If you’ve been furloughed or laid off, the government is hoping you’ll help pick fruit and vegetables. Yup, those sunlit uplands we were promised have truly arrived early.
At the beginning of this pandemic, the government launched a #PickforBritain campaign, where they encouraged students, the recently furloughed or people who had lost their jobs to help pick fruit and vegetables in the countryside that would otherwise go to waste.
Travel restrictions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have meant that the group of people who usually do it – often underpaid, overworked labourers from various parts of Europe – are not able to do so this time around. This message also came a day after Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, trumpeted a new post-Brexit immigration bill, which would end freedom of movement from the EU.
In order to promote the campaign, prince Charles (yes, future King and obscenely wealthy prince Charles) appeared in a video, where he asked people to help pick out British fruit and vegetables.
If the last few weeks have proved anything, it is that food is precious and valuable.
The government has been asking people to join in and help pick produce for months, partially as concerns around food left to rot have started to rise.
On Twitter, many people were quick to point out the irony of a monarch asking people to do such taxing work.
People also pointed out that this outcome – where British people were called in to do the jobs that immigrants have typically done – was what some Brexiteers wanted all along, so they should be volunteering first.
But even if you put your cynicism aside and wanted to help out, it turns out that there was actually very little chance you would be able to do so.
The website, PickforBritain.org, crashed minutes after George Eustice, an MP and the Environment Secretary, urged people to visit it.
People who visited the website found that it went down for several minutes at a time, and that if you did get through, it seemed to have 3 random jobs which weren’t really fruit picking related. DEFRA, the ministry responsible, says it’s working on the issue.
But even Eustice’s involvement in the Pick for Britain campaign seemed to be somewhat hypocritical. As an MP, he voted to restrict freedom of movement for EU workers – many of whom would be the primary workforce in these fields – and is an ardent Brexiteer. He also owns a fruit farm.