I WAS down that there London on Wednesday, where the streets are still paved with cardboard and vagrants.
St Pancras is one of the great buildings of the capital, but I couldn’t tell if it was a squatter’s village or the novel relocation of Shaw Cross tip out front.
Sad. Dick Whittington would have kicked his cat and gotten a grip when he was Lord Mayor of London, back in those heady days when England’s green and pleasant lands were ours, all ours, and a bloke could go down a different pit every day and dig coal to his heart’s content. Spoiled for choice!
That was actually one of the findings of a Demos survey into the attitudes of England’s silent, middle-aged majority, and why I was invited down to a debate on BBC2’s Newsnight.
“People had it better in Victorian times when there was job security and proper community,” was one sample of feedback the Demos researchers got.
If nothing else, that goes to show how much rubbish people can spout. Sixteen hours a day, six days a week, for a subsistence wage was regular as clockwork alright. Shame you’d a broken back by the time you reached 40 and the kids all had rickets.
Still, there is undoubtedly a massive disconnect in this country and Demos – pleasingly – found people of my age and background resent being blamed for all this self-entitled younger generation’s imagined woes.
The rump of white Christian British people have had their promised old age stolen from them, are blamed for cluttering hospital wards (that they’ve paid for) while politicians determinedly ignore the huge pressures of unfettered immigration and booming migrant births, and when they’re confronted with uncomfortable truths, lie their way out of it yet again.
People distrust the lot of them? Consider politicians self-serving serial liars? Well slap my stockinged thigh and go to the foot of our stairs!
Our values and culture are ridiculed. Police, politicians and bureaucrats have so overdone positive discrimination and political correctness that minorities of all bents now exist in surly expectation, and when tensions regularly arise, we’re told we have to give more and try harder.
And we’re a tad miffed at that? It’s a flaming wonder we’re not up in arms.
A young man on the show, Areeq Choudhury, is pleasant enough off camera – he was busy telling Boris Johnson’s dad Stanley about my ‘Islamic Republic’ book when I entered the Green Room.
Stanley chortled, delighted. “Where’s Chootsberry?” he asked me. Nuff said.
Young Areeq is another of the legion of bright young things trying to make a name and a niche out of being a social visionary, leveraged mostly by his ethnicity. Shahid Malik or Sayeeda Warsi with a posher accent.
He clearly considers people like me and the Demos millions everything that’s wrong with England, if not the world and decided he’d make his impression on the show by using the F bomb.
It was contrived, out of context, a brazen ‘me, me’ stunt. He was delighted with himself, too self-obsessed to see he was legitimising the frustrations of his elders – and yes, his betters, too.
Which brings us back to the lack of respect, the disconnect, the unrecognisable local landscapes in towns like Dewsbury, Batley and across the country, which result in the people who have powered this nation for 50 years and more feeling left behind and taken for granted.
Our broadcast time elapsed before the next scheduled quote to debate – about wine bars replacing insurance and banking in Leeds.
Too many wine bars? Well pop my Prosecco cork! Nine miles down the road there’s a town centre with three pubs that had 30 and not a restaurant worth calling one. Not even a decent curry house, for crying out loud. Even the muggers go round in pairs after dark.
I was reassured that the Demos report found my brethren fair-minded, not overtly racist and resilient, determined to battle on.
That cheered me, but ultimately I was still left downhearted – because this report, which to most of us was only stating the bleedin’ obvious, won’t make a blind bit of difference.
No-one cares, no-one’s listening and unfortunately right now we don’t have a choice worth calling one.
Come the revolution my friends, come the revolution … can you mount a machine gun on a zimmer frame?
Failing that who’ll vote for my new Fab 50-plus Party?
PS: And please don’t tell Mrs L, but I’m a bit smitten by Emily Maitlis.
I GOT some funny looks over in Aldi the other day.
Even Batley’s shoplifters were dropping their fillet stakes (highly recommended by the way) to stare at this over 50s bloke who looked like he had bits of TV make-up artists’ foundation patched about his bald bonce.
The fool was patently talking, out loud, to a neatly packaged 1kg serving of chicken breasts (a bargain at £5.95, perfect when added to a jalfrezi or balti sauce from Spices & Rices, just up the road on Commercial Street). Here’s how the admittedly one-sided conversation went: “Okay chucky, listen up. I don’t mind trimming, dicing and adding you to a tasty and aromatic supper, but on one condition. You tell that plastic packaging of yours that under no circumstances is it to go swimming in the North Sea, or any other sea for that matter. Yes, we all love dolphins, but love can kill, chucky. Deal or no deal?”
Listen, there are no dead sea turtles on my conscience. All our waste gets appropriately recycled or binned and I suspect the UK is hugely under-represented in global plastic dumping. So quit the populist, ‘We All Love David Attenborough’ posturing Mrs May, and try to find out how plastic gets in oceans and deal with the real culprits. It wasn’t the takeaway tray wot did it, guvnor.
PS: Note to Spices & Rices and Aldi. Sponsorship positions are available at modest rates...
DO YOU remember when we were kids playing football on the rec or at school, lining up for two ‘captains’ to pick sides?
In the peerless film Kes, bullyboy PE teacher Brian Glover, resplendent in his Manchester Utd Bobby Charlton shirt (“Denis Law is in the wash, lad!”) picks all his favourites, opts to play downfield with the wind at his back, kick off and referee as well. He only recruits the pathetic Billy Casper because he’s the last woeful child standing.
Billy doesn’t mind. He hates football. He pulls his oversized borrowed shorts over his shivering, anorexic frame, and tries to keep warm by swinging from the goalposts. My hero.
There was more than a bit of ‘picking teams’ for the PM this week, Theresa May starting the year with her best Brian Glover impression. She ended it swinging on her own No.10 goalposts with her knickers over her head, trying to cover her embarrassment. The poor woman’s dying a death by a thousand cuts.
Her problem was that cast as PE and headteacher all in one for a Cabinet reshuffle, the rabble of kids picked their own sides. Some declined a ‘promotion’ while others refused detention, and many just ignored her altogether to join the short-skirted girls on the netball court.
A reaffirming of Mrs May’s iron will? A new year, new Tories? A same-old, same-old shambles more like.
It’s the football transfer window and TM the PM wanted to present a team fit to take the title.
We saw the equivalent of Manchester United signing half a dozen kids from Macclesfield Town.
Forgive me if I don’t jump up and down and wave my scarf. I can’t swing my old rattle, because I long ago threw it at the telly.
I don’t get invited to the Stranger’s Bar in the House of Commons since I offered to throw a pompous git in the Thames (he started it – and so what if he’s now a knight?) but if I did, all of Mrs May’s new cabinet ‘stars’ would be complete strangers to me.
Good luck moistening the nation’s gussets with that pair of big knickers, darling.