Friday, 24 May 2013


The problem I have with those who have contributed to this investigation of poverty in Furness is they seem to regard it as an unavoidable consequence of some natural disaster such as an earthquake, a tsunami or an volcanic eruption.  They are apparently eager to mount a relief effort to assist the unfortunate victims.  However, this lot don't come with pain relief, tents, blankets, fresh water and food - they just talk, hold meetings, publish reports and launch appeals to anyone, anywhere, who might be able to help somehow, sometime, and if they do, they'll receive a thankyou card and a pamphlet describing the different forms of poverty.

The local paper will feature a banquet and ball to celebrate the best flower arrangement in aid of local poverty relief and everyone will be so pleased with themselves then move on to produce a Commission report on Earnse Bay caravan park residents' thoughts on coastal erosion whilst contemplating the next banquet and ball.  (Well, I did mention that I was a cynic, didn't I? - Muddz)

Poverty is never an accident. Poverty is an integral part of capitalism.  Under capitalism you get 'boom' times and 'bust' times (Those things Gordon Brown, Labour government Prime Minister, said he had abolished! - Muddz) There are productive times when workers are able to afford the things they make but then comes over-productivity, a glut on the market, too many things for sale and not enough being purchased so workers get laid off, factories close, there is mass unemployment, poverty and destitution and an international scrabble for markets and resources and, of course, wars.  'Free marketeers' of all the major political parties in Britain accept this cycle as a consequence of the 'market economy' because they are all pro-capitalist.

The parliamentary Labour Party (the elite club in parliament) needs the constituency party members (members of local Labour Parties) to do the donkey work at election time.  It needs the Trades unions to cough up substantial funds and it needs the masses of workers to provide the votes to enable it to achieve power.  Once in power, the parliamentary Labour Party has no interest in the views of the constituency parties, proposals by the unions or the expectations of working people - it is only interested inexercising power to pet and groom the ultra rich and big business at home and abroad.

The parliamentary Labour Party does not have a single, uniting, political philosophy.  It is composed of (mainly) rightwing social democrats, some 'centre' and some leftwing elements  so the Party ends up politically confused.  This goes some way to explain why Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party (And John Woodcock's boss - Muddz) can spout about things such as 'responsible capitalism'.  Why does he not also include 'compassionate' capitalism, 'kind' capitalism, and 'cuddly' capitalism?  It is all a pipe dream, of course.  

Trying to create responsible capitalism would meet with the same success as trying to rear a vegetarian tiger.  The very idea defies common sense and is utterly ridiculous.  Capitalism is naturally predatory.  A philanthropic capitalist enterprise would be swiftly devoured by rivals - that's the name of the game and to pretend otherwise is self-delusional.  Yet here we have the leader of the Parliamentary Opposition (Excuse me whilst I laugh up my left sleeve - Muddz) sounding off about responsible capitalism!

Well, all I can say to the electorate of Britain is this: you cast your vote and you take the consequences - and the best of British luck because believe me, after the next General Election, you're going to need it by the bucket load.  

Either socialism or barbarism - and I think you've left it too late for socialism so maybe you ought to consider arming yourself. (Me? At my age I think I'll more than likely have croaked before the Big Crunch arrives - at least, I hope so! - Muddz)

In the meantime, if you'd like to get a picture of how things might develop, you might wish to read the book (Gosh - that's an unusual occupation these days! - Muddz) by Jack London  entitled 'The Iron Heel" (pictured with a photo of a beggar running alongside the carriage of Edward VII at Ascot race course) Jack London also wrote the classics 'White Fang' and 'Call of the Wild' and a lesser known ' People of the Abyss'.

Sweet dreams, folks.  And remember, pull your socks up, tighten your belt, grin and bear it and the sun will come shining through......


Thursday, 23 May 2013


MP John Woodcock's initiative in motivating local people to meet and look at poverty issues in Furness is commendable but it is only a start.  Just how poverty is to be overcome remains to be seen because, so far, the report contains only suggestions and recommendations about what might be done rather than what must be done, when and how.

As far as his own stance is concerned Mr Woodcock gives the game away by including, in his Foreword piece for the report, the remark "There are no magic fixes."  I am fully aware of the  BritishTrades Union Congress (TUC) deliberations on the 'economic crisis'.  (it's only a crisis for ordinary folk, not the millionaires who are raking it in to become mega-rich - Muddz)
At two national conferences the TUC has overwhelmingly backed the People's Charter and the path that should be followed to return Britain to a position of productivity: the People's Charter contains no 'magic fixes', no conjuring up of spells or reciting incantations.

