Bernard Ingham: Seeing red at unacceptable facets of today’s capitalism

Sir Bernard, by Graeme Bandeira
Sir Bernard, by Graeme Bandeira
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BANDEIRA, this newspaper’s gifted cartoonist, has poured me into a mould. I am doomed to roam the world breathing fire and brimstone. He has a point. There is much to be incandescent about.

This week I have it in for capitalism. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have not belatedly embraced Ed Miliband’s objective of taming capitalism. Look where that got him.

Nor am I one of those “entryists” 
who has paid his £3 to the Labour 
Party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn who, 
so far as I can see, shares Miliband’s 
aim where exceptionally he would 
allow private enterprise to continue to exist.

It is because I see modern capitalism doing everything in its power to make the case for the Corbyns of this world that I am in a state of volcanic eruption.

On the face of it, a recent letter from EdF, my electricity supplier, is no reason for me to go Krakatoan. But there is a principle involved. They want me to read my meter.

My view is that as suppliers of the service they can jolly well read it themselves. Dammit, I pay enough for their power – indeed, far too much, given the Government’s wastrel energy policy.

The same goes for water companies. Since they earn good money supplying me, they can look after their feed pipe from the main to my home instead of forcing me to insure – as privatised gas also does – against the pipe springing a leak under my garden.

I trust that Yorkshire Water got my message a few years ago when they 
were humming and ha’ing about responsibility for flooded gardens in Mytholmroyd.

But what’s the point of insuring against risks when East Surrey Water refuses to come and stabilise my toilet cistern because it isn’t yet leaking or PPP declines to pay for a cataract operation because I can still see? Have these scrooges never heard of a stitch in time?

I will not dwell on the angst, the wasted time, the swollen telephone bills and the feeling among the elderly that they are expendable with this executive passion for telephone button pushing.

Suffice it to say that a (younger) friend visiting me to recover my wayward computer was heard asking a company voice at the other end of the line: “Am I speaking to a real live human being or a Dalek?”

This utter determination on the part of companies – and, yes, public services – for us to do their work for them instead of providing a personal service is politically counter-productive. It alienates the ordinary voter who in the normal run of events would not have any truck with the Corbyns of this world.

All this is before we come to the endless parade of pimps on my telephone claiming, entirely without foundation, that I have had an accident, am owed something for buying a mis-sold financial product, can miraculously escape from my debts and generally assuming that I would be loopy enough to do business with them over the ’phone.

It is quite remarkable how quickly they switch off when I put on a passable imitation of Etna smoking and spitting, which ranks low on my personal Richter scale, and tell them they are wasting their time.

Then there are the tycoons who sanction all this disservice to their customers, including hiding the best deals, while positively stuffing themselves with salary, bonuses and shares at the expense of their workforce.

They must be dafter than they look if they expect productivity and loyalty from their employees. One thing is clear: they would not recognise leadership at five yards.

As for financial services generally and the City in particular, they never seem to learn the need to earn respect. The sheer extortion exacted in fees from ordinary folk who just want to retire gracefully is a scandal that the authorities are barely coping with.

It remains a mystery to me why bankers gambling with the economy are routinely paid seven-figure salaries, dwarfed only by footballers like Wayne Rooney who are reported to be on a ludicrous £250,000 a week while families are priced out of stand seats.

This inequality is meat and drink to the likes of Corbyn, the Trots and the militant Left.

Capitalists who remain cavalier about their image will only have themselves to blame if the Loony Left are given the chance, along with the Scot Nats, to wreck the economy.

I hope I do not blow my top in vain. Otherwise Britain could become a sort of post-Corbyn/Sturgeon Pompeii.