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Mark Ellse: Will the British ever learn the virtue of hard work?

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They were a funny lot, the indigenous British. After the second twentieth century war they turned to socialism, thinking that poverty could be abolished by law. They built a society in which fear of financial need and the rewards of hard work gradually disappeared.

By the 1960s the workforce had become lazy. Men would talk of taking a month or two off work ‘to get some of their taxes back’, so generous was the benefit system. That was the cause of the first wave of immigration. Nowadays we’d see it for what it really was, a form of racial segregation in which the comfortable jobs in the overstaffed workplaces were kept by the natives, while immigrants did the unpleasant and boring jobs that the native British wouldn’t take.

British manufacturing gradually declined while other nations built up industries that would eventually destroy most of it. A substantial balance of payments deficit built up, which would have been much worse had not the financial services sector been strong.

Some say it was a pity that oil was found in the North Sea, just at the time when the country should have realised that it was living beyond its means. With oil the country could keep on over-spending and the habit became entrenched. As the oil revenue started to decrease, there was a phase of selling off British assets – the nationalised industries, shares in the remaining strong industries, houses and even government buildings – to fund the over-spending. Borrowing from the past one might call it.

When that was over, governments borrowed from future generations by selling government bonds and accounting tricks like the ‘Private Finance Initiative’, expecting the Britons of the future to pay for expenditure of the then current feckless generation.

Nothing much had changed amongst the indigenous population. Politicians had taught them that they had rights to social security, to work, to paid holidays and to an adequate standard of living. It was bonkers. We can see it now but they couldn’t see it then. Governments were promising their population everything on a plate. No wonder the country got into such a mess. The native Briton simply wouldn’t do any job that needed hard work. You couldn’t get a Brit to be a cleaner, to wash a car, take a job in a care home, work an early or late shift in a hotel or pick crops at harvest time.

All these jobs could have been done by an average 14-year-old but politicians had the daft idea of keeping everybody in schools until 18, or on media studies courses at universities until they were 21 or 22. The combination of wasted time in education, obvious unemployment and a habit of retiring far too early took over ten million out of the workforce. Even with more women working, there was an acute shortage of labour, which was solved by the second wave of immigration, this time from mainland Europe.

At the time, there were open borders between the UK and the rest of Europe and there was considerable resentment that these open borders had been the cause of immigration. We can see now that that is not the case. The real cause of immigration was that no-one could get the Brits to do the jobs that were available. When the UK left the EU there was the opportunity to close the borders but they found it couldn’t be done. No-one, no-one at all, knew how to get the British to work hard and do jobs that they didn’t fancy doing. That was years of socialism for you.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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