I'd like to remind our MP that a Labour government in 1945 had no need of the supernatural, of black magic nor other such ludicrous devices.  Neither did it adopt a dithering or defeatist appoach despite the country having just emerged from a catastrophic and economically devastating World War. It set out to eradicate deprivation, disadvantage and disease and Britain got its Welfare State, National Health Service, free education for all children, social housing at affordable rent and publicly owned industries. 

But the people of Britain appear to have now got fed up with having these things and want the exciting personal challenges faced by people at the beginning of the last century..... paying for healthcare and education, paying large utility bills and extortionate travel costs, handing large sums of money over to private landlords and - if unemployed or disabled - meeting others for a handout at the charity food shop and learning the skill of successfully begging on the street.

So, you may now be asking, "What's this thing our MP has given away, and what's this elephant thing about?"  Good question, and here's the answer - our young MP has just embarked on a career as a professional politician.  He is MP for a district that is dominated by one major industry that builds nuclear submarines for the Ministry of Defence.  Workers (and their unions) hope the next lot of submarines to be constructed here will be four new launch platforms for American Trident nuclear missiles.  The local council, the churches, community groups and most of the population at large also hope BAE at Barrow will be awarded the new sub contract.  As one wife of a BAE worker remarked when asked about the morality of building delivery systems for launching weapons of ultra mass devastion, "Morality never put bread and butter on the table."  And this is the same stance adopted by our MP - morality never got anyone elected to parliament.  The fact is this - if this young man wishes his political career to continue he has no alternative but to argue in defence of weapons of mass murder in the run-up to the next General Election.

What's this got to do with the poverty issue?  Well, thanks to BAE, Barrow is a one horse town.  Many years ago, when the yard employed 20,000 workers this was not much of a problem but, today, the situation is very different.  In the late 1980s employment fell to 3,000 and remained around this number for several years. (So much for the Tory mantra "Trident means jobs." which locals fell for and elected a Tory MP for two terms! - Muddz) Today, BAE employs around 5,000 of which several hundred are designers.  Work on the construction of the Astute class subs has been strung out in the hope of keeping things ticking over until the new Trident project kicks in.  'Single industry' towns are extremely vulnerable to political change to meet a new local or international situation.  The mining communities were devasted  to further Thatcher's ambition to put chains on the unions.  The shipbuilding industries at Newcastle and on the Clyde collapsed.  Tens of thousands lost their jobs and nobody in Barrow wants to see the job losses that would result from the closure of the yard.
Now, here's the problem....for as long as Barrow is dominated by BAE then poverty for many will remain a fact of life because funding goes to this employer rather than to the development of other industries in the area.  The cause of poverty in Furness is staring John Woodcock in the face but he dare not acknowledge the elephant in the room - the elephant called BAE Submarine Solutions.  And it would be political suicide for him to do so. This is why we have this game of looking at poverty, talking about poverty and writing about poverty but not seeing the link. The result is relatively good wages for some but very little, if anything, for the majority.  And the name of the elephant is "I'm alright, Jack."

If members of the Poverty Commission can obtain a copy then they really need to read a booklet entitled 'Oceans of Work' written by Dr Steven Schofield and published in 2007 by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).  This document will help those people to see things more clearly, to understand that varying levels of poverty in this area is an historical fact and perhaps persuade some to take a different approach to offering 'remedies'.  Some of them will remain unmoved through ignorance, some through naivety and some through willful rejection but this is of not much importance if just one, or maybe two, saw the true picture they would argue against vague statements such as: 'we must draw up a list of the various agencies' (to achieve what, exactly? - Muddz) To give Commissioners  a taste......
'What is most striking, despite the presence of the shipyard, is how the district has consistently suffered from levels of deprivation that are some of the highest in the country.  National comparison based on the government's Deprivation Indices that incorporate statistical information including unemployment, income, housing and education ranked Barrow as 29th most deprived local authority out of 354 in England.  Of the 13 wards in Barrow borough, six, located mainly around the shipyard, are amongst the most deprived 10% in the country.*
*Barrow Borough Council,
And more...
'The decline in employment at the yard, therefore, serves to highlight fundamental and long-standing weaknesses in the local economy...Taken together, the overall total indicates a very high level of unemployment/inactivity at up to 14% of the 39,000 working population of the district.
And finally....
'If anything could symbolise the yawning chasm between alternative futures for the (Furness) district it is the windfarm as a signpost of the new civil economy and the submarine construction hall representing a dying military culture.' 

