It was always a stereotype about ‘the French’ during my youth: the lazy, bone idle, moody shirker who would down tools after an hour’s graft before sourcing a motorway to block with the family tractor. Yet, despite such crude, yesteryear profiling, I now wonder how the French view us?

A snapshot of the current state of play in Blighty makes for grim reading. We are gearing up for inevitable power cuts this coming winter, inflation is ‘rampant’ as the pound in our pocket loses its spending power. Folk are choosing heating over eating and societal systems are way past the collapsing stage. Got a problem with your tax code? Then sit on the phone for two hours waiting for someone who is clearly not trained in tax affairs to understand the intricacies of your situation. You can't get to speak to a doctor on the phone, let alone in their natural habitat of a surgery. Operations are cancelled and no one picks up the blower, instead sending you around in a never-ending automated loop system until you give up and choose death over rectifying the situation, and don’t even get me started on our ‘leaders’, who have the economic nous of an item of rodent roadkill on the A414.

The court system is on its knees, as are the police, and woe betide anyone attempting to report an actual crime as ‘short staffing’ and ‘budget cuts’ are quoted as the get out of jail free card. Still, at least we’ve moved on somewhat from blaming every failure on ‘because of Covid’, so that’s progress of a sort I suppose.

And then we have the strikes and worker’s revolt. It used to be the case that if you wanted to post a parcel or catch a train you would simply check the times they were open, or running, and Robert was your mother’s brother. The Google search now, however, is: ‘Which companies are striking this week?’

I used to be anti such action: Bob Crow, the former leader of the RMT, would call his membership to down tools at the drop of a hat and, it looked initially as if the new leader of the union, Mick Lynch, was cut from the same cloth.

So, with disdain in my heart I settled down to watch Mr Lynch and listen to his refreshing honesty in interviews, and I must concede, he has turned me. His no-nonsense approach, as he challenges interviewers and politicians head-on, is a sight to behold and my respect for the man has increased exponentially. We could all do with such a pitbull batting our corner to improve working conditions with the no-fear candour on which he is building his legacy.

As we look toward economic Armageddon this winter, banks will take to the fore: whether that be your lenders trying to punish you further as you slip into the abyss, or foodbanks, which will become the last bastion of hope in the upcoming hard times.

The lack of political foresight is staggering as the energy crisis puts economies across the EU under stress test due to the Russia/ Ukraine conflict. But where is the proactivity? Surely we could have foreseen some such scenario playing out? We have had years to develop our own power, as the Americans have, choosing to harvest natural resources, many of them unique to this island, but we did not. Wave power has been swept aside, wind power is underutilised and fracking has, rightly or wrongly, much like everything else in this bureaucratic country of ours, been strangled by red tape as we continue to hold our hands out for energy from abroad, and then wonder why the sellers, who we have been poking with a barbed stick, will do next to nothing to alleviate our pain.

Our domestic energy companies, given the option of being viewed as part of the cure or the problem, choose the latter, raking in obscene profit levels as we find the price hikes are not so much to pay for the increase in energy imports, but more to protect handsome profit levels as shareholder value is put way above customer need.

Yes, the French must view us as ‘bouffons’. By our perennial pursuit of a capitalist utopia, we have not only shot ourselves in the foot but both kneecaps as we strangle every simple action in a sea of red tape, inefficiency and bureaucracy. We will undoubtedly see record levels of starvation, suicide, old folk freezing to death and homelessness this coming winter as we wring our hands and hope against logic that our underwhelming, unconvincing leaders, come good.

Meanwhile the gallics look on with a shrug of the shoulders and a shake of the head as they wondered how this once great nation of ‘idiots’ got itself into such a sticky cornichon, from which we may never recover.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher