Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Misery, thy name is Lettuce Rationing

According to the newspapers, Britain is in the grip of a shortage of lettuce. Actually there is no obvious shortage here in Edinburgh. I bought a lettuce in my local Sainsbury's yesterday, but perhaps we are exceptions. Everywhere else long queues are forming outside grocers, market stalls and vegetable shows, while shoppers are carrying string bags in their pockets just in case they happen to notice a lettuce in a shop window on the opposite side of the road.

The official story is that the shortage is due to bad weather. The weather here is pretty average for February in Scotland: rain, wind and freezing temperatures, just like the rest of the year. So I am led to wonder how much of the lettuce shortage is really due to the weather and how much is due to the European Onion's crazy ‘set aside’ policy, under which nice little earner farmers receive payments for not growing food.

Maybe this is what the future holds for other areas of economic activity. On the railways, for instance. The terms of the contract which Govia, aka Southern, holds with the Department of Transport pays them a fixed sum, whether they operate the trains or not. From their point of view, that’s the same as set aside, since they can stop operating trains and claim money for not operating them.

And then there's teaching. Thousands of people are being paid to run schools and teach children even though when they come out of school a third of children can't read and seven eighths can't add up.

It isn't because of the weather, or the leaves on the line, or sitting up after midnight buggering about with a mobile phone. They’re doing it on purpose.

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