deal Brexit? We weren’t even told about Article 50. It almost seems it was an agreement made, intended to never see the light of day. I reckon someone had to open a cupboard that hadn’t been opened in over 40 years and find a dusty folder that was covered in cobwebs with a sealed band that said “For emergencies only.”
Jean-Claude Juncker recently said “It takes two to tango and I know how to dance.” I think we could be talking dirty dancing here, and I don’t mean Patrick Swayze style. (Gods bless him. Patrick, not Jean-Claude.) I bet he is good at tripping up.
Now, we are where we are, so there should not be a second referendum. Why? Because whether right or wrong, whether with the facts or without, we voted, well some of us did, and now we have to carry on with it, get through it and make the best of it, for richer or poorer.
The Country is one point eight trillion in debt anyway, so how much worse can it get?
There you go, Brexit done, and that leads me on to my next gripe with the place I call home.
Disillusion & Disparity
I cannot begin to describe to you how England has changed in my life time. I know some of these changes are only apparent perhaps as a result of the bitterness of age but conversely they could have been hidden by the rose tinted Ray Ban sunglasses of youth. When I was sixteen and had my first job on ninety three pence an hour I guess I didn’t really care too much about where some of my wages were going. Comparatively, I had it easy, I know. I lived with my parents, so I just spent my money on bicycles and bars. Not always chocolate.
I know I wasn’t too bothered about road quality or paying for utilities and car insurance was still hideously expensive but I felt like the system was there for me. That I was part a Country, and that most things, although not quite fair, had rhyme and reason and a way of working out. I felt as though I was contributing to something and I got something in return. Yes, I know, the ignorant bliss of youth but I had evidence to back it up.
When my friend’s bicycle got stolen the Police got involved and caught the culprit.
When I was out at night I saw Police in the town centre whether there was trouble or not.
Roads seemed to be flat and of good quality.
I remember being injured in a cycle accident and being taken to A & E. Whilst I was there I was attended to within minutes and I was cared for, very well. The nurses seemed to enjoy their job and didn’t seem on the verge of a heart attack themselves.
Councils collected rubbish without question.
House prices seemed reasonable and affordable and in line with what my parents were earning.
Doctors had time for their patients and seemed to care about them.
The rail service wasn’t brilliant but it was reasonable.
I remember as often as possible, looking up and seeing Concorde. It was a sight I was never tired of seeing. A beacon of brilliance, a sign of British and French engineering excellence. It wasn’t just a plane, it was a dream, an inspiration. From its Bristol base it showed what could be achieved, what could be accomplished? As a school boy it was testament to belief and beauty, beguiling and bewildering, all at the same time. How could this be possible?
Along with Jaguar and Bentley, Rolls Royce, and heck even Rover, it showed me some of what Great Britain stood for. Sure, there was the Falklands War, there was the IRA, there was Margret and the miners’ strike, and also the constant strikes by the people making the cars, but there was a sense of belonging, of unity, of hope and opportunity. I wasn’t old enough to relish in the hope or understand the motives or meaning in all the problems but I still felt proud to be British and I knew some things had to change.
Fast forward now, to present day, and wow, did I envisage an England like this? No way. Of course, I didn’t see myself in the position I am today either but the jury is still out on whether one holds the other accountable for their own inadequacies.
I can only comment on what I have seen, and what I know. I like the knowledge is gained through experience philosophy although I concede, this can be limiting, both practically and productively.
In a time where, and in no particular order:-
A council has spent a reasonable sum of money in consulting to get heroine plaques changed or produced in pink only to receive a backlash for ‘reinforcing gender specific stereotypes.’
When it has been revealed that the governments HS2 project has spent in excess of two hundred million pounds buying homes in the HS2 path, for a project that hasn’t officially been given the go ahead yet, in the meantime leaving those properties derelict.
Millions and millions of pounds have been spent on, for and behalf of the residents of Grenfell.
I have been waiting for an appointment for two weeks to see if I have liver disease.
If I report a crime I only get a crime incident number.
If I go to A & E I’ll wait for hours and hours. I have been with a broken nose and have done.
Community is a word used by the media for a story but most neighbours do not know each other.
Money seems to matter more than anything or anyone else.
Rubbish is not collected because of the wrong type of bag in the bin or the lid of the bin is up.
I have to pay exorbitant rent but others can live in the same block rent free and with no regard for the property or other residents.
The only time I see a police officer is when they are with a speed camera.
Trains are cancelled, late, or crowded and nothing changes but the fairs rise yearly.
The elderly were cared for by the state. Now in most cases it costs a thousand pounds a week.
ALL council service are being cut, across the board, seemingly in every sector and for any reason.
A government promote diesel, (ignoring scientist reports), lower the price of diesel, then put up the price of diesel once it had gained a public foothold, then inform the public diesel is bad and penalise the public for buying the cars the government promoted.
Air pollution levels become illegal in most towns and cities.
From the examples above and my own reasoning Brexit may well be the foul tasting main course of England’s present and future calamitous state but it nestles within a banquet that could leave England with food poisoning and famine if changes are not made fast. Please note that for some, rightly or misguided, leaving the EU was just a desperate attempt to try and instil or force change and fairness in a country they no longer recognise. One that they have slowly seen slip away, from the good to the ghastly, from the fair to the foreboding.
Mark Scotchford © 25/02/2019