mick ward

You know Mick, I bet you loved the seventies and eighties.

@john-yates Yes, for a while I did love the seventies. I escaped from Belfast to Bradford in 1971. Sanity! I’d had nearly twenty years of religious fundamentalism and sectarian hatred, finally errupting into near-civil war. Suddenly you were away from it, with people who weren’t stark raving bonkers. And some of them were lovely people. I fell in love with Bradford, with Yorkshire, with the North.

But obviously all was not well. Sometimes I worked in dangerous industrial environments, deathtraps waiting to happen. ‘Management’ that might have been happier in Soviet Russia. IRA bombings in major cities. The early 70s oil crisis scuppering post-war prosperity. Nationalisation grown too comfortable for its (our!) own good. Left-wing militancy, just for the hell of it.

If you were happy in the 80s, then great. I’m glad for you. For me, it was like a knife under my heart. Orgreave – my God, how awful. (Amey, in Sheffield now, far too close to what happened then. Dreadful.) Seeing formerly great cities such as Bradford begin to crumble…

Yes, of course something had to happen. Privatisation seemed a good idea. But it happened in such a horribly ‘winners and losers’ divisive atmosphere. As I recall, many privatisations were under-valued, so people could sell their shares the next day at an instant profit. The onset of casino captialism, perhaps?

What about the companies/industries that weren’t sexy? I went back into those old deathtraps but this time into the boardrooms as well as the shop floor. Those old Soviet tyrants? Just a bunch of tired guys, ready to give up. For a few years (at great personal cost) I revitalised them, made them fight, acted to protect jobs and communities.

But, by the mid-90s, it was all over. The greed virus had taken hold with a vengeance. The Chairman was cashing in his share options and buggering off. Fred, on the lathe, was following suit. (Well why not? He was getting f*ck all leadership, no sense of futurity.) A waste of time for me to be there any longer. The revoltingly named ‘gig economy’ was inevitable.

Blair and Brown? Despite what Blair now claims, I think it was indeed ‘Tory lite’. Yes, there was a promise of Kennedy. I wonder if he was strong enough but obviously the poor guy had his problems. We’ll never know.

John Smith – the best prime minister we never had? Very possibly. Might he have taken us in another direction? Maybe. We’ll never know.

Blair versus Thatcher? Certainly a marked degree of conviction in the latter; virtually none in the former.

And where are we now? The unholy marriage between the state and ‘private’ industry has spawned some real monsters like Carillion and Amey. Absolutely inevitable. With neo-liberalism, the state aids and abets the ‘free’ market. So the market isn’t free – it’s rigged. ‘Private’ industry means public service contracts awarded to chums of those in government. The winners? Those few with serious share-options and ludicrous salaries (endorsed by their non executive director chums). The losers? The rest of us.

I’m sorry… this has turned into the maddest (and saddest) of mad rants! But I think we’ve taken a horrible wrong turning. I think everybody knows this but nobody really has much of an idea as to how to address it. Unfortunately Brexit probably makes things (far) worse.

The classic refrain was that the British were ‘lions led by donkeys’. As someone who loves this country, that’s exactly what I feel. But worse – somewhere along the way, the donkeys became seriously greedy. In so doing, they made a real mess of things. And, right now, they haven’t got much of a clue as to what to do about it.