I liked Charlie Sherry’s interview with Irvine Welsh, and I talked about it with him on my mobile. I’m not a great man for phones. Boy can Charlie talk. Irvine Welsh probably never got a word in. But one thing stuck with me the last few days and it’s not the Renton quote from Trainspotting, which I’ve some sympathy with, ‘It really is shite being Scottish.’ Nor is it Welsh’s upbeat message, ‘Scots now have a positive can-do attitude which bodes well for the future’. That’s the equivalent of telling your granny, ‘you’re looking great’, when you know she’s going to peg it at any minute. What struck with me was Welsh’s aphorism ‘it’s not so much what they’ve done, but what they’ve destroyed’.
‘I don’t think you can be a real crofter unless you have the Gaelic’ says Donald MacSween a crofter from the Hebridean island of Ness, in Joanna Bigg’s, All Day Long, A Portrait of Britain at Work.
Similarly, I don’t think you can be a Tory unless you’re a selfish cunt. Dress it up as Theresa May type lamb in sheep’s clothing when they start talking about caring and compassionate Conservatism. Look at the honours list: George Osborne. I’m all for law and order, take mummy’s money away, daddy’s money away, horse whip him and send his children to live in Ferguslie Park, in perpetuity, for the damage he’s done to the poor and sick of this nation. I’ve a nephew that I found out was gay. Nobody asked my opinion. If they did I’d have said I don’t care what you do with your fiddly bits. But when I heard he’d voted Tory, well, that really did disappoint me. It shows an indecent lack of imagination, a lack of empathy.
Britain is a good place to be rich. Eton educated, Lord Summerlayton, Hugh Crossley, a hereditary lord, who inherited a 5000-acre estate in Suffolk agrees. He tells you how hard he works, the estate wasn’t profitable and how difficult it is being part of Britain’s cultural industry. What he doesn’t mention is what subsidies he and his father and his father and his father before him received and continue to receive. But one great positive from Thatcherism on was the ability to tell us how it is and being able to talk about ‘welfare junkies’.
‘We don’t have savings’ (we do have debts), says Rachelle Monte, a care worker in Newcastle. ‘Anybody can walk into a job in home care’. In the 1980s local authorities contracted out care and the big three equity firms, Allied Health, Care Watch and Care UK brought in their own ideas of flexible working. Check out Sooz’s diaries. They detail exactly how it works from the management perspective. Minimum wage is the maximum wage. Overtime is mandatory, but unpaid. Travelling time is unpaid. Keeping a car on the road is unpaid. Mobile phones are unpaid. But you do pay for your uniform. It’s a lifetime ago when my mum was something called a home-help, remember then? Three hours a day with a particular client and there was an out roar when that was cut to two. Four percent of the population, almost four million people, rely on carers every day.
Tres Cosas campaigned for three things we have outsourced to firms like Balfour Beatty, who have moved sideway, vertical integration, from building houses to the profitable business of acting as a middle man and hiring out cleaners to institutions such as the University of London: ‘sick pay; pensions; paid holiday’.
Who wins? Rich folk.
Who loses? Poor folk.
Who pays for it? All of us.
Renton was partially right. It really is shite being poor. And Irvine Welsh is right, ‘it’s not so much what they’ve done, but what they’ve destroyed.’ Privatisation of schools, hospitals, libraries and health care is a sure way to keep us in our place and knowing our place in the world.