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Coffee and TV

By David Price

There are times when no matter how hard you try, you just cannot do it right. And let’s be clear, in last June’s EU referendum, the British government-backed Remain campaign tried very hard indeed. They threw everything – including the metaphorical kitchen sink – at us voters and still we came up with the wrong answer. They said that the sky would fall in if we went for Leave – ISIS would be sharpening their swords with glee, Putin would be poised to invade Poland and the British economy would find itself beneath Bangladesh – yet still we voted out. Well, today I can exclusively reveal one key trick that they missed – the single killer point that could have swung things back to Remain – “who will serve us coffee in Pret?”

A resounding retort to the Leave campaign’s tedious talk about taking back control, if only Remainers had led with this simple refrain! You can’t argue with the logic after all, because we Brits covet our inalienable right to have hot caffeinated beverages dispensed to us in rooms full of iPad-swiping hipsters munching their acai and almond butter breakfast bowls. Foolishly leaving the EU will mean that there’s literally no one left to bring us our port and lentil ragu, apparently.


Sadly for Remain, it’s too late because the person who made this point did not get onto national television until last week. On the BBC’s flagship Question Time programme, a well dressed middle aged lady in the audience asked the question, in all seriousness. An affluent-looking metropolitan type, hers was a sincere riposte to those Brexit supporting hooligans who want to – allegedly – strip the United Kingdom of every single low-paid migrant worker. She appeared to fear a brave new Brexit world where people would, just like the old days, do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.

 

Living as I do in the wilds of Wiltshire, Pret a Mangers are few and far between. When we need a skinny latte with a cacao and orange pot, it is to the local tea shop that we go – only to end up with a cup of builder’s and a flapjack. Thing is, outside the cosmopolitan cut and thrust of London Town, it’s still possible to find people to serve refreshments. They’re often students from a nearby village, and seem quite fluent in the art of putting the kettle on and handling money. The only Eastern European guy here who I know personally is a civil engineer, and doesn’t need a second job in a cafe, thanks very much.

 

Go to a building site however, and you’ll see the other side of this. During the EU referendum campaign, one thing I kept hearing again and again was how people’s wages had either frozen or fallen – not for a year or two, but for over a decade. One former site manager was quite clear about this. “It is directly linked to cheap Eastern European labour. The vast majority of guys employed where I worked were from the eastern EU and Ukraine. There are two insulated trades (mechanical and engineering) where there are exams and registration, but every other is saturated with people. Joiners, brickies, plasterers, dry liners, decorators, etc., all average around £16 per hour – and labourers get £12. This is ridiculous for 2017, especially in the South East…”

Why is the House of Lords not speaking up for ordinary working people? Since 1999, our upper house has been rammed with whomsoever pleases the Prime Minister of the day, making it effectively a continuation of the failed New Labour and Conservative/Lib Dem coalition governments. Like unelected European Commissioners, they’re invariably pillars of the establishment, often stripped of their parliamentary seats by the electorate many years ago. Sometimes – as in the case of Chris Patten and Peter Mandelson – they have been both. To add insult to injury, they’re in receipt of fat European Union pensions, which is never declared when they pontificate pompously on TV.

People are very angry. There may be nearly a thousand Lords and Ladies, but there are many millions of working people on minimum wage, in some cases toiling away for less than their parents did a generation ago. That’s why our unelected upper house plays fast-and-loose with the largest ever democratic vote in our history at its peril. Abolition of the House of Lords is now a sure-fire vote winner at the next general election, whenever that may be…


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