Today is the start of a 100-day countdown to the general election and The Shed, which is full of floating voters, resolves to make 100 comments on what it thinks.
In a previous Shed, in another place, we discussed the real-life documentary The Hotel, starring a prize Torquay twerp called Mark Jenkins, who wrong-called his way to disaster in front of our eyes a couple of years ago.
Now Mark is back, thanks to some other desperate hoteliers who are gambling on the power of telly, even if it brings Mark with it.
The hearts of The Shed bled for their head barman, Mike, think of him as Igor, who has worked with Mark before, although Mark doesn’t remember.
For a couple of episodes, we were all hooked on the good chance Igor would actually tear the little runt apart. But then, thanks to some miracle which may or may not have included a bit of help from the production company, Mark actually filled the place for a Scottish evening, after his Scottish guests had taken one look at his running order, starting with kilt jokes and culminating in deep-fried Mars bars, they love em you know, and booked a coach to go to the theatre. Any theatre.
Somehow, with help from the production crew, Mark found some English people who were up for the laugh, and the hotel sold enough whisky to cover Mark’s investment in the idea, and Igor turned into a puppy, dreaming of his own career in entertainments management. Mark always said it was easy and cor bugger, thought Mike, it worked. But watch on. Mark with what he thinks of as a success under his belt is going to be even more impossible than he already be, which is already almost impossible.
Having written that, we have just seen Mark being confronted with the bills for his Mr Torgay Night – a fabulous disaster you could only watch through your fingers.
In The Shed, we think of Mark Jenkins and the poor buggers who have to work with him whenever the government announces yet again that what the employment situation needs is more entrepreneurs to lead us all into the future.
What it needs, in The Shed’s opinion, is more honest hard work, producing labourers with a pride in their skills and strength, an understanding of how they might do more with it, and a respectable return for turning up on time to do it as required.
There are a number of national requirements which could be met by a measurable amount of physical work. Cutting back highway hedges is a mundane example. Big mechanical Loutmobiles do it brutally and it would be possible to work out an average per mile for how much extra it would cost to do a more subtle job by hand for, say, £10 an hour. The average would be paid as a team rate; with the workers free to form their own teams. The taxpayer would pay the difference, for a prescribed number of employee hours, for this and for other schemes which meet the strict criteria of providing work which is both incontestably useful, in however small a way, and measurable in sweat.
Good teams might be hired out, at a subsidised rate, to private employers such as farmers, for work such as weeding organic crops. And no doubt there would be a boom in little breakaway enterprises offering a hand-cut for the garden hedges of the environmentally concerned, using tools borrowed from the council stores.
None of this would do anything much for the balance of payments but it would pay off in many other directions. Some of the money would come from the cancellation of any projects involving the production of videos and leaflets about keeping fit and staying motivated, on the grounds that the Shed scheme would do more good. There would be savings on unemployment and family support. The saving on engines and fuel would be multiplied by the bonuses available for cutting carbon emissions. And some useful equations would emerge about the true cost and value of manpower, which could be applied to other activities, such as moving biomass to local digesters for power production. The Shed wonders if it might be possible to devise a labour-intensive method of getting gas by fracking.
It would be argued that such a scheme would discriminate against the frail and disabled. The Shed would argue that there is a duty of care to the fit and willing. And that there is no better way of achieving a reasonable minimum wage than to pay it.
more later …