2007 - 2021

Hard Graft with Prince Charles and Priti Patel

The relationship between Brexit fever (remember that?) and the Corona virus is unknown. Tests are still being carried out. I’d like to suggest that those who wanted a return to imperial measurements may be struggling with the two-metre social distancing rules, but it’s Kindness Week, so I’ll withdraw that conjecture. But certainly “Lift the Lockdown” seem to have more than a whiff of “Take Back Control” and even something of the now gladly faded Keep Calm and Carry On meme.

England’s descent into a sort of maudling shambles of Word War memorabilia has been rapid, but the process has a long tail.

Back when the last time our industrial food system caused spiraling uncontrollable disease, there was talk of our ‘National Herd”, and even our “National Flock” as if we were some flapping hive of red white and blue-blooded beasts contained only by the White Cliffs of Dover to the South and the Red Wall (or something) to the “North”.

Now that batty old cove Prince Charles is insisting we ‘Pick for Victory”. Prince Charles called upon “pickers who are stickers’ to join a national effort to help farmers with the “unglamorous” job of harvesting fruit and vegetables. Charles backed the Government’s initiative to bring UK workers and farmers together to ensure crops are not left to rot in the ground during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Daily Express and others enthusiastically backed the idea spouting; “In a message to all Britons (sic), Charles likened the “vital” project to the Women’s Land Army, which helped boost Britain’s food production during the Second World War.”

There’s a sort of cheery undertone to much of this madness.

You almost expect Kirstie Allsopp to pop-up with a new show called Exploitation Exploitation Exploitation, sporting a covid Cath Kidston pinnie and talking you through recipes for Rat Soup.

The dark irony of Brexit Britain having food rot in the ground because we have ejected the migrants workers who used to do this work for a pittance is sobering, as is the solution that people should do this as volunteers. The notion that people should be paid properly seems to be unthinkable in CoronaBrexit Britain.

Whilst New Zealand considers “snapping forward” to a four-day week, Britain is still, relentlessly, hurtling backwards with a death-rattle that they mistake for a war-cry.

Of course crops rotting in the ground isn’t just a blow to an already fragile rural economy and a complete waste, it’s a national disgrace with the FareShare network of food redistribution organisations groaning under the strain of food poverty.

FareShare’s annual report 2020 describes rising need as benefit claims and unemployment soar because of the virus.

The report said they redistributed more than 24,000 tonnes of in-date surplus food from the food industry in the last financial year, a 26% increase on the previous 12 months and the equivalent of 1 million meals a week. This was used by thousands of charities, including domestic violence refuges, breakfast clubs, food banks and community centres. In just one week in April, more people signed up to volunteer to sort, pack and deliver food for FareShare than in the whole of last year.

Hunger and poverty amplified by the virus lands in a society already disfigured by inequality and into a food system already at breaking point.

The myth of a Global Britain, the slogan of the Conservative Brexiteers whose coup of the party and the government now looks like a sad pyrrhic victory and their ideas like a lonely fiction. Like the triumphant Barack Obama promising Hope and then walking into a landscape of economic despair in 2008, the Brexiteers have arrived into a world with a very different topography than they anticipated. You can visit the Sunny Uplands for exercise but only with people from within your household.

The Guardian’s Op-Ed is brutal:

“The world into which Boris Johnson thought he would be launching his country on exit from the EU is not the one in which it is now adrift. Borders have closed; trade is disrupted; blame flies between nations and regions. Tension between Washington and Beijing simmers close to boiling. Even before Covid-19, UK foreign policy was warped by delusions of national grandeur. Mr Johnson’s plan was for Britain to be a champion of international free trade, thwarting protectionism by the power of its open-market example. These delusions can be seen in the plan for minimal border checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Eurosceptics hailed the recovery of Britain’s seat at the World Trade Organization as if it were a sovereign crown. In reality, that restoration is no compensation for the loss of a seat at European council summits and the surrender of influence over the regulatory architecture of a continental trade bloc. Whatever the UK can achieve in the WTO will be of second order compared with what it must first negotiate in Brussels and Washington, where it is the smaller, and therefore weaker party.”

Not only has Britain changed but so too has the notion of “global”.

Yet still they go on.

Never mind the astonishing prospects of Brexit still being played out to the backdrop of the global pandemic, we are now faced with the very real possibility of a No Deal Brexit resulting in World Trade terms. The government made it clear that it will not seek an extension to the Brexit transition period on 31 December – and has been clinging to that brutally stupid position with grim and stoic determination.

As that prospect looms the Conservatives are charging ahead with their legislation: Home Secretary Priti Patel brings her immigration bill to the House of Commons for its second reading on Monday.

The shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has accused the government of “rank hypocrisy” for closing the door to low-skilled immigration while cheering NHS workers. Thomas-Symonds wrote to Patel saying:

“I believe the government’s plan to rush through this immigration legislation is an insult to our incredible NHS staff and care workers. It is, frankly, rank hypocrisy from the government towards EU nationals – over 180,000 in England and Wales alone – who are currently working in our NHS and in the care sector, for ministers to stand and clap for them on a Thursday night, and then tell them that they are not welcome in the UK on a Monday.”

