Much of our asparagus harvest has rotted on the ground, and the same is likely to happen to the strawberry crop.
Taking a short-term view, one can legitimately blame Covid: because of it, to quote David Aaronovitch of The Times, “The country is short of 80,000 workers, usually supplied by the EU nations.”
However, judging by the title of Mr Aaronovitch’s article, Britain Won’t Work Without Unskilled Migrants, the short-term view isn’t the one he favours.
For he believes that, by ending EU-dictated free movement, HMG will do the work of coronavirus. The present arrangement will be replaced by a points-based system, whereby only qualified immigrants earning over £25,600 a year will be admitted.
Mr Aaranovitch hates the idea. In fact, he takes little trouble to conceal his distaste for leaving the EU. And he’s particularly scathing about our arch-Leaver Home Secretary Priti Patel who spearheads the points system.
“If we were to erect a Statue of Liberty in the Patel era its plaque would read: ‘Give me your huddled Nobel prize-winners, your future tech billionaires yearning to breathe free’,” writes Mr Aaranovitch in an attempt at devastating irony.
He then uncorks what he sees as a clincher: “Under such a regime my own illiterate grandparents would have been turned away from the Port of London when their ship docked in 1904.” Some may feel such a tragedy would have been a small price to pay for the subsequent generations to be spared Mr Aaranovitch’s musings.
He is entitled to feel about Brexit as he sees fit. But this argument against it is as weak as Mr Aaronovitch’s humour.
His main idea is that we need Bulgarians and Romanians to do unskilled jobs because indigenous Britons won’t do them. This argument would be valid – if only it ended with a small proviso: “as things are”.
Then the numbers quoted by Mr Aaronovitch would indeed end the discussion, for some people at least: “The first instalment of a campaign to get furloughed Brits to do the work began a few weeks ago. One organisation reported last month that of 50,000 people who had applied, 6,000 accepted an interview but only 150 had taken up offers of work.”
Others acted in the manner of one healthy young man Mr Aaronovitch gives as an example. Instead of looking for a job, he stays at home all day playing video games. That, I’d suggest, is an improvement on going out to mug passersby for drug money, but yes, asparagus still stays in the ground.
Mr Aaronovitch has outlined the problem well; shame about the conclusion: “The only viable options for fruit picking are migrant labour or mechanisation. There will be no British jobs there… [And in social care] even if you were to put the salaries up by 15 per cent that computer boy still wouldn’t want to care for dementia patients.”
The problem indeed seems unsolvable, but I’m happy to lend Mr Aaronovitch a helping hand and solve it. For, in a flash of epiphanous inspiration, I’ve found a way for ‘that computer boy’ to get off his calloused rump and go off to work.
Why doesn’t he do so now? The answer is, because he doesn’t have to. Assuming he gets a full range of social benefits, he’d have to earn roughly the income required by Miss Patel to match them.
As with most epiphanies, the conclusion is so simple that it’s amazing Mr Aaronovitch hasn’t thought of it: The computer boy should be taken off the welfare rolls.
Paying young able-bodied people to do nothing is morally wrong, economically ruinous and socially disastrous. It creates whole generations of parasite classes sponging off the rest of us, through the good offices of the megalomaniac state.
Sociologists will tell you that there exist two main incentives to work: survival and the improvement of one’s lot, with the first being much stronger than the second.
Thus someone getting enough to buy computers and electronic games may not want to work simply to buy more recent computers and more elaborate games. But he’d have to work if his food and shelter were at stake.
Considering the level of our compulsory and comprehensive education, the computer boy wouldn’t be able to command a wage to match his benefits. But if he didn’t get those benefits he’d be happy to pick asparagus or care for demented patients. For, as St Paul explained so lucidly, “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
Clearly, neither Mr Aaronovitch nor his ‘liberal’ colleagues can entertain this thought. They see no difficulties with having, say, three generations of the same family never doing a day’s work and living off public money.
Then again, they may feel that protesting against this outrage is akin to remonstrating against hurricanes. Such things just are, and must be accepted as they are.
However, such submissive equanimity contradicts a writer’s remit. It’s his duty to analyse the problem in its fullness, not to use it for the sake of scoring cheap political points.
In this duty Mr Aaronivitch is demonstrably remiss. And incidentally, I bet his illiterate grandparents went to work directly they arrived in Britain. After all, they must have had to. And look at their grandson now.