YOUR nation needs you … to drink more coffee.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has welcomed plans to open 300 new Starbucks coffee shops as a “great boost to the economy”.
Nearly 200 of the new outlets will be “drive-throughs”, a fine British tradition and one that is certain to take off in this era of cheap petrol.
Leaving aside that Starbucks is an import from Seattle in the United States, how the hell is this supposed to be good for our economy?
Will we all rush out to spend even more of our hard-earned on gingerbread latte or skinny peppermint mocha? Will we export caramel macchiatos and pumpkin spice creme to the Third World?
Of course we won’t. Mostly, we’ll just stop drinking coffee at other cafes.
What next? Will Cameron declare ‘Java Jive’ to be the new national anthem?
THERE IS a case for coffee. When times are hard, sitting in a pleasant cafe with a cuppa is a relatively cheap treat that makes you feel good. A drive-through, or should I say drive-thru, is a whole ‘nother story and a step in entirely the wrong direction.
Necking a cinnamon dolce latte while cruising through the city centre (and chatting on a mobile) will do precious little for a cheerful frame of mind (though it might boost business a little at your local car repair centre).
This country needs real jobs for real young people, and they won’t come from teaching kids how to squirt pretty shapes in cream.
THIS WEEK’S protest in Plymouth and around the country about the Government’s smash and grab raid on public sector pensions goes to the other end of the age scale.
People who have worked all their lives and saved for a pension have a right to expect that they will actually get it when the time comes.
The fact that private sector pensions have already been burgled is not the point. Politicians who try to use that fact as a battering ram against the public sector are only trying to divide and conquer.
The divide strategy was fully unveiled in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Tuesday when he proposed regional pay bargaining for the public sector.
What a clever idea: fracture the unions, and then pass laws to stop them supporting each others’ disputes. The Government is also planning to make it easier to sack employees, so don’t feel too settled.
We might end up totally powerless but hey, we can always gather round a skinny latte and sing slave songs.
BEFORE Labour politicians cheer this as support for their cause, let me pour an iced caffè Americano over their heads. The whole Westminster pack makes me sick.
I can do no better than to quote US Senator Bernie Sanders, who told a budget committee: “This country does have a serious deficit problem.
“But the reality is that the deficit was caused by two wars — unpaid for. It was caused by huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people. It was caused by a recession as a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behaviour on Wall Street [to which, add the City of London].
“And if those are the causes of the deficit, I will be damned if we’re going to balance the budget on backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. That’s wrong.”
Hear, hear. Senator Sanders is an independent from Vermont, but everything he says applies equally to Britain.
We humans have a finely developed sense of what’s fair and what’s not. Deep down, most people accept that if someone studies hard, gets a good degree, works hard, and so on, it’s not unreasonable that they should earn more.
We also understand that if someone (a footballer, a singer, an actor) gives pleasure to millions then he or she is likely to do well out of it.
What we don’t understand, what we all think is unfair, is that bankers – who are demonstrably incompetent in many cases – can walk away with bonuses worth millions in some cases. And the rest of us have to pick up the tab.
THE TROUBLE in the West began with George W. Bush lashing out in reprisal for 9/11. He was like the kind of yobbo you see in the pub, brainless, sociopath and borderline psychopath (“Who the fuck are you looking at pal?”). These people are damaged; you don’t expect an entire US Administration to share their character flaws.
It got worse when the war-mongering Labour Party of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown toadied to Bush, and continues with David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
Pray that Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner in the next US presidential race, does not get into the White House. Faced with the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, Romney says “if there’s nothing else we can do besides take military action, then of course you take military action”.
He would use “blockade, bombardment and surgical military strikes”.
As if the hundreds of thousands of deaths we and the Americans have caused in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t enough. As if the thousands of British and American casualties were just a warm-up. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
LAST week’s union-organised day of action against pension cuts brought the usual depressing sight – and sound – of those on the Left who define themselves as “Tory-haters” (they even have a chant to go with it).
You don’t have to be a Tory lover to see that this kind of class war plays into the hands of multinational corporations. They love it when we’re at each other’s throats and they can play one off against the other.
Here in Britain we hit the slippery slope under Blair/Brown, who borrowed vast amounts of money to buy the loyalty of their voters.
I AM NOT really anti-America. Some great things have come out of the States, like chewing gum and the Declaration of Independence.
But the crazies are always ready to pop up with an antidote to sanity.
This week we learn that an Arizona gun club is offering a chance for children to pose for photos with Santa while holding pistols and military-style rifles.
And a man who held a Kansas couple hostage while fleeing from the police is suing them, claiming that they broke an oral contract to hide him in exchange for an unspecified amount of money.
See where a drive-thru coffee shop can lead?
A version of this column appeared in The Herald on Friday, December 2