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28 November 2021

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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The blame game – it is never ending, is it?
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The blame game – it is never ending, is it?

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Surely we can do better when it comes to predicting problems

It’s the old thing – some things would be really funny if they weren’t so serious.

We have seen a long weekend of discontent – a discontent brought about by news that petrol stations were running out of fuel. And it is not even clear who spread this rumour, but as is often the case the rumour has picked up momentum at a huge rate and we went from Friday morning when fuel was starting to run out at a handful of stations to now when no one really knows when normal service is going to be resumed.

What we are seeing now is reminiscent of occasions in the past when there has been a real fuel shortage, usually caused by a war somewhere, or a blockade or even the direct action of a government wanting to cause an artificial shortage across the world. Yes we have seen all of those things in the past and they have caused queues of vehicles at petrol stations which have inevitably sold out and left customers high and dry, very dry in fact.

I think I recall two occasions during my lifetime when there was formal petrol rationing with vouchers. I remember the second time when my father opened the envelope and there were his vouchers. He pulled open his office drawer and rifled amongst the papers and then produced a small bundle of papers which he described as “here are my ration vouchers from the last war”!

Perish the thought that we should ever have to go through that again as a society and I bet there are an awful lot of people around just at the moment who wish they had electric cars!

But whose fault is it really? The government say there is a shortage of lorry drivers. We see lorry drivers and firms coming up on platforms like Facebook who maintain that there is no shortage of lorry drivers. Quite to what they impute the present panic is uncertain. The government say they will allow in 5000 temporary lorry drivers to get us over the hump.

If you think about it, is this plan actually going to work? They are talking about EU lorry drivers. Does that mean “only” EU lorry drivers or can they come from elsewhere, and if they could come from elsewhere will they have licences equivalent to the British licence? Will they in fact have to exchange their own national licences for a British one? Probably those coming from the EU will not. But if you were a lorry driver in the EU with a nice job already, why would you want to give that up just to come to Britain to be thrown out again on Christmas Eve, when may be your existing job no longer exists?

In reality should this situation have been foreseen? It is clear that testing was suspended during the lockdown. That was obviously well known to government. How did they propose to manage the shortage that that alone created?

And what about Brexit? Brexit is inevitably a contributor to the problem – not the sole cause or even a major cause but a significant number of drivers did go home, partly because of Brexit and partly because of covid.

And is the shortage of drivers because the conditions for drivers have not been that good?

It is wearying to have to cope with situations like the present rush on fuel; just like it is silly to find that we do not have enough people to pick our fruit and vegetables and it always seems to be after the event that these facts emerge. I know we don’t have crystal balls but surely industry and government between them can foresee these crises and take avoiding action before they actually become a crisis?

Why does government always move so slowly? Is it that government is filled with endemic abominable no-man civil servants? If business were to respond so slowly to changing circumstances we would probably see a lot more insolvencies.

And what back up contingency arrangements does government have in place? At what point would it be a good idea to bring in the army to drive lorries? Surely if the army has a civil contingency section, as was announced on television today, then let’s use these guys, get the job done and recover some revenue for the Ministry of Defence. What’s not to like about that? Win win all around. What else are they doing? With the exit from Afghanistan we have extra manpower available now.

Sorry – forgot about the abominable no-man. I am sure he is in the mix somewhere.

What government needs is a crystal ball department, the duty of which is to foresee eventualities and help life to advance more smoothly.

Adrian Leopard     27-09-21

Photo Precious Madubuike

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