I made the mistake at lunchtime of picking up the Business Section of El Pais. The front cover contained a pound symbol shattered into pieces. Inside, the main article was headlined “The end of the British exception”, with the by-line “The UK is reeling at the collapse of its financial system and its currency”. A couple of pages further on there was “A black week for the Spanish economy”. And then there were the graphs! But at least there was some relief afforded by a second article on Britain headlined “The resurrection (and death?) of the Prime Minister”.
But, ironically, my spirits really perked up when I opened the main paper and alighted on an article about the misery experienced in Spain in trying to do anything by internet or phone. And about the appalling way companies here contemptuously take advantage of their captive customers. This is not a new theme for me, of course, but it was nice to find I’m not a lone [foreign] voice crying in the wilderness. You can read the whole litany here but I’ll just quote this instance of what one’s up against. Referring to his attempt to stop a Banco Santander employee going through an advertising spiel before attending to his request, the author says her response was “Until I’ve finished I can’t validate your card”. Does this happen anywhere else? Or is Spain, in this area at least, really different? And will it actually get worse during the dark days ahead?
But back to the UK . . . I’ve commented in the past on the particularly British form of corruption enshrined in the ability of its feather-bedding bureaucrats to expand their empires and to award themselves ever-higher salaries and pensions. Which are funded, at the local level, by soaring municipal taxes. So I wasn’t surprised to read this morning that “Last year the number of ‘middle managers’ in Britain's local authorities rose by a staggering 22 %.” And that “Birmingham City Council alone has more than 1,000 officials earning over £50,000 a year. All over Britain senior council officials are now earning salaries which 10 years ago would have seemed unthinkable.” When on earth will British taxpayers revolt against this? If not during a recession, then the answer must surely be Never. As the columnist wrote – “Future historians will doubtless find it highly significant that just when Britain's economy was about to collapse, an already hopelessly bloated public sector was expanding faster than ever. One of the more dramatic changes in British life over the past two decades has been how the officials who run our local authorities have become separated from the communities they used to serve. Floating free of political control, they have become a new privileged class, able to dictate their own salaries and extend their own empires, paid for by a public to whom they are no longer accountable.”
So, who says there’s no convergence between the UK and the EU and that Britain is an unworthy member? Imitation is, after all, reputed to be the sincerest form of flattery.
In case you haven't noticed - I'm not in a good mood this Atlantic-Blanket-afflicted Sunday. But tomorrow is another day. And the agents of the manufacturers of my boiler may well provide the solution to its temperamentalness that I've been seeking for a mere 8 years. Hope springs eternal. And at least they answer my emails.