Ed Lines – May 24, 2019

Ed Lines – May 24, 2019

I WORRY for today’s young people, and not because plastic bags will strangle every fish in the sea, or Chinese power stations will choke everything on the planet to death.

So many of them are lumping themselves with upwards of £50,000 of student debt only to find themselves sat on a sofa aged 22, picking their noses, shouting at the lousy ending to Game of Thrones, without a single clue where their lives go next.

A degree in history and philosophy? Oh, of course ... world shortage of them. Media studies and journalism has never been a more popular degree, at a time when newspapers and magazines are like health and safety officers on the Titanic, turfing everyone overboard.

You won’t be surprised that I blame Tony Blair. While his sidekick Gordon Brown was giving away the nation’s gold reserves and robbing our pension funds blind, Blair was busy turning universities into a racketeering industry and brainwashing a generation of young people that they had to go.

£9,000+ a year for about six hours contact per week with a bored-stiff lecturer who couldn’t hold down a proper job in the real world? And about four or five months a year on ‘study leave’ while your parents are conned into paying 12 months of a student rental? 

It’s daylight robbery and I wouldn’t mind but most lectures are online anyway, so the students don’t even have to drag their sorry backside out of the putrid bed they only crawled into at 4am, after Tuesday’s pound-a-pint night. (Open University – do it from home while working. That’s my answer).

But like the Pied Piper, millions of kids with no intellectual ambition beyond getting to the next level on their Xbox game, followed Blair’s lure and wasted three or four valuable years of their lives and landed themselves with an unpayable debt. Not all, obviously, probably not even most, but still too many.

So here we are, the end of May and it’s GCSE, A-Level and Uni dissertation time, and I feel for all of them – even the brainboxes who thrive on the pressure and challenge (they need recalibrating a wee bit to the pound-a-pint side).

I was one of the lucky ones. Ever since Mrs Merry sent me up from St Paulinus Infants to read a story I’d written to the junior school classes, there was only one way I wanted to make a living. And so having bombed my O-Levels I found myself in the newspaper game – lugging bundles of them round a John Menzies warehouse.

Trust exam time to roll around just when the teen hormones started exploding like Bonfire Night fireworks, and you’d found a pub you could get served in (the Savile Hotel, Old Anchor and Navvy in Mirfield). 

Disaster, although at least it was the kick in the pants I needed to finish my education after what would now be termed a ‘gap year’ and the rest, as they say, is history.

However, after 41 years in the business, it seems I must now put my hand up and admit to having been a complete fraud all along. I’ve just done a grammar test in a Sunday newspaper, based on the ones current 10 and 11-year-old schoolchildren face.

I got 8 out of 10 – not bad, but not great for a veteran editor – but I confess I correctly guessed half of them because I wouldn’t know a fronted adverbial, subordinating conjunction or a modal verb from a Massey Ferguson tractor.

On one hand I’m impressed that attention to the three Rs is so rigorous, but on the other hand, it begs the question why media graduates with £50k of debt can’t construct a decent CV. 

Or maybe it’s just me who doesn’t ‘get’ their subordinating conjunctions…

THE bottle of exotically flavoured gin and a few days of loving attention, impromptu cuddles and pecks on the cheek didn’t work the wonders anticipated, I’m afraid. 

Although she was a wavering Remainer in 2016 who was showing Brexiteer inclinations for yesterday’s EU vote (no-one except me admits how they voted in our house) Mrs L was distinctly unimpressed with the idea of Nigel Farage’s upstart party taking on the Westminster establishment in a general election. She was positively freezing cold towards the gentle hint that hubby might throw his hat in the ring.

I’d have thought the idea of me spending half the week in London and the rest in North Kirklees would have her doing cartwheels down the garden, because she’s always wanted an ornamental duck pond (can you still put those on your MP’s expenses?) but no. My fresh cuppa nearly iced over at the look she threw me.

Quite apart from the plainly-writ facial expression, a clear accusation that I’d just be finding more trouble than I already do (and is that even possible?) she declared – quite reasonably – her doubts that a single issue group like The Brexit Party could possibly make an expanded case for their suitability to govern the nation.

Here’s why I take issue with that: is there a party that doesn’t claim to put the NHS, education, national security, care for the elderly and the socially disadvantaged at the heart of their policies? Sure, the Tories insist on actually paying for it, while those two imbeciles Corbyn and Cable would just spend five years running the national debt into the stratosphere before they were cast into the political wilderness. But at heart, apart from the nationalist tendencies of the Scots Nats and Welsh, the security concerns of the Northern Irish, and the tree-hugging of the Greens, most social policies, the ones that affect most people in the UK, are broadly aligned.

I could sit down with Nigel Farage and half a dozen similarly informed people and knock out a socially responsible, nay attractive, election manifesto in a couple of hours. How do you think Corbyn and his communist cabal form their policies to put before the autumn conference every year, or Treason May and her dwindling circle of advisers?

The only difference between them and the Brexit Party or UKIP, is that they have been repeatedly proven to have lied through their back teeth with every general election manifesto that most of us can remember. It’s fairytale fodder to fool the masses in the electoral moment and that’s precisely why this Westminster swamp needs draining.

So, sorry darling, but the application is going in anyway. (Remind me to send flowers and try a new flavour of gin.)

HAVE you ever been poor? Really poor? Back-to-back terrace, outside lavvy and beans on toast for tea poor, with hand-me-down clothes and new shoes only at Whitsuntide, or bought on a Provident cheque for the start of a school year?

I dare say many of my generation and older have. We’ve survived, haven’t we? Prospered even. I’ll bet the incentive to have a bit of that middle class comfort got you out of bed on many a morning you’d rather not have.

According to a story at the bottom of page four today, where Tracy Brabin MP is throwing her working class teddy out of her cot, 11,000 local kids live in what is officially termed ‘poverty’.

I looked up what The Children’s Society define as poverty these days, and it’s a household of two adults and two children who have only £58 a day to live on. Housing costs (rent/mortgage) are excluded. So that’s £406 a week for food, energy, getting to school/work, clothing and other sundry necessities. 

Have you seen what a £100 shop can get you from Aldi? Beans on toast my elbow. And they do proper fashion clothes for buttons at ‘Primarni’ – can’t keep my penniless Uni student daughter out of the place.

Do these people crank the central heating (luxury!) on full in December and open all the windows, because that’s the only way you can get the gas/leccy up to £100 a week, unless you live in the Town Hall.

But then again, the sweethearts have a right to their smartphones don’t they? Netflix and Sky on their flatscreen 4k tellies. Fags and beers on the way to and from the food bank (and I wouldn’t be surprised if some get a taxi there, being frankly too overweight to waddle there).

The only poverty involved in this story is of intelligence, proportionality and common sense. Yes we have needy and disadvantaged people because every society does, even with the best will in the world. But these artificial ‘poverty’ works of hyperbole demean the real issue.

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