Letters, December 27, 2019
We must return to harmony and honesty
The recent election revealed many things apart from Labour’s demise and Momentum’s stranglehold on Labour’s politicians, policy and manifesto. No matter who succeeds Corbyn the Party will still sing songs written by far left Momentum and McClusky. And the result will be the same, the political wilderness.
The election exposed a sea change in the British political landscape. Firstly, the public saw through Labour’s attacks on poverty, austerity and social injustice in general. These attacks were utter nonsense.
The lowest paid have seen their position improve the most since 2010. In addition, severe material deprivation has fallen by 20 per cent since then. Statistics are there to support this but Labour prefers lies using the 24-hour social media rumble.
Secondly, Labour is no longer the Party of the manual working class. That class has altered dramatically and Labour has failed to recognise this. Labour’s so-called strategists need to be shown the door.
Thirdly, candidates no longer bother to meet you on the doorstep, they much prefer targeting you by tweets and Facebook ads. This has led to a widening of the gap between politicians and the people. It is bad for democracy.
Fourthly, the political gap between voters has widened. Social class is now far less important than age and education. Brexit has created a new sectarianism. A deep analysis of the election results demonstrates this convincingly. The Tory wins in the North and Midlands was nothing like as surprising as the media has made out. These victories were clearly foreshadowed in 2015 and 2017.
Fifthly, manifestos should be scrapped for no one believes them anymore. The internet now for the first time permits most wild claims to be checked with ease.
Sixthly, televised debates must surely go, arguments are poor and repetitive. Robotic politicians avoid answering the question and the so-called randomly selected audience is in fact packed with activists. We need honest debate and a far higher standard of debate that demands factual accuracy not moonshine. Slogans have become nauseating. The belief that only simple ideas can be absorbed by the general public has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The election demonstrated we have arrived at a new low in our ability to hold a truly democratic forum where honesty and civility reign supreme.
Too many good politicians have left politics not through defeat but because of disillusionment.
We need a return to harmony and honesty.
Dr Barry Clayton
Workhouses to foodbanks
What could be more seasonal than to turn over, once again, the pages of Dickens’ classic and thought-provoking ghost story, A Christmas Carol?
At the time of its publication in 1843, society’s sole answer to poverty lay in the Poor Law, which ultimately could only offer the abandoned poor the stark realities of entering the workhouse, being imprisoned or simply dying in poverty.
Dickens was determined to make his cosy fireside readers aware of this real Victorian issue and, on the page, introduced them to the second spirit to visit Scrooge as the giant ghost of Christmas Past. When this spectre opens his robes to Scrooge, two ragged urchins tumble out, emaciated and dirty.
Scrooge enquires about them and the spirit replies that the children stand for the evils of man.
He proclaims: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” At this point, Scrooge cries: “Have they no refuge or resource?” In response , the spirit turns on him, mocking Scrooge’s own earlier spoken words: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”
This episode is but a brief moment, but it is a key moment as it is a huge reason why the story is still so relevant, considering that ignorance and want remain the prime movers behind so many of the world’s ills.
Dickens was passionate about education for all and was a campaigner for public libraries. There can be no doubt that he would be disgusted to see how little some seem to value them today!
Fast forward 176 years when thankfully modern society has rejected most of the Victorian horrors experienced by the poor unfortunates who made up the vast majority of the population.
Nevertheless, the unpalatable truth is that recent statistics indicate that too many children in our region are still being dragged up in poverty, as detailed on Lancashire County Council’s website, which recently reported on the Government’s official ranking of childhood poverty across the country. The figures rank individual neighbourhoods (small areas with a population of around 1,500 people each), based on how many children aged 0 to 15 are living in income-deprived families.
Shockingly, one neighbourhood in Blackpool, out of a total of 32,844 in England, has the highest level of child poverty, with an estimated 120 out of 176 children there living in poverty.
Were we to give Dickens’ story a modern twist, might we not justly update Scrooge’s prophetic words thus; “Are there no food banks?” Speaking of food banks, how depressing is it to note that there are around 1,200 in the UK? That’s roughly as many as there are McDonalds restaurants, according to The Trussell Trust, a charity which works to end the need for food banks.
Please support them by investing in what is hoped to be the charity’s Christmas #1 song, I Love Sausage Rolls, as recorded by LadBaby.
Finally, although A Christmas Carol certainly exposes much vice in human nature, it also depicts much virtue and, for those reasons, it remains way ahead of all its literary competitors.
Big sums paid to switch on stars
Research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has revealed that a small number of local authorities spent over £310,000 on celebrities to turn on Christmas lights between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.
The overall cost is likely to be far higher, because the responsibility for hosting often falls upon local town or parish councils, which were not asked for information.
Councils claiming to be cash-strapped should not be gifting taxpayers’ money to showbiz agents for Christmas celebrity pay-offs.
Christmas lights are meant to bring the community together, not offer celebs the chance to pocket bumper appearance fees at residents’ expense. It’s ridiculous that TV stars are being paid big sums to flick a switch, when many local heroes would love to be asked and would happily turn on the festive lights at no cost. With so many community champions willing to give back to their towns, councils should only get guests who are happy to be there, not TV personalities on flying visit, only in it for a payday.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance