The call for the army to step in – whether to drive ambulances or deliver fuel – has become so commonplace that soon a generation will wonder if army personnel are little more than supersubs in fatigues.
It is easy to blame Brexit for the mess we’re in. But that’s not quite it. It’s the failure to properly prepare post-Brexit that has led us to where we are.
The galloping, cock-sure politicisation of the pro-Brexit position during the period between the vote and implementation brought us here.
Any challenge to the Get Brexit Done mantra, any suggestion that things would be hard and should, you know, be considered in preparation was shouted down as the worst sort of anti-democratic remoaning. It allowed a lot of tough, necessary questions to go unanswered.
One of the solutions offered to most concerns – from the Irish border, to the mountain of paperwork now needed for even the smallest import and export – was technology. Presented as some sort of god-like hand waving magically and free, technology was going to fix everything.
And who knows, maybe given time the right programmes will be in place to help.
Despite all that is happening around us, it’s unlikely there will be immediate political will to do much more
But the thing that was missing in all conversations was people. In the short term, in the medium term, and even in the long term, people were forgotten.
One of the favourite mantras of John Hume, the great politician and peacemaker, was that you can’t eat flags. In the polarised crucible of Northern Ireland his meaning was clear.
Waving your emblem and knocking lumps out of somebody because they had an opposing emblem was fine, but it didn’t get into the guts of the problem or help fix the standard of living for all.
And that’s where we’re at now. To mangle Hume’s saying, technology can’t drive trucks. The standard of living of many, many people is heading south.
To ameliorate the driver situation, the government, quick in moving people out, is going back asking for help from the people Britain showed to the door. Rather than improve the lot of all, which was one of the claims made in favour of Brexit – supply will force up wages and British people will then take jobs in the industries they baulked at before – we don’t know what pay and conditions will be like in the short term. Or the longer term.
And in a really brassneck move we’re asking the overseas workers to drive our lorries and pluck our turkeys just until Christmas Eve when, like a Scrooge/John Bull hybrid, we send them packing.
Despite all that is happening around us, it’s unlikely there will be immediate political will to do much more. A YouGov poll last week said the majority of people blamed the media for the petrol crisis. I suppose you could argue Boris Johnson is a journalist.
But we’re teetering. All of us who can must keep pressure on to make sure that lives, about to be hammered by rising costs, particularly for energy, fearful of post-furlough futures with concerns over keeping a roof over heads, are protected. It’s what our Stop Mass Homelessness campaign was set up for.
When most people think about the Big Issue, they think of vendors selling the Big Issue magazines on the streets – and we are immensely proud of this. In 2022 alone, we worked with 10% more vendors and these vendors earned £3.76 million in collective income. There is much more to the work we do at the Big Issue Group, our mission is to create innovative solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunity for the 14million people in the UK living in poverty.