Comment – Divided. Conquered.

For decades, the demolition and construction industry has carved itself into little fiefdoms; exclusive members clubs that were open to a few but closed to the many.

The scaffolders are over there in their scaffolding silo; the piling contractors are over there in theirs; the groundworkers in theirs and – of course – at least some demolition contractors over yonder in theirs. Each discipline might work hand in glove on site; but away from site it has always been on a “never the twain shall meet” basis.

Each little fiefdom was fiercely protective of its little empire in the grand construction scheme; each fiefdom largely refusing to comply with any idea or innovation that wasn’t self-invented, regardless of how good or necessary.

Then came a single change that threatened the very livelihood of them all; that made no distinction between groundworkers or demolition contractors. Suddenly, each of those tiny silos of limited influence realised that their endless pursuit of fierce independence was, in fact, a self-imposed divide and conquer strategy.

When that threat arrived in the shape of the impending abolition of the tax rebate on red diesel fuel, those fiefdoms each found themselves disunited, disorganised, and utterly lacking in true influence. Alone.

And when that day arrived, as it has now, those exclusive little empires each sought to emulate one of two varieties of bird: they either buried their head in the sand ostrich-style; or they ran around like a chicken freshly separated from its head.

It could all have been so different. If those little empires had been run by and for their inhabitants rather than for their emperors; if those fiefdoms had realised that there was strength in numbers; and if they had got past their insistence that everyone within is a friend while everyone without is a mortal enemy, then perhaps they could have formed a united front to see off our common enemy.

Sadly, I fear it is now too late. Through the lack of foresight of the UK government, the greed of the fuel producers and the tragic events now unfolding in Ukraine, fuel prices are about to hit a level that will make it difficult for some companies and impossible for others. As a result, some companies will be driven out of business, shrinking those tiny fiefdoms and their already limited influence still further.

If only they could have seen beyond the self-built walls of their silos, they might have realised that they were not alone after all.