I inadvertently jumped the queue at our bakery yesterday, to loud complaints. ‘Who do you think you are, a Romanian?’ and ‘Watch it, lad, we’ll set Mrs May on you.’
At the back of the queue I found my friend Sidney, laughing. He consoled me. ‘Don’t worry, Dave. When we have our bread on merit, you’ll get that last sourdough you’re after.’
Sidney stopped smiling then. He was puzzled.
‘It’s the flow of history, Dave, it’s not a smooth stream, is it,’ he said. Did I remember Norman Tebbit, sidekick of Mrs Thatcher, and his expectation that we should get on our bikes and look for work?
Was it about the time that Raleigh stopped making bikes in Nottingham, and when they started flogging off the council houses that helped people find homes in new areas?
‘That’s it, Dave. Well, it’s all consigned to the dustbin now. Theresa’s telling us that people moving to fill jobs that need doing is a bad thing after all, unless you come from Mars or at least the other side of the world. Theresa has been on the case of the French and Bulgarians and such like for eight years, and now her plan’s all come good.'
'And they’re going to scrap HS2, because it will make it too easy to go from the Home Counties to work in Manchester or Leeds and vice-versa. Why should a la-di-dah engineer from Imperial College be allowed to jump the queue and work in the Northern Powerhouse ahead of someone from Wagga Wagga or Rawalpindi? Mind you, that Gove isn’t happy.'
'Oh yes, he’s pretty conflicted about this, because he says the Aussies with all their air miles have too big a carbon footprint. And they’re liable to eat too much red meat, though he admits that argument won’t wash for Theresa’s favoured software wallah from India, who’s quite likely to be vegetarian.'
Sid had mentioned a plan. The word ‘plan’ seemed a bit of a stretch.
‘Oh no, Dave. Theresa thought it up at Holy Communion one Sunday apparently, when she became Home Secretary in 2010. Blame the EU that we cannot let in non-EU folk, then when we leave the EU, countries like India and Australia will be so grateful that the queues just got shorter at Heathrow border that they’ll give us cracking trade deals that will almost replace the trade we now have with Luxembourg.’
Stunning, I had to admit. Though hadn’t hundreds of thousands of non-EU folk arrived on Mrs May’s watch, anyway?
‘Just poor execution, not the plan itself.
‘But the other thing I worry about, Dave, is whether Theresa’s Aussie engineers and her Indian chappies will be any good looking after me when I get dementia, which, when I hear the news, seems to be happening to me already. They’re going to have to multi-task like billy-o, because they’ll also need to pick the strawberries. By the time those nice Romanians who pop over every year get to the front of the queue, the crop will have rotted.’
Just then Sidney was able to buy his cottage loaf. I had to settle for rye with spelt, the sourdough having long gone.
‘And this queue stuff, Dave,' Sid said as we parted, 'I don't get it. The Tories always defend people who jump the queue when they go private for their hip replacements. So jumping can’t be all bad.
‘And we’d have had even longer queues at bus stops had not all those Polish bus drivers turned up when they did, so it seems to me that this lot are a bit muddled about queues. It’s probably because they’ve no experience of them, only what their nannies and au pairs tell them when they get held up down Knightsbridge.’