Monday, 13 October 2014
Doing the maths
You go to work for forty hours a week and earn, being over 21, £6.50 per hour. That’s £260 which, after tax earns you the princely take-home wage of £233.62, assuming you are paid 52 weeks of the year. As a lowly cleaner/shift-worker/shelf-stacker this is your lot in life and it doesn’t even cover your rent and basic services, so the state steps in and helps out with a few thousand quid to keep you in your sub-standard, cold and damp private let and you struggle gamely on, juggling work, kids and what home life you have (television) in this life you never asked for.
Next door, the family on £26k a year in benefits, the equivalent of a salary of £34k, carry on their life of relative ease and never see you as you leave for work each day because behind their curtains they are sleeping away last night’s revelry; any night can be a party night if you have nothing to get up for. But hey, you say, that’s okay because it’s some other idiot’s tax they are spending, you get back many times the paltry £1371.68 you pay in each year and you believe that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
“Mustn’t grumble” your grandfather said and after all, you’re not living on the street and starving, we have a mostly-free health service and a pretty decent societal moral compass. But, still, a pay rise wouldn’t go amiss, so you ask… and you are denied. Mr Miliband says he will increase the minimum wage, but it turns out that so, too, will the coalition and in the same timescale. In a misty memory of a long-forgotten maths lesson you dimly remember that if wages rise, so will prices, but you don’t get a chance to observe this in practice because soon your hours are reduced. A rival firm, employing only migrant labour on sub-minimum wage is taking work from your employers.
With a sigh and a stiffened upper lip you take yourself off to the Job Centre to discover that few locals are finding employment and much of the background chatter is foreign, but at least they have plenty of interpreters on hand and will also help you claim all that you are entitled to. You worry a bit about that ‘entitled’ but, as you’ve worked pretty much since you left school you accept the assistance, promising yourself that it is only until you can find a decent job for reasonable pay. That day doesn’t come, of course and as you settle into a life on benefits you do the sums and realise you will never make a better living than this; you have joined the ranks of the forgotten.
If you observe that all the shop workers are eastern European and you suspect they are being exploited you are called racist. When you draw attention to the uneasy feeling you get when you see private hire cars parked up in a cul-de-sac with a gaggle of school-age girls making familiar with the drivers you are called a racist. Proffer any opinion that our society is becoming fractured into ethnic enclaves which do not mix and you are labelled a racist. Your memory of the Britain you grew up in is challenged; you are wrong – it’s always been this way, they tell you. Besides, Britain has for too long paid too high wages by comparison with the global labour market; you are lucky the immigrants are here to pay for your benefits.
In the balance
You do the maths again and can't make that last statement add up at all. And as for being a mere commodity on the global market, when did you ask for that? So what options do you have? Vote for change? You already tried that… and nothing changed. Now what? You express your frustration by flirting with Ukip… and they call you a fruitcake. But what else is there? You ask around and discover that you are not alone; many are abandoning the old order and tentatively grasping at the Ukip straw. It’s a cry for help – Ukip don't necessarily have any more of an answer than anybody else, but at least they seem to understand you and you want your problems to be recognised by somebody... anybody. So what do the Westminster elites do? They call you a loony. Everywhere you see the establishment flying the flag for anything but Britain, anybody but the British and denigrating all who object as 'closet racists'.
Is it any wonder you are coming out of the closet?