I’ve never known a colder Easter except for the time in Germany when we were snowed in at a friends house, and that was in April. I suppose the one thing about the weather is that it doesn’t respond to criticism, shrugs off any bad press without so much as a wheezy breath or a hurrumph. I just hope it augers well for a nicer summer we could certainly do with one. Mind you it will only take five days of no rain and the money-grabbing water companies (none of them British owned), will be bleating about water shortages and hosepipe bans. Well they did it last year and that became a laughing stock with all the rain we got.
I’m getting more and more bitter about the lack of and the poor service industry in this country. When you think of the multi-million pound contracts going overseas, we wonder whether anything is British owned. The Qataris even want to buy M&S! It’ll probably happen, because someone will stand to receive a huge pay-off, and in business, money talks. Look at ‘our’ motor industry, mostly owned by foreigners, including BMW owning Mini and an Indian company owning Jaguar. There’s a good example of someone trousering a huge amount of money, at the same time decimating the car industry, our last remaining volume manufacturer; Rover. People may have forgotten about the famous four or was it six who walked away with ginormous amounts of wonga, and put thousands out of work. They’re all right jack, but what of the ones they left to live on benefits? Well that attitude now seems prevalent in the rest of industry with two major exceptions, and they are in the aerospace industry: Rolls Royce and BAE Systems, both still British owned, the latter partly by me, in shares. They did have an abortive attempt to hook onto EADS a short while ago, but that ended in failure I’m glad to say. There may be other giants of industry out there that are British owned, but I can’t think of them off-hand. Notice that these two companies are involved in ENGINEERING. I deliberately put that in capitals because it’s still not deemed in some quarters as important enough for this countries recovery, but it is. It’s all very well for the city to make money out of money, and to be fair they do invest in industry, but it doesn’t help us make things to sell abroad, which is what makes a country rich. I made the comparison some time ago; how many car companies in Germany are German owned? All of them. Ditto France? All of them, with government help. How many in Britain? Er, one or two small ones? It’s ridiculous to expect a country to grow unless manufacture and export are the main focus. The service industry does not make things, only fixes them.
The latest sell-out abroad is Search and Rescue operations (SAR), which has been sold off to an American company, Bristow, which also used to be British. This is another industry being flogged abroad with no consideration of the consequences further down the line. It’s a £3.5 billion deal which starts in 2016, and replaces all the existing Royal Air Force (including Prince William) and Royal Navy crews and helicopters with a civilian operation. Excuse me? When did it become a matter of reducing costs to save lives? Granted the RNLI get donated millions every year and they don’t get any government backing, but the general public do donate and are never tight with putting their hand in their pockets when the RNLI rattle their tins, even though most people in this country would never have any need of their services. But the SAR service (started during the war to rescue downed aircrew) is different. Beside rescuing people from the sea and boats, they also rescue people from mountains, flooded villages and in some case sheep from snow drifts. On this point my friend Neil, who lives in Northumberland, tells me his farm has lost 70 sheep in the snow, that’s a lot of lost revenue and of course hard work. Where are the helicopters helping these people out in their time of need? Nowhere I’m afraid, budget cuts mean that the SAR services can only just fulfil their peace-time role without encroaching on extra-mural activities. It stinks. If those mandarins in Whitehall who make these arbitrary decisions knew what it does to these people, the backbone of the farming industry, they wouldn’t be quite so quick to prattle on about ‘value for money’ and ‘best resources for the price’ etc. It won’t do, and it’s no way to treat the current SAR service who have built up years of experience. Where are Bristow’s going to get the experienced aircrews for their operations? From the stood down current crews? Yes, that’s probably where they will get them, so they don’t have to invest in training to get the calibre of people that the Forces turn out now. A cheap deal from which someone (not British) will make a wallet busting bunch of cash. Granted, some of the new helicopter fleet will be built in Yeovil (by an Italian-owned company), but why aren’t they being built to equip our forces? Where all the battle proven choppers to come from for the next conflict? Who’s going to fly them into combat, because at some stage they might have to; the Falklands is a perfect example. It makes me seeth that all these good people are to be tossed on the scrapheap to save a few bob. There are other similar cases of a sell out to foreign companies, including water, gas and electricity companies besides the aforementioned. Wake up Britain, we need action to put right what years of poor decision making and gross government mismanagement have screwed up. We will be caught out.