RICHARD LITTLEJOHN on the Government's cashless society being potless

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: The Government is keen on electronic payments to keep tabs on every penny we spend… No wonder the cashless society is potless

The late Sunday Times restaurant reviewer A.A. (Adrian) Gill would always ask waiters and waitresses if they received the service charge routinely added to the bill.

If they said no, he’d cross it off and leave them a tip in cash. 

So it’s probably fair to assume that Adrian would have been horrified at the way in which Covid has accelerated the rush to convert Britain into a cashless society.

The hospitality industry has been especially hard hit by lockdown. Restaurant and bar staff have suffered more than most because furlough payments don’t take gratuities into account.

Cash transactions are down everywhere, partly as a result of the unfounded scare stories which alleged you could catch coronavirus from coins and banknotes.

Some shops will only accept electronic payments and there are predictions cash could die out altogether within a decade.

Having closed hundreds of branches in recent years, banks are now withdrawing ATMs to encourage us to pay by card.

Call me old-fashioned, but this is an alarming trend. Yes, tapping a card is far more convenient for both shoppers and retailers. 

Having closed hundreds of branches in recent years, banks are now withdrawing ATMs to encourage us to pay by card. Call me old-fashioned, but this is an alarming trend

But money makes the world go round and cash is a vital lubricant in any civilised society. I feel undressed without cash on the hip.

In a modern service economy, you need walking-about money to tip cabbies, waiters, doormen and assorted tradesmen.

OK, so I’m not as extravagant as Steve Martin, playing a mob informant in witness protection billeted in a hick town in the movie My Blue Heaven, who draws attention to himself by tipping, New York-style, everyone from flight attendants to supermarket check-out staff.

He tells his astonished FBI handler: ‘It’s not tipping I believe in, it’s over-tipping.’

But I was once with a group of Spurs fans on tour who tried to bribe our way into a council car park in Coventry. 

The old boy on the gate was somewhat surprised to find a £20 note being pressed into his hand, especially as the car park was not only empty, but free.

Some people, especially at HMRC, frown on tipping as a form of tax avoidance. But to my mind, it’s simply good manners.

The reason the Government and large corporations are so keen on electronic payment systems is that it allows them to keep tabs on every penny we spend, where and how.

The other downside is that people lose all track of how much anything costs. 

In a modern service economy, you need walking-about money to tip cabbies, waiters, doormen and assorted tradesmen

Before Covid, I was in a pub near the Barbican in the City of London with my wife and a couple of friends.

I ordered two glasses of white wine, one of red, a large VAT and told the barman to take a drink for himself.

I pulled out two £20 notes. Not enough, unfortunately. The bill came to £43 something. I just started laughing. Looking around, the only other person paying cash was a bloke about my age.

The bar was packed with young people drinking like there was no tomorrow and paying for each round by pinging their cards on to an electronic terminal.

It occurred to me that none of them could have had any idea of how much they were spending — until the statement arrived at the end of the month.

No wonder personal debt is through the roof — up to more than £1.7 billion at the end of April this year, according to the latest official figures. 

The cashless society is potless.

Younger people are accustomed to paying by card for even minor purchases such as newspapers and chocolate. My twentysomething nephew never carries cash.

The good news is that the Treasury has promised to protect access to cash and signed up thousands of firms pledging to continue accepting it. Pictured: Chancellor Rishi Sunak

But those of us longer in the tooth still like to know where our money is going, and what everything costs.

When I started work, 50-odd years ago, my dad gave me a £1 note to keep in the back of my wallet ‘for emergencies’, which in those days would have been more than enough for a taxi home.

It may be an irrational fear, but how often do we hear of computer glitches crashing websites and payment systems? 

And I’ve got so many pins and passwords I can’t remember which one is which. You’re never alone when you’re holding folding.

The good news is that the Treasury has promised to protect access to cash and signed up thousands of firms pledging to continue accepting it.

And Dean Russell, Tory MP for Watford, has tabled a Bill preventing restaurants from keeping tips and service charges intended for staff. 

Adrian Gill would have approved.

Remember when Project Fear gloated that the people of Sunderland would live to regret voting Leave? 

They warned that the city’s big employer Nissan would up sticks and move to Europe if we quit the EU. 

They were almost willing it to happen to punish those ‘low-information’ racist morons for backing Brexit.

This week, Nissan announced that far from shutting up shop in the North-East, it was investing £1 billion in a new battery factory in Sunderland, creating 6,200 jobs.

The deal has reportedly been sealed by a £500 million grant from the British Government, something which would have been impossible if we’d backed Remain.

Turns out the optimistic Leave voters of Sunderland had far more faith in their future than the cynical scaremongers of Project Fear.

Rishi and Sajid are born to run 

Boris Johnson continues to dig himself into an even deeper hole over the Matt Hancock affair. 

In the Commons, he contemptuously dismissed the former Health Secretary’s scandalous hypocrisy as ‘stuff going on in the Westminster bubble’.

If that’s what the Prime Minister genuinely believes then he needs to get out of his Downing Street bunker more. 

His usually reliable antennae for the mood of the nation has gone horribly haywire.

I was struck by a photo of Javid with his ambitious protege Rishi Sunak, currently Chancellor but with his sights on No 10. They were grinning from ear to ear

Meanwhile Hancock’s replacement Sajid Javid is enjoying instant popularity by promising that all restrictions will be lifted once and for all on July 19.

I was struck by a photo of Javid with his ambitious protege Rishi Sunak, currently Chancellor but with his sights on No 10. 

They were grinning from ear to ear. 

In 1974, the rock critic Jon Landau wrote after attending a concert by a young singer/songwriter: ‘I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.’ 

Landau went on to become Springsteen’s manager and mentor.

Looking at that picture of The Saj and Dishi Rishi, I thought: I have seen the Conservative Party’s future —and it doesn’t include Boris Johnson…

As if we haven’t got enough trouble with the Northern Ireland Protocol already, now there’s a new cause for concern.

African beetles are apparently making their way into the United Kingdom across the open border with the Republic.

The Small Hive Beetles originate in sub-Saharan Africa and are believed to have arrived in Ireland via Italy, where they have wiped out thousands of bee colonies.

They have also caused havoc in Australia and the U.S. The beetles are thought to stow away in deliveries of bees from Italy.

Even though Italian bee imports to Northern Ireland have been banned since Brexit, the lack of checks on the border means they could still sneak through in large numbers.

With Ulster’s marching season getting under way in earnest, there’s potential for trouble if swarms of African beetles run into Orange Lodge parades.

The clashes could make the sausage wars look like a Teddy Bears’ picnic.

The Government is spending £100 million on an anti-obesity campaign. 

Why? Surely people are already well aware that if they stuff their faces with doughnuts and junk food, they’ll get fat. 

And if they get fat, they’re more likely to get sick. 

Nor do we need the Nanny State wasting millions telling gutbuckets what to eat, or else they’ll end up looking like Homer Simpson 

You don’t need a weatherman and all that. 

Nor do we need the Nanny State wasting millions telling gutbuckets what to eat, or else they’ll end up looking like Homer Simpson. 

It’s their funeral. Doh! 

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