With depressing predictability, it’s politics as usual again. The temporary ‘we’re all in this together’ truce didn’t last long.
The opportunist, finger-pointing blame game is in full swing and the Left are back to howling about ‘austerity’ and ‘Tory cuts’.
It’s the same old song. ‘A BETRAYAL OF OUR NHS HEROES’ screamed the front page of the Labour supporting Daily Mirror yesterday.
This was based on a leaked Treasury report suggesting that a two-year public sector pay freeze may be one way of scaling back the terrifying mountain of debt the Government has incurred tackling the coronavirus crisis.
Yes, it might. But the £6.5billion it would save by 2024 is a drop in the proverbial when the country is faced with a staggering £337billion deficit this year alone.
That didn’t stop union leaders lining up to accuse the Tories of plotting financial genocide against doctors, nurses and police officers.
What they failed to mention was that this was merely part of a draft proposal which centres on huge tax rises for everyone — the self-employed, in particular — and the end of the ‘triplelock’ guarantee on old-age pensions.
But let’s get real. For a start, the Tories aren’t going to commit political harakiri by imposing hardship on those relatively low-paid medical staff who have performed magnificently during this pandemic.
There is even a case for giving some hospital staff a modest pay rise when this is all over. But I stress the word some.
It’s disingenuous to conflate everyone in the NHS with the frontline troops in A&E and Covid-19 wards.
As this column has pointed out consistently, the performance of Public Health England has been woeful, bordering on criminally negligent.
The bloated health service bureaucracy was shockingly unprepared for the pandemic.
Do they all deserve to be described as ‘heroes’? Yet they’ve escaped unscathed, financially at least, when compared with their counterparts in the private sector.
So have the other 5.7 million employees on the Government payroll. To the best of my knowledge, hardly anybody in the public sector has been furloughed or suffered a pay cut.
And judging by the number of coppers on the streets right now, the Old Bill are enjoying the kind of overtime bonanza not seen since the heady days of the miners’ strike in the mid-Eighties.
Virtually everyone I know in the private sector, from directors downwards, has accepted a significant reduction in their income to help their companies make it through the next few months.
In the case of small business owners and the self-employed, they’ve had no option.
The Government has thrown money at the problem, but hundreds of thousands have missed out and are facing financial ruin.
At the same time, I don’t recall reading about Town Hall boxtickers being forced to survive on 80 per cent of their usual wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
How many compliance officers, diversity monitors and climate change advisers have been told they’ll have to tighten their belts to help keep down next year’s council tax bills?
How many lavishly paid local authority chief executives have volunteered to take a 30 per cent reduction in their salaries, or forgo their ‘performance related’ bonuses?
Where are the financial sacrifices being made by Britain’s standing army of quangocrats?
Has anyone at the top of the Environment Agency, which performed with such aplomb during the winter floods, handed back a single penny?
More to the point, why haven’t the richly rewarded grand panjandrums at Public Health England and NHS Procurement had their salaries cut to help pay for the vital PPE they so conspicuously failed to provide?
Meanwhile, as the free market has adapted admirably and risen to the challenge, the broad Left and those unions representing public sector workers have resorted to deliberate obstructionism — exploiting the crisis to score pathetic political points and demand even more money the nation can’t afford.
While the private sector has kept Britain moving, fed and watered, the unions have told their members — from teachers to Tube drivers — not to report back.
Those who claim to speak for the ‘workers’ are trying to prevent those same workers from going to work. You couldn’t make it up.
I’d love to know whether Unite’s Len McCluskey and the TUC’s Frances O’Grady have volunteered to take pay cuts.
Lenny and Fanny can also look forward to gold-plated, inflation proof pensions, as can their members lucky enough to work in the public sector — which is pretty much all of them these days.
Not so those retirees who will have to rely on the basic state pension or on private pension funds, which have collapsed disastrously since the outbreak of Covid-19.
So enough already with the Left-wing scaremongering about ‘austerity’ and pay freezes for our ‘heroes’.
When it comes to belt-tightening and suffering financial hardship, there is a stark public/private sector divide. And in that respect, we are definitely not all in this together.
London’s two-bob chancer of a mayor, Sadiq Khan, has screwed £1.6billion out of the Treasury after threatening to cut back Tube, bus and train services.
Passengers returning to work this week have been crammed dangerously close together because of severely reduced capacity.
Most commuters have no alternative to public transport, especially as Khan not only refuses to relax parking regulations but is pressing ahead with road closures and another idiotic expansion of cycle lanes.
Not that there’s any shortage of buses in London. To adapt the old joke, you wait 30 seconds for a bus and then ten come along at once.
And most of them are about as full as the Mary Celeste. The quickest way to cross London’s West End would be to walk along the roofs of the nose-to-tail empty double-deckers stacked up between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road Underground station, 2¼ miles away.
If Khan needed to raise money, he could always hire out his bus fleet to holidaymakers forced to take a staycation.
It worked for Cliff and The Shadows, although Europe is obviously out of the question until further notice. I hear Bognor is very nice at this time of year.
And don’t forget your PPE. I can just imagine a young Una Stubbs in one of those three-piece trikinis — complete with matching face mask.
Altogether now: We’re not going on a foreign holiday…
Jeremy Paxman (pictured) and Gerry Adams were pretty much permanent fixtures on our TV screens
Not that long ago, Jeremy Paxman and Gerry Adams were pretty much permanent fixtures on our TV screens.
Since Paxo left Newsnight, you don’t see much of him unless you watch University Challenge.
And after standing down from mainstream politics, the IRA’s — sorry Sinn Fein’s — Adams has been fairly elusive. But both were back in the news this week.
Paxo celebrated his 70th birthday and Adams won an appeal against his conviction for attempting to escape from the Maze Prison in the Seventies.
Stand by for a wave of legally aided claims for compensation from Irish terror suspects — alleging unlawful detention half a century ago.
Still, until now I hadn’t really clocked the uncanny resemblance between Adams and Paxman.
One was locked up and now they’ve both been locked down — without access to a barber. They haven’t gone away, you know.
Gerry Adams (pictured) won an appeal against his conviction for attempting to escape from the Maze Prison in the Seventies