We’re All in It Together

Fernando Torres, a footballer, moved home yesterday. He moved from Liverpool Football Club to Chelsea Football Club, a distance of about 200 miles. For this no doubt considerable inconvenience to Mr Torres it’s reported that Chelsea paid £50m. The story has made the national ‘news’ in England because it’s the first time the £50m barrier has been broken for a transfer fee in the domestic football market.

In 1979, Andy Gray (recently in the headlines for what must be the most ludicrous non-story of the year) achieved similar notoriety. He moved home from Aston Villa to Wolverhampton Wanderers (a far more manageable 7 or 8 miles) for what was then the highest transfer fee ever paid between British football clubs – £1.5m.

In 1979 factory work was a fairly well paid job in England. In Grantham, for example, where I live, there were several sizeable factories employing significant numbers of people. They were factories that made highly engineered products requiring people with considerable skill to make them. The town has a proud engineering history (though we’ll draw a veil over the fact that it produced the first battlefield tanks, and remained an arms maker into the 1980’s). Workers normally worked a standard forty hour week with weekend work paid at overtime rates. Now I don’t know what the average wage was for a general operative back then, and it isn’t easy to find out, but if I said about £3 an hour, I’m probably slightly overestimating.

Today all of those big factories have now died (murdered would be a slightly more accurate description); but there are a few small engineering firms doing quite well in the town (green shoots of recovery and all that). I don’t know what general operatives are paid there these days, and I can’t be bothered to find out; but if I said it was about £7 an hour, I would probably be exaggerating (given that the minimum wage is currently £5.91, and modern employers are not famous for paying much more than absolutely necessary).

Now then, 1979 was quite a significant year for something else; for that was the year that a grocer’s daughter became the first female Prime Minister of Britain. And Thatcherism was born. “We’re all in it together” could have been a catch phrase her army of propagandists might have employed as she rolled up her sleeves and set about decimating the bedrock of the British economy – its industry.

Today’s equivalent of Andy Gray costs his employer more than thirty times what would have been paid in 1979. If a factory worker’s wages had increased at a similar rate, she would be on about £100 an hour.

Of course we’re all in it together. I never doubted it for a minute.

John is a writer and political activist based in England. He can be contacted through his website. His main contribution comprises three free-to-use works-in-progress: The People’s Constitution, The School of Kindness, and EnMo Economics . Read other articles by John.

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  1. mary said on February 3rd, 2011 at 3:25am #

    ‘We’re all in it together” could have been a catch phrase her army of propagandists might have employed as she rolled up her sleeves and set about decimating the bedrock of the British economy – its industry.’

    Well said although you omit mention of the privatisation of the state owned electricity, gas, water and telecoms utilities.

    ‘We are all in it together’ can be added to Gary Corseri’s list in his recent piece here on memes.

    I have just read *Derek Martin’s ‘Britain. Incipient Fascist State.’ So true as Thatcher’s children, Cameron and Clegg, flog off what’s left, such as our much loved Health Service and now our forests and woodlands, knowing that the concocted majority in the so-called Mother of Parliaments will get the legislation through. Neither the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats had a mandate but stitched up the coalition after an inconclusive election.

    Even privatisation in the operation of the welfare and benefits systems is in place.

    * {http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23055}