Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, yesterday bemoaned the sight of ‘Spanish families sleeping rough in London’ at the UK’s Institute of Directors Conference. ‘I was going along the canal the other day on my bike,’ he said, ‘and I came across a family from Spain. I’d never seen in all my time as mayor a Spanish family destitute and homeless in London before.’
He went on to say, ‘The guy was from Malaga. He was in construction. He had absolutely lost hope of finding anything – unemployment there is about 40 per cent. And he’d washed up in Hackney and I felt it was a real tragedy. The guy could barely speak English. You wouldn’t have had that ten years ago before the euro began … This whole euro project has been a real disaster for the union and it will take a very, very long time to sort out.’
Boris may be right – but what about the Brits sleeping rough in Spain? It’s impossible to sleep here. Even when we do get to bed, which is rarely before 2am, the fireworks, constant music, screeching scooters, car horns and barking dogs ensure that there’s little chance of any sleep … which is why the Spanish invented the siesta. To sleep whilst the rest of Europe is working. Which is why Spain is in the state it is in. The euro seems to have worked in some countries, but not others – certainly not in the eurozone of the PIGS, thanks largely to a Mediterranean-attitude (excluding Ireland) of … sorry, but it’s true … ‘mañana, mañana’. What attracts tourists and travellers to Spain – that sun-drenched mañana-spirit – is also its downfall. I love Spain but they need to change so many ‘Spanish practices’ and offer more than a ‘relaxing cup of café con leche’ if they are to compete with the rest of Europe.
I would like to know what time Boris was cycling along the canal. Was it siesta time? Of course it is tragic to be ‘washed up in Hackney’ – but actually if the ‘guy’ is in construction, then he’s far more likely to find work in and around Hackney than in Malaga, whether he speaks English or not. He made the right decision. There’s no work for him in Spain. None at all. There won’t be any work for anyone in Spain soon … so Boris might find us all sleeping alongside his canal as he potters by on his bike.