POVERTY. A terrible thing, I think we can all pretty much agree. In a modern, wealthy democracy like ours, there should be no place for it.
But it’s there, everywhere you look. I stepped out of my hotel in Manchester city centre on Tuesday morning and almost fell over a young man lying prostrate, half on the pavement, half in the road.
‘That’ll be yer poverty right there,’ I thought. At 8.30am it probably wasn’t booze, more likely heroin or spice – the brain-warping drug de jour apparently – but I reckon we can put it down to poverty.
I’d gotten to thinking about the subject having overheard a mum in Batley town centre on Monday afternoon. She’d done the school pick up of a youngster and had another bairn in a pram – a nice pram, too.
“You want to try the food bank,” she was telling another young woman, “it’s mint. Really good.”
I’m not quite sure what the food bank volunteers make of a wobbling 17-stone visitor who looks more in need of a life-saving diet than free tins of baked beans.
They’re probably very nice people who don’t pass judgment except on greedy bankers who in 2008 cast most of western society into a financial abyss from which only Jeremy Corbyn can provide salvation.
I didn’t see a ring on that mum’s finger, but there was a smartphone in her hand. Not an iPhone, I’d say, but still a smartphone.
I know, I shouldn’t judge. She probably has a limited data plan and has to pay to top up her calls. Poverty that, terrible social injustice.
It was nice that the Dancing Queen herself signalled the end of so-called government ‘austerity’ at the Tory conference. No matter that the UK’s public debt is at its highest ever, political need trumps fiscal responsibility, always.
Don’t expect this imaginary end of austerity to make a blind bit of difference to much of anything however, because it doesn’t actually funnel down to the people in actual need. No, it’s much more complicated than that.
It’s true that real money will be lavished on worthy social stunts and indeed a great many clever people will fill their already well provisioned boots with more and more public cash.
You know how the NHS is broke, yes? How the UK has some of the worst cancer treatment and survival rates in the civilised world – despite having more cash this year and every year than ever before?
It’s an eternal truth that everyone who works in the NHS is either a saint or an angel (or both) who is blessed with the noble devotion and sacrifice of Florence Nightingale or Mother Teresa. In which case heaven knows quite who is cynically robbing the NHS of £1.29 billion a year, as the NHS Counter-Fraud Authority has found.
GPs (£88m) and dentists (£126m) robbing the system, chemists (£11m), hospital chief execs living it large on expenses, senior managers padding friends and families’ pockets, nurses – yes, the Florences themselves – nicking stuff (£94m).
Meanwhile our education system is broke; it can only be a matter of time before kids are using chalk and slates to learn their times-tables.
There’s not much poverty down at a college in however, where they pocketed £34,000 of lottery cash to ‘study’ whether there’s such a thing as a Portsmouth accent. Yes, really – and after 10 months and the money blown they concluded that actually no, there isn’t.
STILL, all will be well once the great saviour Jeremy is swept into power by the legions of poverty-stricken university students and flat broke union members, who could only run to one fortnight holiday in Tenerife this year and can’t afford the new iPhone X.
A four-day working week, that’ll set the nation right! More money for fewer hours, a bit of social fairness and equality at last and sod the bosses with their offshore trusts and tax evading schemes.
I wish I could get close to a steady five day working week – a predictable six would be a nice starter. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for me though.
When Jeremy’s Marxist revolutionaries dictate that all businesses have to give shares to employees and put union members on the board of directors, that’ll be the signal to shut up shop and leave things to the brothers. I’m sure things will work out just fine.
To finish with today’s poverty theme however, I need to go back to 1977 – not exactly the dark ages – and the house in Lees Hall Road, Thornhill Lees, I shared with my mum and sister.
We’d left my dad for the last time but found ourselves in a terraced house with an outside toilet and no hot running water. Carpets and furniture were in short supply until mum cobbled some stuff together but there was a gas fire at least.
Mum worked as a care assistant at Beech Towers (she was a NUPE shop steward!), I was at Wheelwright 6th Form College while working behind the bars at the Morton House WMC and Dewsbury Irish Nash, washing windows with my dad on Saturday mornings and school holidays, plus driving a John Menzies van in the early hours of Sundays.
There was food on the table, a rented telly, and not a single, fleeting thought that life was unfair, that the state had abandoned us, or that life – or anyone – owed us anything.
There wasn’t a telephone, and milk was kept fresh by putting it in a bucket of cold water at the top of the cellar steps. So what? Within a year we’d have a council house, I’d be a trainee journalist and own a Ford Cortina (white, except for a dark green driver’s door!) bought for £110 from my old football mate Dick Hatfield. Great days.
If you wanted something, you worked for it and then, as now, there was no limit on what a grafter could achieve. Poverty? That was starving children in Biafra, wasn’t it?
So yes, I do see poverty all around today. Poverty of responsibility, of common sense, of respect for the elderly; poverty of ambition and work ethic.
Society is riddled with it and however it’s gotten to this deplorable state, the fact remains – if and when their time comes, this impoverished generation of envious underachievers are the best bet that real poverty might one day return.
But it will all be some rich b******’s fault.
A VIOLENT man with a knife is a scary prospect for most people.
But most people aren’t highly trained police officers whose instinct should be to confront trouble, not run away like cowards as did Sir Craig Mackey, Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on the day of the Westminster Bridge terror attack.
Mackey locked his car doors and ran frit, along with two colleagues, at the sight of Khalid Masood stabbing PC Keith Palmer to death.
Let’s try to be kind. They hadn’t any weapons, wibble wibble; not even a radio, sob sob. Actually no, let’s not. The cowards ran away and left a brave PC to die.
I’m not sure what Mackey considers a ‘weapon’ but that’s hardly the point. There was only one of Masood, and three of them.
Their intervention would probably have been too late for PC Palmer anyway, but that’s not the point either – the rank cowardice is the point and if Mackey had any self-respect he would surrender his knighthood and resign.
He won’t, obviously, though he may now throw on the sick and possibly even put a PTSD claim in – if not for what he saw happen to PC Palmer, then for the public scorn and ridicule his shame has brought down on his head.
In other news, it’s been revealed that West Yorkshire Police have set a target of ‘screening out’ (ie blindly ignoring) 56% of all reported crimes – or 145,000 incidents a year. Now that’s what you call criminal.
And finally next week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week. As you’d expect Kirklees Police are giving it large, because flipping a vee at people who drive like maniacs while talking on their mobiles makes you Racist Public Enemy No.1.
My invite to speak at their events must have got lost in the post…
AT LEAST the UK doesn’t completely own the market in high-profile cowards (see Craig Mackey, above).
Step forward US astronaut Scott Kelly, who bravely confronts the depths of outer space, but melts like a chocolate fireguard in the face of social media morons.
Kelly quoted Winston Churchill but made the fatal mistake (it’s probably a race hate crime) of calling him one of our greatest leaders. Cue the ignorant, bile-spewing Twittersphere to turn on him.
The fool didn’t realise Churchill is a cross between Genghis Khan and Stalin, probably with a drop of Jack the Ripper thrown in.
So the pathetic Kelly shat himself and shrivelled into a mess of whimpering apologies.
These people need to understand that social media’s keyboard warriors are sad, stupid excuses for humans, with little purpose in life other than to hate while hiding behind a touchscreen.
Grow a pair, man (if saying that isn’t a hate crime too these days).