'The Poor' don't want lectures from someone who is full of that stuff that a bull leaves on the farmyard floor. They need help. Practical help. And they need it now.  They need regular and substantial donations of wholesome nutritious food, and vouchers to meet the high costs of heating, lighting and cooking. And not for just a few days, weeks or months but maybe years or even indefinitely. They need to know where they can get immediate practical assistance in terms of meaningful relief, not for three days as at the Food Bank, not by going without for eight weeks to save enough to qualify for membership of a Credit Union - they never have enough left over from one day to the next to be able to 'save' anything....that's one of the annoying but unavoidable outcomes of being poor!

Well, Commissioners, I look forward to reading your practical resolutions in the your next report.  It should be interesting.    


Tuesday, 21 May 2013


In cooperation with http;//

John Woodcock MP recently gathered a group of local worthies to conduct an investigation into the levels of poverty in the population of his parliamentary constituency - Barrow and Furness - and has now published a document containing their deliberations.

 On page one is a Foreword penned by Caroline Hoggarth, headteacher at Greengate Infant and Nursery school and Lead Commissioner and Report Writer who, I am sure, will have given her time and effort most willingly and with the best of intentions and highest motives.

However, I am always rather sceptical of relatively 'comfortably well-off' well-meaning people expressing concern for the 'less fortunate' because it can smack of that same patronising pretentiousness which that old hag, Thatcher, had off to a tee when speaking to the lower orders (which was everybody - including ministers of her own cabinet - but, of course, not Mrs Windsor whom she regarded as almost her equal. - Muddz)

It has been my experience (forty years in education - Muddz) that people who are called upon to talk on matters about which they possess no practical knowledge resort to piffle and pious prattle.  A glance at the report suggests that contributors know nothing of poverty other than what they may have read in one of Dickens' novels...when ultimately, of course, some wealthy philanthropic benefactor - with a big heart and bank balance to match - mysteriously appears and everybody lives happily ever after. (I'm sure you'll all agree that it is just this sort of Disney-like, sugary-sweet, fairytale ending that serves to spoil the conclusion of Robert Tressell's 'Ragged Trousered Philanthropists', eh, don't you? - Muddz)

So, if you are in poverty you need to seek out a long lost millionaire relative; if you can't find one, you'll just have to put up with listening to the words of the well-meaning and accept their hand-outs whenever these are available. In the meantime, you could gather your family around a solitary lit candle in your freezing livingroom and give a rousing rendition of "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag" to raise everyone's spirits and warm the cockles of their hearts.

What I have seen of the report so far has sickened me because the 'Goodies' are so busy looking heavenward in their evangelical enthusiasm that they can't see the elephant in the room.  And when it's pointed out to them they cover their eyes and ears.  Ask them, "Why are the poor, poor?"  They may reply, "Because they are out of work."  Then ask, "Why?"  They may offer, "Because there are no jobs." Ask them, "Why?"  And keep asking "Why?" 

Eventually, they'll become exasperated (because they either genuinely don't know the answer or they do know and just don't want to admit it) and then they'll tell you they don't wish to talk about it any more. Go on, give it a try! (They won't mind continuing to churn out pages of sanctimonious crap, however)  

What am I getting at?  Well, here's a clue...Many years ago (no, not in some distant galaxy! - Muddz)  a member of the Catholic clergy serving the destitute in a South American country remarked: "When I give food to poor people, I am called a saint; when I ask why the people are poor, I am called a communist." So, have you identified the cause of poverty yet?  

Returning to the Poverty Report contributors - (and if you've stayed with this so far, well done! - Muddz) - from where do these people get the idea that they can do some good by appealing to the very government whose policies are actively and quite deliberately manufacturing the hardship?  This is a government of millionaires, and the otherwise very rich and privileged, that considers the elderly and frail, the sick, the disabled, the unskilled, the semi-skilled, the unemployed and the otherwise hard-up to be unworthy of breathing our good, clean British air.  They consider them to be worthless creatures, non-productives who contribute nothing towards the creation of substantial profits for their betters.  These feckless, valueless, objects are simply an unsustainable drain upon the economy and a bloody liability.  They are the "Undeserving poor", so for God's sake keep this vermin off the streets because we don't want to have to see them. (The government has just passed a bill giving local authorities the power to remove homeless 'rough sleepers' from streets. - Muddz)

Now I need to turn my attention to some specific items in the Report which runs to some 27 pages (so no chance of dealing with everything here! - Muddz)  and look at some things written by Caroline Hoggarth in her Foreword:

We were seeking to shine a light on the hidden deprivation across Furness that lies deep underneath the statistical data.  We wanted to find out who was stoney broke - Muddz

The meeting of people from different areas and sectors with a common goal of tackling increasing deprivation ensured the Furness Poverty Commission was born.   Locals, who are not skint and on their uppers, met to think what could be done about people who are  skint and on their uppers - Muddz

The people who have been involved and spoken out to support this Commission...are not prepared to watch Furness slip further into deprivation.  We haven't a clue what to do about the situation so we'll probably have another Commission a bit later on sometime - Muddz

This report is a huge step towards joining agencies together and calling the people of Furness, politicians, public sector workers, voluntary workers and our communities to take action.  We just hope somebody can come up with an idea pretty quick, please - Muddz

Space dictates this post must now be concluded.  The Foreword written by our Member of Parliament, John Woodcock, will be addressed in the next posting that shall follow shortly.

In the meantime:  "Look on the bright side of life......."


Thursday, 20 September 2012


Mature student, Ted, arrives at Adult Education craft class but appears to be somewhat subdued.  This is unusual because Ted, fortyseven years of age, is most enthusiastic when relating how, after death, the soul flies around the vastness of the universe to (incredibly) return to Earth and enter into the unborn form of another creature (a worm, an insect, a bird, a reptile, a mammal or even another human) and to reside there until that life also ends and the cycle is repeated yet again and, what is even more remarkable, this cycle is never ending!

Tutor - "You seem a bit quiet tonight, Ted.  Are you tired?"

Ted - "Not tired - retired!  I was sacked this morning."

Tutor - "I'm sorry to hear that, Ted.  But I thought you'd been promised months of work installing plumbing and central heating systems in 200 houses on a new housing estate?"

Ted - "Yes, I was, but the contract has fallen through and those houses won't be built now."

Tutor - "That's very unfortunate because it's a bad time for that to happen; there aren't many jobs to be had at the moment even for qualified gas engineers such as yourself."

Ted - "I know.  There are no vacancies at all round here.  The problem is there are too many people chasing too few jobs because there's not enough work on the books."

Tutor - "I don't agree with that, Ted.  There's plenty of work that needs to be done - look at the state of the roads and the footpaths in the local area for a start."

Ted, huffily - "Oh, so you'd have me digging up the roads and laying paving, would you?"

Tutor - "Only if that's the sort of work you wanted to do, Ted.  In my society, skilled people such as yourself would be fully employed working on hundreds of thousands of new houses and apartments constructed to accomodate working people.  You'd have guaranteed fulltime employment for the rest of your working life.  And these properties would be in great demand because the rent would never be greater than three percent of their earnings; this would make all exploiting private landlords redundant and leave them owning properties that nobody wanted to rent or to buy."

Ted, sneering - "Working people could only rent, then.  They could never buy their own house or flat."

Tutor - "In our society today, Ted, people saddle themselves with a huge loan to 'buy' their own home simply to avoid being ripped off by an unscrupulous landlord.  In my society, however, they could take out a mortagage on a private property if that's what they desired.  They'd spend perhaps thirty to forty years paying off the interest on the mortgage before they began to reduce the actual price of the property and, in the meantime, they'd have been responsible for paying for the maintainance of that property and for any necessary repairs.  And throughout that time, they'd see their neighbours enjoying their earnings by spending them, not on a mortagage, but on  material things - thus boosting the economy - and on leisure and cultural activities."

Ted, informatively - "People buy a house as an investment, not just as a home."

Tutor - "In my society, nobody would be prepared to pay the inflated price of a private property when they could rent so reasonably, so your investors would be left with a white elephant that was costing them a fortune and which they couldn't sell in order to get back just a small bit of the money they'd paid in loan interest.  Anyone who wanted to lumber themselves with a huge debt under those circumstances would have to be a real mug, wouldn't they?"

Ted, thoughtfully regards his project on the wheel. "I think I need a bit of help with this...'

Tutor thinks 'Gosh, a breakthrough! Does he really want to know a bit about socialism?'  "Right, Ted," enthusiastically, "what can I help you with?"   

"This pot isn't quite centred so I'm having trouble with the rim."

The above is a true account but the name of the student is fictitous. How do I know?  I was the tutor.