Home > blogging for Britain > A tale of two countries

A tale of two countries

I took a brief trip to the north this week, and, as the A19 wended its way through some blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em east Yorkshire villages, I listened to my cab driver, a former coalminer, talk me through what had gone on in these hamlets back in the strike of 1984. His bitterness at the behaviour of the Met Police was still evident, and whatever one’s political affiliation, even the most ardent Thatcherite could probably muster sufficient empathy to understand the anger and despair at seeing the industry that sustained an entire region shut down almost overnight.

In his subsequent career, my driver had picked up a former senior Met Policeman, now relocated to Yorkshire, who justified the acknowledged brutality with, “we were only obeying orders”; a line of reasoning that, as my cabbie said, has provided the excuse for similar – and much worse – atrocities over the years.

The passing of time has seen the east Yorks coal mining region make a slow recovery, but it will probably be another generation before the aftershocks from the pit closures have finally receded.

As the East Coast mainline train returned to London, back to the service industries and financial sleights of hand that keep the south-east in lattes, I wondered what would happen if the government used the latest indiscretions of the banking industry to close down the financial services industry. While many coalmines were no longer profitable back in 1984, none of them had inflicted the kind of financial damage to the country that the banks have. As Bob Diamond and his fellow high-stakes gamblers and thieves at Barclays disgrace themselves further, imagine the police baton charging bankers as they got off their commuter trains. I suspect there might be a little more outrage than was mustered on behalf of the mining communiites back in 1984, as the nation’s private schools and housing market collapsed around us.

This scenario – unlikely, I know – occurred to me today as I read of a study that absolutely rings true: that the higher salary people earn, the less they are able to relate to people’s connectedness and community. I have several friends in the financial services industry, and they would testify that this is not only true, it’s only scraping the surface of the immorality and venal attitudes many of their workmates exhibit.

If the tales I have heard are true; of hookers and coke on expenses, and employees blackmailing their bosses to ensure large redundancy payments, we should all be outraged. The huge salaries and the sense of entitlement that sustains these people could be extremely shortlived if we choose, as it doesn’t take much to change things irrevocably. Ask the miners.

Categories: blogging for Britain
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