Friday, 6 March 2009
On perky princes, pesky workers and how the story ends for the rest of us
Prince Charles has been voted ‘Esquire’s best dressed man’. Of the year. I think. I could check, if it matters that much to you? No. I didn’t think so.
Still, you will be pleased to know, prince Charles’ sartorial success boils down to the ‘quintessentially perky British look’ (that’s the Guardian’s Simon Chilvers speaking, not me). Perky?
How can double-breasted suits be perky, you ask? What does ‘perky’ actually mean?
Well, let me help you out here.
Prince Charles’ suits are perky.
The thousands of construction workers, who’ve just seen their worst suspicions proven
true, are not perky. I’m not perky, as I read that numerous companies including Britain’s leading construction outfits have been buying personal data for decades in order to vet applicants before employing them.
So someone (to be precise, private detective, Ian Kerr who, I hope, is not perky right now) has been making a living by gathering and selling the private information of unsuspecting individuals. He has been making a living out of depriving others of theirs.
Does this break the data protection act? Sounds like it to me.
And it looks like Kerr will be investigated and possibly (read hopefully) tried for his involvement in producing ‘black lists’ that helped construction companies decide who should work. And who shouldn’t.
So thousands of people have been denied work by the major construction players because they were ‘troublesome’ and hence blacklisted.
Troublesome means ‘not perky’.
That includes ‘lazy’.
It also includes ‘union member’, ‘communist party member’ as well individuals ‘previously involved in strike action’.
Troublesome includes workers who trusted in the letter of the law and exercised their hard-earned rights to unionise and strike.
Thousands of people out of work because of their political beliefs; because they, at some point over the past thirty years, fought for better conditions, better wages, a better life. Because someone assessed their records and decreed them troublesome.
Because, someone, somewhere decided that the propensity to strike has more to do with the person than the working conditions he are forced into.
Does it remind you of anything?
McCarthyism, the juntas in southern Europe and Latin America – they kept Communists out of work. Because they were troublesome and the state – in those days, in those places – did not like trouble.
Just like the big construction companies in Britain, today. Only here the state is not actively involved. Small comforts. Especially as the result, from the construction workers’ point of view, is the same.
To the list of things that are not perky, add me.
To the list of things that are perky, add the construction companies. Who have been caught red-handed but are looking perky nonetheless because, as it stands, they may have well not broken the law.
In 1999 the Labour government got very close to banning the practice of blacklists but then decided not to implement the law in the absence of hard evidence that blacklisting was actually occurring.
So in 2009, blacklisting remains, for all intents and purposes, legal.
And although the Labour party are looking shamefaced, any change to the legislation now will not be retroactive and the construction companies will get off scot-free with a warning to not do it again and play nice.
And that's where this story ends.
It's a happy ending. For all. Not for everyone. But for all directly benefiting by the lack of blacklisting legislation, it is a happy ending.
That's the bit we keep missing, when we are told 'and they all lived happily ever after'.
Nobody ever speaks of everyone living happily ever after.