Issue 179: 2018 11 22: Worse Than Brexit

22 November 2018

Worse Than Brexit

Number employed increases.

By Chin Chin

What depressing news.  No, not the febrile state of the Brexit negotiations.  That is quite bad enough, but there is something worse, much worse.  It is the employment statistics revealed on the Office of National Statistics website.  Try this comment in respect of the period from July to November:

There were 32.41 million people in work, 23,000 more compared with April to June 2018 and 350,000 more than for a year earlier.

Grim, isn’t it, and it only gets worse:

There were 8.74 million people aged from 16 to 64 years who were economically inactive (not working and not seeking nor available to work), little changed compared with April to June 2018 but 147,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

But the real horror comes further down in the enticingly named  “Table 1: Summary of UK labour market statistics for July to September 2018, seasonally adjusted” which reveals that unemployment among those aged sixty-five or more has crept down too.

Okay, it might not be true.  The clerks at the ONS could have been drunk and put the numbers in the wrong columns.  Maybe it is fake news planted by MI5 or the GRU.  But it really doesn’t matter whether it is true or false; it is just what Mrs Chin needed as ammunition in her campaign for me to get off my backside and onto my bicycle in pursuit of a part-time job.

The campaign has been running for some time and, like all of history’s great strategists, I have continually shifted my ground in search of a secure bastion from which to repel the besiegers.  There was the “I need to read the encyclopaedia to help me set the Dog and Duck monthly quiz” phase which worked well enough until Mrs C bumped into the landlord and got a blank look when she asked when the next quiz would be.  There was the “I could drop dead from a heart attack any moment” phase which so unfortunately ended when I left that note from my doctor on the kitchen table.  Still, Mrs C is no reader of the political press and I had thought that the “Oh, I am trying, dear, but the market is against me” line would keep me going for some years.  I just hadn’t forseen that it would result in her making an angry speech about the current levels of unemployment to the slightly bemused chairman of the local Conservative Association who she met on the street.  Anyway, he directed her to the ONS website and my cover is well and truly blown.

It wasn’t very pleasant, to be honest.  “Feckless”, “useless”, “idle”, “moronic”, “couch potato”, “pub lounger”, out came the epithets in a disagreeable stream followed by a general enquiry as to why she had married me.  I wasn’t very well placed to answer that since I had no experience of her pre-matrimonial options – even in liberal North London, self-marriage has yet to catch on, although to be fair, being up oneself, possibly the first step, is common enough.  Anyway, my attempts to explain this went badly wrong, so in place of my usual midday snooze I found myself wondering just what sort of job I was fitted for.

Well, British people are notoriously modest, so I must be careful not to undersell myself.  With that in mind, I resolved to begin at the top.  What about claiming a throne?  Being monarch doesn’t look particularly difficult, consisting as it does of drifting about with people bowing obsequiously and giving you drinks and presents.  Any time you are asked something to which you don’t know the answer, you just say “I’m afraid that is party political so I couldn’t possibly comment”, the questioner backs off bowing and the newspapers all write about how discreet you are to keep your views to yourself.  Very convenient indeed if you didn’t happen to have any.

Yes, that would suit me rather well and there are lots of countries without monarchs, so there is no problem about vacancies.  The cricketer C B Fry was once offered the throne of Albania, so there doesn’t seem to be any bigotry about where you were born, and as far as I can see there are no specific academic requirements.  From the blogs I have read, people become monarchs because of “an accident of birth” and that is really rather encouraging.  My wife herself is among those who suggested that I had an accident at birth, so that puts me on the starting blocks.  The trouble is that it’s hard to imagine that I had a worse accident than anybody else in, say, Albania, which after all is quite a large country.  Perhaps if I focused on somewhere smaller, Luxembourg, maybe, or Lichtenstein, I would stand a better chance.

The alternative, of course, is the Richard III route where you simply eliminate anyone who has a better claim than you do.  It could be fun making out the list – a smothering with a pillow here, a butt of Malmsey there, but again the numbers would make it very difficult.  Each time you have to pay a pair of ruthless assassins, say a thousand pounds.  Applying the law of averages, I am probably halfway up the UK’s succession table in the 30,000,000th to 40,000,000th range.  That means a total bill of between £30 billion and £40 billion, roughly the level of the payment to leave the EU.  Just too pricey I am afraid.

If monarch is out, it has to be something else.  Bar assistant at the Dog and Duck, perhaps.  No, Mrs C already says that I drink too much.  Community policeman?  I quite fancy the idea of a uniform.  No, I’ve a better idea.  What about Brexit Secretary?  There are often vacancies there and you don’t have to do much either.  Just stand around in Brussels drinking, and if anyone asks you a question say “that is for the Prime Minister to decide.”  Not too difficult when it comes to it; I will write to Mrs May immediately.

Oh well, perhaps it was too much to hope for.  She has written back to say that she has already given the job to someone else.  Still, it has had good results.  Now that I can describe myself as “Erstwhile contender for Brexit secretary”, the editors at the Shaw Sheet are begging for my comments and I can write under my own name.  More importantly I can now say to Mrs C that I cannot take another job because of the need to focus on my journalism.



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