Ricky added; “The level of unemployment is rising rapidly but it hasn’t even started to bite yet. Their austerity measures have been too harsh and it’s scandalous that 700,000 jobs could go before 2015, at a cost of £14billion. The Tories say they want people back to work but look at what they have done with companies like Bombardier. They awarded the Thameslink deal to German firm Siemens and Bombardier have lost the contract and had to axe 1,400 jobs. Those train builders are facing the dole queue. It doesn’t make sense.
“It was the last factory of its kind, and now they, along with tens of thousands of others, will be thrown on to the scrap-heap because those jobs will never be recreated. It’s the same as when Thatcher closed the mines and the Tory government said they were going to reinvest the money but they did nothing. Those pits are now wastelands and the kids that live in those areas are into drugs as they have nothing else to do.
“My old primary school is now a park full of drug addicts. Ministers are letting rundown areas rot. They don’t care about the working classes. We’ve always been expendable, whether it’s war or jobs. Now people are starting to realise it, the Tories won’t get in at the next election. But four years is a long time to wait.”
Ricky is proud of his work-class roots having started work as a plasterer. He was heavily involved in Britain’s first builders’ strike in 1972 ending up being sent to prison for two years charged with “conspiracy to intimidate”. Finding himself blacklisted from many building sites he decided to turn his hand to acting and went on to make his name as Bobby Grant in Brookside. From there he became the country’s favourite couch-potato Jim Royle, in The Royal Family.
Ricky has had to undergo a quadruple heart bypass and so has seen for himself the grim reality of the NHS. “The NHS is getting murdered under this government,” he says. “They are privatising it through the back door and I fear for the younger generation. I was a sickly little lad and I remember my Mam taking me to the doctors. She had to give him half a crown. We daren’t go back to people having to pay. The NHS is fabulous. It’s the best in the world. It’s not broke, so why change it? Instead of spending money on bombs, they should be spending it on hospitals.”
Ricky is Liverpool through and through being born less than a mile from Liverpool’s football ground. Recalling his childhood he said; “The toilet was outside and we had to light a candle and rip squares off the Liverpool Echo newspaper to wipe our arses with. I had never seen proper toilet paper. On a Saturday night, Mam would bring the ‘bungalow bath’ in and put it front of the fire. Me and my three other brothers would take it in turns to have a bath. I’d follow my eldest brother Albert and my two younger brothers David and Ronny went after. Mam held down three jobs and Dad was a baker. We had nowt but Mam would save up so we could have a little turkey with all the trimmings at Christmas and a bottle of non-alcoholic wine. We all had a glass and thought we were the bees’ knees!
“We had nothing, but we had everything. I have a six-year-old grandson Louis and I spoil him. Kids get so much now, but do they have as much fun as we had with our wooden swords?”
Here at the Bear Sanctuary we have always thought that whenever Ricky speaks he makes a great deal of sense. Maybe he should have gone into politics himself. Then again we couldn’t really have a Politian in office who actually makes sense could we? I am pretty sure it would be against the law and just imagine during a heated debate in the House of Commons and Ricky’s voice booming out with; “Cut NHS funding my arse!”