'Where were ice creams when we wanted them?'
Former Kent Business reporter Philip Pitt, now in a
senior role with British Airways, returned to his Kentish roots for
a family holiday. He wonders whether a missed business opportunity
confirmed claims the UK does not work hard enough.
Are you working harder? Then I'll begin.
On the last, lazy day in August, the holidaymakers and
day-trippers to Folkestone's sandy beach are thinking about packing
up for the day.
It's time for a final treat – an ice cream or a lolly to enjoy
while mum and dad knock down the windbreak and put away the
But at 5.15pm on Friday, August 31, the last ice cream is just a
little out of reach. The shop staff are diligently bringing in the
displays and readying the shutters. A polite enquiry about buying
an ice cream is met with a polite reply.
"Sorry, but we're closing."
There is still money to be made, customers to be satisfied.
"Sorry, we're closing."
No ice cream then? Well, the more perseverant wander off
down the quayside just in case there might be somewhere else still
open for business.
And there is. A splendid kiosk selling a range of flavours for a
reasonable price which nestles in the shadow of the now crumbling
viaduct that used to carry the boat trains over the harbour.
The cheerful girl behind the counter is still fresh and
attentive despite putting in a seven-hour shift, and kindly makes
another ice cream (with a flake) for the child who dropped theirs
on the floor after the second lick; no extra charge.
Mental note: we'll come back here next time even if it means
walking past the shop closest to the beach. Hard work pays off.
A bunch of young-turk Tory MPs contend we should all be working
harder. In a book dubbed "Britannia Unchained" they lay out the
case for making it easier for us all to work harder.
An excerpt reads: "The British are among the worst idlers in the
world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our
productivity is poor.
"Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen,
the British are more interested in football and pop music."
They build their case on the type of right-leaning thinking that
got the Conservatives branded "the nasty party" almost a generation
It is a vision of less regulation, much looser employment laws
and the sacrifice of a number of key welfare provisions, not least
the minimum wage.
The authors are members of a larger group of Conservative MPs
called Free Enterprise which includes Dover MP Charlie Elphicke and
South Thanet's Laura Sandys.
There are many well-appointed chief executives who point
longingly towards the attitude of the Far East where workers have
many opportunities but few rights.
Some contend the starting gun on a race to the bottom has
already been fired and that all of us here in the west need to get
used to harder work and less security.
But it's not a very appealing vision. A friend of mine from
Brazil tells me the scene described on the Folkestone seafront
would never happen in her country – not at the moment.
Do the ice cream kiosks stay open longer in Rio? "No, the middle
class are so fearful of losing their jobs if they take a holiday;
that they never take a holiday."