Summer of Discontent

I suppose it is a good thing that we can’t afford for the unnamed grandchildren to visit their grandparents in America this summer. Since they are dual citizens they are required to enter the United States on their American passports, but upon returning they have to show their British passports. The older unnamed child is still waiting for the renewal of his British passport.

It’s been a long wait. The Unnamed Woman sent everything off to the passport office in plenty of time. She enclosed the required two photographs, taken in a photo booth which advertised that the photos could be used for passports. After the usual bureaucratic delay, we were informed that the photos were unacceptable, so another set would have to provided. They were “too light”, though the bureaucrats didn’t explain what they meant by this description.

The Unnamed Woman took the child to a professional photographer experienced in producing passport photos. This photographer had already produced photos to the more rigorous requirements of the US Passport Agency. Another set were dispatched. After another extended bureaucratic delay, another letter arrived, informing us that once again the photos were unacceptable.

After extended unproductive telephone conversations with the four or five different useless passport office apparatchiks, another set of photos was sent. Then nothing. Why? Because the passport workers went on strike. The result? A backlog of 150,000 applications.

The backlog will take well into August to clear, according to jubilant union officials, smugly pleased with themselves that the general public will feel the maximum impact of their industrial action and that thousands will lose out on their holidays. If they haven’t already bought their travel insurance, then potentially they will have lost all the money they have paid for that holiday, meaning there will be no way to make it up at a later date.

I can understand why passport workers are angry. None are getting better than a below-inflation pay rise – in effect a pay cut. The longest serving staff are getting no pay rise – real or imagined – for the fifth year in a row. It is interesting that the governing party is tied to the trade unions, yet has more trouble appeasing them than the Tories. Because there has been industrial action across this civil service this year, we could be headed for another Winter of Discontent.

The only question is whether Gordon Brown will be around as Prime Minister by that time. His Government is falling apart. A couple of days ago, the third safest Labour seat in Parliament was lost to the Scottish Nationalist Party in a by-election.  His own cabinet ministers are questioning his future and plotting his downfall.

For the first time in years, the Conservative Party is way ahead in the opinion polls. It appears that having finally convinced the country that they are greener and gayer than Labour, so there will be no challenge to the cherished values of the Left, the British population may very well be willing to give them another shot at governing.

Having lost most of my affinity for the Tories, I only want to see them in power to see the Red Rose lot out. I think the Government will run marginally more effectively and we may see a slow down on the road to totalitarianism, but no great change. I doubt they will even get the passport office to function more effectively.

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Government Profiteering Through Fees

I got my new passport today. I’m good to travel for another ten years.

I wanted to move my Indefinite Leave to Remain visa from my old passport to the new one. Seems like it would be a fairly straightforward procedure. Given everything I’ve paid in fees in the past, you would think it is would be free. Okay, maybe there would be a small administrative charge for the transferring the sticker, or even pasting a new one in the new passport.

Not exactly. There is a £160 fee. It’s like a 10-year recurring tax to be a taxpayer. But that’s for having it done by post. So I’ll just take in personally and have it done. Less administrative hassle for the bureaucrats, so a much cheaper fee, right?

Not exactly. The fee goes up. Way up. So what does the Government charge me for using my own petrol and taking time off work to make things easier for them? £500. There is an advantage to me though. I don’t have to wait up to 14 weeks to get my documents returned. So I suppose I’m paying for the privilege of not being prevented from traveling for three months.

But there’s more. Just as if I was applying to enter the UK for the first time, I have to answer the usual questions:

In times of either peace or war have you or any dependants included in this application ever been involved, or suspected of involvement, in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?

Have you or any dependants included in this application ever been involved in, supported or encouraged terrorist activities in any country?

Have you or any dependants included in this application ever been a member of, or given support to, an organisation which has been concerned in terrorism?

Why do they ask these questions? Do they honestly think that someone is going to be involved in genocide or terrorism and then admit to it on a government form? This is honestly sillier that then question at the airline check-in counter about whether you packed your own bag, as if you are suddenly going to remember that a strange Middle Eastern man showed up at your house and asked if he could pack your bag for you, just as a random act of kindness.

Fortunately, I don’t have to answer the questions (which wouldn’t be a problem) or pay the £160 (which would), as long as I keep my old passport with me. I just have to present both documents when I want to get back into the country. As I see it, why should I pay £160 when it is going to cost me £655 to apply for citizenship and it will take the same amount of time to process the application?

It is much cheaper to become an American citizen. $330 (or about £165). A replacement green card is $190 (£95). Is this just another example of Rip-off Britain?