Bobby, why is it vibrating?
AMONGST MY weekly postbag is always a number of letters and e-mails from recruits to Mr Blah’s (or, more accurately, Mr Brown’s) Turkey Army – those public sector placemen who know that their continued employment relies on them not voting for Christmas (or, more accurately, the Conservatives).
These are always scribbled on council stationery or sent during working hours, with the taxpayers picking up the cost of the stamp and envelope or paying for the time it takes to write “burn in hell you fashist scum” in Microsoft Outlook before the author returns to that popular Leftie website nakedveggiegirlseatinglentils.com.
The jist of their complaints is that I denigrate the valuable and essential work that they do by taking cheap shots at their protected status, their appalling sickness records and utter irrelevance to anything resembling the real world. And let me tell you, coming from a five-a-day anti-smoking community cohesion outreach worker, that criticism really hurts.
But, not content with taking the rest of us for a bike ride, I now discover that the Turkey Army has a new manoeuvre up its sleeve – early retirement through ill health, once more at the expense of the private sector.
Now we’ve all become accustomed to coppers and firemen sloping off with a bad back and a healthy pension once they hit 35, but I didn’t realise that assistant junior planning officers were working the scam as well. Consider this: According to the Pensions Policy Institute, 39 per cent of local government officers, 25 per cent of teachers and 22 per cent of civil servants have headed for their second homes in Tuscany long before their 60th birthdays. (The figure for firemen is 68 per cent before the age of 50; for police, 49 per cent before the age of 48.)
(And as Ross Clark of The Spectator has pointed out, only 6 per cent of the armed forces personnel take early retirement due to ill health, so shuffling documents in the wheelie-bin equality unit appears somewhat more hazardous than having rocket propelled grenades fired at you by insurgent Iraqis. Those paper cuts can be nasty, you know.)
So this high incidence of sick days (from an average of 25 to 40 days a year depending on whose figures you use, compared to just six in the private sector), coupled with high levels of early retirement through ill health, might lead you to think that by the time they’ve escaped the rigours of office life, those poor Turkey Army recruits tend to drop dead within days of receiving the carriage clock. Not so.
For some strange reason, once public sector workers have retired they stage a remarkable recovery. In fact, they tend to last longer, with clerical and professional classes outliving every other category of British worker. Truly, a miracle.
And here’s the rub, and here’s the reason that I bang on about them. While they’re living longer, on into their 80s and beyond (and having bailed out of working life at an indecently early age), they’re doing it at the expense of private sector workers who now face having to work on until 67 and beyond if they’re to afford the cat food and tinsel that pensioners buy in industrial quantities.
And not only that. Public sector workers enjoy protected final salary scheme pensions, a benefit rapidly becoming a rarity in the private sector. So we have an increasingly impoverished group of wealth-creators supporting an unsustainable gravy train of government apparatchiks. The works of George Orwell spring to mind.
The excuse for these enhanced pensions used to be that public sector workers were paid less than their private sector equivalents and were thus compensated for their service to the State. That is no longer true. Public sector pay rises have now outperformed private sector increases for several years. The difference between the average wages in the two sectors is now negligible.
This cannot go on. The economics simply don’t add up. And that, my friends, is why I bang on about it. I shall now await the next delivery of green-inked missives.
AFTER that depressing diatribe, I suppose you’re expecting some funnies. Well, I’m certainly looking forward to the Winter Paralympics, especially the ice dancing, the ski jumping and the bob sleigh. That should be a hoot, particularly if they try to drive the Sunshine Bus down the run.
I managed to upset a beggar outside Dixon’s earlier this week by responding to his request for “spare change for food” by offering him a drink from the thermos flask I now carry and one of my packed lunch sandwiches. You could see the hatred in his eyes as he realised that while he’d found a sympathetic ear, that first can of Special Brew remained elusive.
I joined a pub discussion about the gay footballers and their curious antics as exposed by the News of the World. “That wouldn’t have happened in Bobby Moore’s day”, nodded one bore. I’m not surprised. Can you remember the size of mobile phones back then?
Finally, as I inched to work through the snow and ice this morning, I heard a NuLabour mad woman on Radio 4 demanding that we should stop watering our gardens and flushing our toilets forthwith or there’d be standpipes in every street by Easter. Ain’t life grand?
MY MAN Whittaker skulks through the stable yard in the early hours of Wednesday morning clutching a black balaclava and an A-Z of the Tonbridge area. Later that day he is seen buying drinks all round in the Dog and Blunkett with a brand new £50 note. For some reason, this makes me feel a trifle uneasy.
O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who doesn’t suspect that Mr Brown’s sudden desire for each and every one of us to fly the Union Jack from a flagpole in our back gardens has got more to do with his Scottishness than it has to do with our patriotism, of anyone not despairing at the news that Heinz are to change their baked bean recipe after being frightened by the encroachment of the dreadful Branston Beans, or of anyone even slightly worried that our future King cares enough about what’s going on around him to voice a valid opinion.