Yet another supply shortage is biting. Army tanker drivers remain on stand-by to deliver fuel to service stations which are running dry.
Despite an escalating situation at the start of the week, with key workers unable to get to work in vital services like the NHS, ministers appeared on TV to tell the public to "calm down" and stop panic-buying! They repeated ad nauseam that there was no shortage! But of course there is - at the point where fuel is needed. The government’s complacency has caused fury among exasperated workers who have to use vehicles for their jobs. Clearly these inept ministers are out of touch. Which is nothing new. But contrary to what news reporters say, this isn’t the same as a run on toilet paper. If fuel runs out, for whatever reason, immediate emergency measures are required.
Instead, the government stays in denial. Bland ministers like George Eustice were pushed forward to face questions they could not answer. He just said “no”, when asked if priority could be given to NHS staff.
At the weekend, Transport Secretary Shapps even blamed the whole problem on “coronavirus"! He and his fellow Tory MPs are turning themselves inside out to avoid admitting that Brexit has anything to do with the current crisis.
A more frank explanation came from German Social Democrat leader Olaf Scholz, when interviewed by Channel 4. Asked if Germany could help by sending drivers over, Scholz replied that free movement of labour was prevented by Brexit, so sorry, but no...
Poor wages and lousy working conditions obviously contribute to HGV driver shortages; roadside facilities and truck-stops are notoriously bad, compared to those in the EU. As many as 16,000 EU drivers went home just before the Brexit deadline and another 10,000 have gone since. Now, 20 months into the pandemic, road haulage associations say the driver-deficit is up to 100,000.
The government's response is compared to throwing “a thimbleful of water on a bonfire”. Willing applicants can’t even find the “fast track” licencing the government says it’s created. It has offered 5,000 "temporary" visas to lure EU drivers back and another 5,500 temporary visas for “poultry workers" to dress turkeys, apparently, so that Xmas won’t be “cancelled”. But they’d have to leave by Xmas Eve!
All this would qualify as hilarious satire if it wasn’t just one small aspect of the triple whammy of chronic economic crisis, Brexit and the pandemic - for which the working class is expected to pick up the tab. And as supplies shrink, prices grow. This general supply-chaos, which isn't just limited to Britain, is yet another symptom of an incurably sick capitalist system. It has to go!