Hell in a handcart

We stand watching, helpless

I was nine years old in 1957 when Harold Macmillan said we’d never had it so good. Mac was right, though he might have been a bit premature ­– 1957 was pre Beatles and all my generation knows it was the luckiest in terms of music.

And I’ve always known that pendulums swing – but not this fast.

We also knew about “jobs for life”, those reliable aspirations we could achieve though hard work and good behaviour. We knew that money invested in property would always be secure. We knew our National Health Service would be there for us, providing GPs when we needed them and more specialised help in hospitals whenever it was deemed necessary. We recognised the logos of the Big Five banks, sturdily stationed in the High Streets of all our towns and cities.

We believed that the politicians we elected would (in general) have a common intention to work for the good of the country, even if they went about it in very different ways. Rotten boroughs were dim history, and the sort of people we elected were mostly honest, hard working, informed and responsive to a parliamentary system whose unwritten constitution and election rules had built-in checks and balances that would protect us from misuse of power.

We paid our share of the money we earned to protect these certainties.

We looked to America as an open-hearted land of opportunity, maybe brash, certainly colourful, philanthropic, open hearted and usually dependable.

This week we were faced with the dreadful spectacle of a woman who has worked for these values hounded out of her job by a baying group of self-serving “midults” without a coherent idea in their selfish collective heads. Bullied out of a job she may or may not have done well, to whom can she turn for help and reassurance? Can the Prime Minister avail herself of an employment tribunal? No, because her “colleagues” are not her employers.

Our Royal Family (and whether you are a Royalist or a Republican you have to accept that Queen Elizabeth II is a remarkable woman who works  tirelessly in a PR job that has brought, and brings, huge kudos, theatre and money to our country in a way that no-one else ever could) has to face greeting and welcoming not only the man who has made America a feared laughing stock around the world, but also the extended family he fondly imagines is equal to [no, this is The Donald, so he thinks superior to] our Royal Family. To this invitation Mrs May could rightly say “my bad.”

We are no nearer to “delivering” Brexit (oh, that it could just come in the post in a padded envelope, complete and satisfactory for all sides of the argument).

We face weeks of unseemly jockeying for position by MPs who have not bothered to hide their ambitions as they catawauled for the blood of the leader. Then months of “negotiation” before we arrive at a date when the UK is no longer a part of Europe ­– that moment a substantial minority believed would occur the day after the referendum vote.

And will it turn the clock back to the early 70s? Will all unwelcome immigrants dematerialise, leaving only those on whom we have come to depend for car washing, plumbing, hospital cleaning,  building, fruit and vegetable picking, care home assistance, antisocial hours shift work … the list goes on.

Will crime figures reduce overnight? Will everyone we think of as “British” immediately get a good, satisfying job? Will all the products in the supermarket (other than pineapples and bananas of course) immediately have a Made or Grown in England label?

Will our tyre-shredding potholes be filled, our roads resurfaced and our traffic congestion disappear?

Will manufacturing industry revitalise overnight?

Will the banks reopen outside the major cities?

And how, exactly, could we expect anyone – Theresa May, Saint Margaret, Supermac, Hugh Gaitskell, Jo Grimmond, Churchill, or perhaps one of those statesmen(or women)-like potential leaders paraded out by Sunday’s papers – to accomplish this, for it is what so many of the Brexiteers really really want.

Or perhaps we might find a quick fix to the legislation, to allow Mr Toad Farrage a direct run into Downing Street, where he could embrace the visiting President and we could all go to hell in a handcart without further delay.


Gay Pirrie-Weir