Back in February when Patel announced her legislation she told TV news, that “8 million people between the ages of 16 and 64 were economically inactive” and could be given the skills to do jobs in sectors where there were shortages as a result of the new points-based system.

This is Prince Charles Land Army writ large. In times of crisis we really do come together as a country don’t we?



Comments (15)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Is Patel not an immigrant/refugee herself???? Perhaps her status should be reviewed???? I’m sure Uganda could use her undoubted skill-set????

  2. James Mills says:

    I will ”volunteer ” to pick crops on condition that I am in the same ‘work gang’ as Charles and his family !

    How tragic will it be that a Government that has missed every target it set for controlling the virus ( PPE , testing , ventilators ….) will meet its Brexit target on Dec31 !

  3. Richard Easson says:

    It’s ugly, not Priti.

  4. Robbie says:

    As the song goes “send in the clowns ,don’t bother there here”

  5. squigglypen says:

    Independence..keep yer eye on the ball folks…

    ‘batty old cove’..I did laff…..

  6. Wul says:

    So…buy to Let landlords get a mortgage holiday, City bankers get paid to stay at home and bake sourdough but newly income-free tradesmen like me are expected to pick vegetables for hee haw?

    I think I’ve been here before. Are we “all in this together” ?

    1. Alex Kashko says:

      And then there is the small B&B, like ours, that has had almost zero income since this started and, as I am retired, my pension makes us ineligible for Universal Credit, (Ian Duncan Smith’s surrogate penis).

      I think Cameron meant “YOU are all in this together”.

      Let the Brexiteers pick the fruit for free.

  7. Wul says:

    Some of the foreigner “low-skilled” workers Priti Patel decided the UK didn’t need, just 12 weeks ago:

    Phlebotamists (takes your blood sample) ,
    Construction Workers
    Farm Workers
    Hotel room attendants

  8. Jo says:

    “The Guardian’s Op-Ed is brutal.”

    Pah! What is this obsession with the Guardian? It’s every bit as responsible for the mess of politics as the right wing rags.

    It’s two main “Scotland” reporters cannot be trusted to deliver an accurate account of Sturgeon’s daily briefings. Scots who post below the line on the live blog constantly have to correct them. Sev Carrell and Libby Brooks are two further examples of despicable journalism up to its neck in filthy Party-politics.

    That powerful majority the Tories won in December was delivered with help from its army of New Labourites still in mourning for Blair. The paper spent four years kicking lumps out of Corbyn and anyone associated with him. In the two general elections we saw it was practically begging England to vote Tory. Comments criticising the “opinion” writers would be removed until, eventually, comments were mostly disabled altogether. So these half-wits could spill their bile and never be challenged. Including Mr Scotland, Sev Carrell, who gets to lie for a living in the knowledge no one can challenge him either while he misrepresents every word Sturgeon says.

    The only brutal thing about the Guardian is the way it has crushed freedom of speech and discarded any principles it ever had. I mean, for goodness sake, it’s even got Katy Balls writing columns these days.

    So, please, don’t hold it up as any sort of beacon.

    1. Indyman says:

      Jo, I totally agree re. the Guardian but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  9. Chris Connolly says:

    Some of us, of a certain age, remember the 1967/68 “I’m Backing Britain” campaign. Some secretaries in Surbiton agreed to work overtime for free and before we knew it every employee in the UK was being encouraged to do the same. The media loved it and so did the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson even though the trade unions were appalled. Soon it seemed everyone was wearing a Union Jack badge. Bruce Forsyth brought out a pop record to boost morale and the whole thing was nauseatingly popular.

    When it was discovered that company selling thousands of T-shirts with a flag and “I’m Backing Britain” on them had bought the shirts from Portugal dissent finally broke out and the whole campaign fizzled out, but it was amazing that it ever caught on in the first place.

    I love to see people smiling and positive but it’s very pleasing to note that current attempts to whip up a similar Blitz spirit have met with apathy from the public, in spite of Brexit Fever. We’ll do lockdown because we understand how important it is, but work for nothing? I don’t think so.

    1. Jo says:

      You’re older than you sound!

      1. Chris Connolly says:

        …but not older than I look, Jo!

    2. Alex Kashko says:

      Business loves free labour.

      Decades ago I worked for a defence company owned by GEC, the hours were 8:45 to 5:15.

      Before the war it was 9:00 to 5:00

      I was told that during the war the workers volunteered the extra hour. After the war the company “forgot” to change the hours back.

      That was one of the reasons I no longer trust authority,

  10. SleepingDog says:

    Prince Charles must really regret abolishing serfdom now. Oh wait, that was another Prince Charles. Anyway, serfs still had some pesky if limited land rights. Perhaps he is nostalgic for some sort of free labour system that existed in Western Europe before serfs.

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