Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Strike and Snow

I listen most mornings to the Today programme on Radio 4. I’m not that keen on some of the presenters, but it is a good way to keep up with national and international affairs, once you peel away the soap-box elements.

The last few days have provided a constant stream of complaints from workers around that notorious Total facility that foreign workers have taken their jobs, and another constant stream of complaints from people who think that despite plenty of warning our various highways authorities, local and national, have failed abysmally to keep our transport systems running.

I guess that these are the same people who, when the weather is fine and work is plentiful, complain about the ‘nanny state’. Only now they are saying, ‘Where is the nanny state when we need it?’!

Regarding the Total fiasco, it seems reasonably clear, from what I have been listening to, that the contract was initially awarded to a British company, who fell down on the job, so that the contract was then awarded, as second choice, to another company whose labour force is foreign.

I am as patriotic a Brit as most, and as suspicious as many others of the European ideal, but I don’t think that these unofficial strikers have much of a leg to stand on. And when you consider how many Britons there are working elsewhere in Europe, apart from all the others who simply whine about their country and move to Spain, the picture is even less flattering of the ‘whingeing pom’.

Then there is snow.

The Aussies, with their impossibly hot weather, have been headlining, not their own weather, but ours! Or at least, drawing attention to the difference – and taking the mickey somewhat!

Those people who are complaining that the authorities have responded inadequately compare our situation with that of Finland, which has a similar sized road network to ours, and trumpet that ubiquitous call, ‘lessons must be learned’! But if in the UK we spent Finland’s budget (three times our own) on road clearing equipment, to have it in mothballs for nine years in ten, I’m sure questions would be asked about the wisdom of the purchase.

On the other hand, I am very sure that many people used the weather as an excuse to stay away from their work. I was out and about, (OK, in Cornwall we don’t have the same problems as the south east) and found the majority of roads completely clear. I also found many shops shut, and many people at home who clearly had not poked their noses out of their front doors to see for themselves what the situation was.

I spoke to my daughter in Lincolnshire, one of the worst-hit areas, and found that she had worked from home because she could, but if she had had to go in to her office, she would have made the attempt.

I spoke to my brother in Hampshire, who is disabled, and had been out on his buggy to walk his extremely boisterous dog, who admitted that if he had got stuck it could have been a problem.

But a large part of our population seems to have lost its nerve; reluctant to venture out in case something goes wrong, or even just giving away to a general lethargy. Are we really, in general, lazy and risk averse? Maybe British society has just got too old and stale...

But not everyone, of course – watching the children in the snow (most of them had never before seen anything like it here in Cornwall) was quite uplifting, and I must have spotted twenty or more snowmen of various shapes and sizes. Perhaps the new generation are rediscovering an enthusiasm for life.