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Just what I say: Brian Nicholls

Date: Tuesday 14th March 2017

ANY regular contributor to a newspaper who gives it some thought must worry not only about maintaining the quality of their work but also whether they are guilty of repeating themselves, are guilty of repeating themselves, are guilty of repeating themselves by returning time and again to thump the same tub.

In the first instance you can only try your best but in terms of repetition it is much more difficult, given that observing and commenting on whatever is wrong with our nation inevitably leads to the same conclusion which cannot be ignored.

Every crisis in which one of our front-line public services is facing meltdown and which the Government is pledging to resolve, usually by applying a financial sticking plaster, was caused by government in the first place.

Instances of short-term fixes and policy changes made for political gain, the consequences of which were never thought through, are so numerous that the difficulty is in choosing which ones to feel angry about on any given day. Watching the news is just so depressing.

Why are ministers and civil servants, most of whom went to the best universities in the land, so pathetically ill equipped by their Oxbridge educations to do what the rest of us do every day? When we make an important decision in our lives we sit down and weigh up the pros and cons and think through the possible consequences, which is clearly a task beyond the big brains in the Ministry of Unforeseen Consequences.

On Sunday it was announced that the Government will put £500 million into further education to boost technical training to try and address the serious lack of engineering and technical skills among the British workforce.

Another sticking plaster to repair the hairbrained decisions of the not too distant past which led to schools dropping proper, get your hands dirty, technology and replacing it with designing paper aeroplanes. At the same time, the backbone of training young people for the world of work, the tried, tested and totally effective apprentice system, was abandoned by most firms as being too costly or just too much trouble to train their future workers, particularly when they could recruit skilled workers from abroad.

Now those very employers are whinging and whining that they can’t be competitive because of the skills shortage their myopic, short-term penny pinching policies caused. Now it’s back to the future and the desperate scramble to educate not just young people but also employers in the advantages of apprenticeships.

A second crisis in the police service was also revealed last week when Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary concluded that many forces are not safeguarding their citizens adequately. Cumbria was an exception, thank goodness.

We all know that the police have a lot to do and that a rapidly changing society and the Internet place greater and greater demands upon them because they are always telling us so, but some of their difficulties are of their own and the Government’s making.

The way to deal with society’s difficulties and law breakers is, as this column has advocated for both teaching and policing, not to ignore minor transgressions because to do so sends a message inviting greater problems. The rot set in with the police when they were allowed to get away with choosing which crimes and incidents they would deal with and which they would kick into the long grass.

The logical conclusion of this policy and the accompanying attitude it has engendered among some officers was demonstrated recently when two officers from another force ignored a 999 call and instead went for a Big Mac and fries. Their gross misconduct charge was downgraded because the person would probably have been dead when they arrived anyway. They will not lose their jobs.

The law of unforeseen consequences no longer seems to apply in public life.

THE piece in this column two weeks ago about the Copeland by-election provoked some response. One caller in particular argued that the demise of my grandfather’s traditional working class socialism was due to the fact that in the last 40 years or so increasing prosperity, house ownership and changes in the type of work people do means that most people are now middle class, and will vote to preserve those middle class interests which means voting Conservative.

It’s difficult to be sure whether voting Tory means you have really arrived in the middle class or not. How do you define working or middle class? It used to be quite easy. Blue collar or manual workers were working class, while managerial, white collar workers were middle class, but even that wasn’t as simple as it sounds, with subdivisions into lower and upper meaning there were classes within a class, providing one half of the middle class the very English pleasure of feeling superior to the other half.

The only way to get into the upper class, of course, is to be born into it, which is just as well because if there was any other qualification most of them would fail the entrance test.

Perhaps the definition of what constitutes the middle class depends on where in the country you live. You can be middle class in Cumbria but wouldn’t be accepted as being so elsewhere, and maybe that should make us think before we change politically because of who we may think we are when many of that persuasion may be very happy to accept our votes but wouldn’t give us the time of day otherwise.

If anyone is unsure about whether they are working or middle class perhaps they should visit a place called Clandon in Surrey where I get off the train to see the family. Drive in any direction for 10 miles, look at the houses and their gardeners, cleaners and nannies and you will see who the real middle classes are. When she was asked if she was from the North, I heard one of those middle class women reply: “Good God, No!” They may want our votes but they don’t want us.

WE are a nation of dog lovers and love has a great tendency to turn us silly. Dogs, or rather dog owners, seem to be demanding even more rights for their dogs than your average minority group of human beings could ever hope to enjoy.

It is now commonplace to find dogs sniffing around in pubs, cafes, shops and even some restaurants. It has just sort of happened. The opposite used to be the case and most shops and food outlets used to allow only assistance dogs on their premises, but now dogs are everywhere.

The dog lobby is very powerful these days because it is almost compulsory to have one or two or three, and shop and cafe owners seem to feel they would be in bother from the monstrous army of dog worshippers if they refused entry to dawgs.

Their anxiety is understandable. The way things are they probably risk being taken to court for discriminating against dogs, or to be exact the rights of those people who regard dogs as people.

A woman in London has just spent £80,000 fighting a court case to prevent her dog being evicted from her luxury flat even though she signed a lease which stipulated that no pets were allowed. She lost but is prepared to fight on no matter what the cost.

This woman and her banker husband (I think that’s what it said) not only have more money than sense but are the classic example of the modern attitude that dogs really do have rights to rival or better those of human beings.

I don’t mind dogs, but I don’t want to eat with them, shop with them or have them jump up at my grandsons. It’s amazing how no dog, according to its owner, is badly behaved, chases sheep or would bother or bite anyone. All dogs are perfectly behaved. Most parents will admit their children can be less than perfect, but dog owners never will.

Dogs might have rights but so do I, and nobody asked me if I mind having hairy bags that leak at both ends pooping alfresco, not bothering to wipe their bottoms and then being allowed into food places, or much, much worse into hotel rooms I might be the next person to occupy. Yeuk.

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