Carol Midgley in THE TIMES, 24 March 2021
Have a care for the BBC employees who have been told that their jobs are being relocated — brace your stomachs — outside London. Do take a moment if you’re feeling queasy. Some jobs are moving to Birmingham and Cardiff, others to Leeds, Glasgow, Salford and doubtless Hell itself, and many people are horrified, as well they might be now that they must gain five stone in weight and keep a rusty fridge and a stained mattress in their front garden just to fit in.
Incidentally, I have a spare rusty fridge if anyone needs one. I could drop it off on my mobility scooter, which we all get on benefits for being obese. See how friendly we are? I’ll even throw another rat on the barbecue as a welcome and send next door’s six-year-old out to buy our fags.
But, alas, I sense a repeat of ten years ago when the BBC sought a vicar because some staff were so traumatised at moving two hours north from Euston that they might need counselling. Last week a Radio 1 Newsbeat reporter was quoted as saying: “Good luck trying to get young, exciting journalists to move to Digbeth.” How rude! As a once young but never remotely exciting journalist I schlepped around to work in Wigan, Preston, Lancaster and Manchester before moving to London, then back north again, but did you ever hear me whinge? Actually, I rarely stopped, but never mind that. News doesn’t only happen in London, although you might get the impression that it does.
Look, I am genuinely sorry for anyone who has lost their job or must face uprooting and moving away from their friends and family (although the big bosses aren’t, obviously. They’re staying put in London near the Groucho Club). But this is only what thousands of workers have done for decades in reverse, being forced to leave families and friends behind in the provinces because all the jobs were in London. Did anyone think of them every night with a Pot Noodle in their single room in Rayners Lane? Would it be news if it were biscuit factory workers having to relocate? When I worked for a supermarket managers had to do it all the time, often at the drop of a hat.
And cheer up. It’s not so bad “outside London”, where there may even be the odd cocktail bar, although don’t quote me on that. Don’t believe those clichés about us keeping our coal in the bath. Of course we don’t! That’s where we keep our cans of Asda own-brand lager and maybe a pet snake. I once told an acquaintance moving from London to Leeds and gutted at leaving behind the “cool, exciting people” that there are cool, exciting people in Leeds too. “Yes,” she said sorrowfully, “but not the right cool, exciting people.”
But hush. You’ll soon get used to seeing news of Britain’s scorching heatwave on TV (translation: it’s hot in London) when you are sitting shivering in thermals with a dewdrop on your nose. And don’t worry, we do have “schools” up here, some of them not even in special measures. Your daughter will probably be pregnant by the age of 13 anyway. Just think of the extra child benefit!
And, being serious now, have you considered that you might even be able to afford a place in which to live that isn’t a room measuring 8ft x 8ft and costing £800 a month in which you bend double, using an ironing board as a desk in the new “work from home” world? In London I doubt you even have a garden in which to put your stained mattress. Now you will have. See? The silver linings start here.