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Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life


British Airways sandwich makes the British Rail food of folk memory a treat

The sandwich served by British Airways on a recent flight from Malaga to London was so horrid, that I kept the label to read when I had a magnifying glass. This is the list of contents of the Ham, Cheese and Piclkle sandwich:

Ingredients: Softgrain bread (53%) (wheat flour, water, kibbled rye, kibbled wheat, yeast, vegetable oil, emulsifiers: E471, soya flour, preservative: E282, vegetable fat, flour treatment agent: E300), Cheddar cheese (22%), smoked reformed ham with water (14%) (pork, water, salt, dextrose, stabilisers: E450,E451, antioxidant, E301, preservative: E250), sandwich pickle (7%) (vegetables (onion, cauliflower, swede, marrow, carrot), barley malt vinegar, water, treacle, muscovado sugar, cornflour, tomato puree, salt, lemon concentrate, spices, garlic powder, onion powder), low fat spread (4%) (water, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, modified tapioca, starch, buttermilk, emulsifiers: E$&1, preservative: E202, acidity regulator: E330, vitamin E vitamin B6, flavouring, colouring: E160a, folic acid, vitamins A, D and B12).

Far, far worse than the worst British Rail sandwich of folk memory.

Keith Williams, the recently appointed chief executive of BA, has said he wanted his, “time in this job to be marked more than anything by the extra focus we place on customers”.

We might see some improvement if he serves some of the sandwiches he is giving to passengers at the next boardroom lunch. Or is that “focus” on ripping off travellers more than they have done in the past?

‘Central authority destroys local leadership’

Councils are run by enfeebled party machines and their “leaders” are politicians whose means of selection and election gives first loyalty to party rather than community. They feel no obligation to public leadership. Suggest to a council leader that he stand for direct election without the carapace of party, and he shudders at the thought. These figureheads are mere agents, factotums, of central government.

This is Simon Jenkins calling for local responsibility and leadership in a comment on rioting in today’s Guardian. As a general statement it applies equally to those in Suffolk and every other part of the country.

The turning of local authorities into agents, central government has taken away from them the direct responsibilities for their communities. Jenkins has been making this argument powerfully for some time including in his book Thatcher and Sons (Amazon).

We see it all the time as every cut in services is laid at the door of a central government that has cut grants and at the same time made it impossible for council tax to be raised.

Shortly after reading Jenkins article, I head that Home Secretary Teresa May has ordered all police forces to suspend leave for their officers. If government ministers are micro-managing to that degree is it any wonder that local leaders become, in Jenkins’ words, factotums of central government.

Telegraph: “The underclass lashes out”

While most journalists are searching to understand the riots in London and other parts of the country, Mary Riddell, the Daily Telegraph columnist has written what is generally regarded as the most insightful analysis so far.

Under the heading The underclass lashes out she mentions policing and ethnicity and them writes:

The real causes are more insidious. It is no coincidence that the worst violence London has seen in many decades takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for freefall. The causes of recession set out by J K Galbraith in his book, The Great Crash 1929, were as follows: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in “corporate larceny”, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance.

All those factors are again in play. In the bubble of the 1920s, the top 5 per cent of earners creamed off one-third of personal income. Today, Britain is less equal, in wages, wealth and life chances, than at any time since then. Last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion.

Europe’s leaders, our own Prime Minister and Chancellor included, were parked on sun-loungers as London burned. Although the epicentre of the immediate economic crisis is the eurozone, successive British governments have colluded in incubating the poverty, the inequality and the inhumanity now exacerbated by financial turmoil.

Britain’s lack of growth is not an economic debating point or a stick with which to beat George Osborne, any more than our deskilled, demotivated, under-educated non-workforce is simply a blot on the national balance sheet. Watch the juvenile wrecking crews on the city streets and weep for all our futures. The “lost generation” is mustering for war.

This is not a cri de coeur for the failed and failing. Nor is it a lament for the impoverished. Mob violence, despicable and inexcusable, must always be condemned. But those terrorising and trashing London are also a symptom of a wider malaise. In uneasy societies, people power – whether offered or stolen – can be toxic. Most of the 53 per cent of e‑democrats calling to have the death penalty reinstated (of whom 8 per cent would opt for firing squad or gas chamber) would never dream of torching a police car, but their impulses hardly cohere either with David Cameron’s utopian ambitions.

What price the Big Society as Tottenham, the most solid of communities, lies in ruins? The notion that small-state Britain can be run along the lines of Ambridge parish council by good-hearted, if under-funded, volunteers has never seemed more doubtful. Nor can Ed Miliband take much credit for his unvaried focus on the “squeezed middle”, rather than on a vote-losing underclass that politicians ignore at their peril, and at ours.

That is a long quote to extract (I hope the Telegraph and Mary Riddell do not object) but there is much more to her column today and it is essential reading for anyone who is trying to make sense of what has happened over the past three nights.

It is, as always with journalism, a “first draft” but it shows that the riots cannot be seen in isolation. They are a symptom of the state our nation is in. We have been sitting on a tinder box of dissatisfaction which a spark has now lit.

The immediate need is to bring the riots to an end and that will need tough policing. Most of the rioters are young, probably poorly educated, and unable to articulate their reasons or motivations. The voice of the young man in a news clip on the BBC today saying, “Let’s get some watches, man” reflects the idea of mindless violence.

But it also reflects envy and helplessness in a horribly unequal society.