Jobseekers queue outside a Jobcentre Plus branch at London Bridge. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
One hundred years ago and more my English Great Grandfather used to stand with crowds of other unemployed men at the dock gates in the East End, waiting to see who would be picked for a day's casual labour. Those were the 'bad old days' which my grandparents and parents worked in political parties and trade unions to change and told me about as I was growning up in post World War Two Britain. They said those sort of days would never return. They also said it was not necessary for me to be so radical and left wing in my own politics, no government would ever allow that sort of thing to happen again. My Great Grandparents, Grandparents & Parents along with innovative social reformers, trade union and labour leaders like Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan, Clem Attlee, Jack Jones, Fenner Brockway and many, many more are probably weeping in heaven when stories like the above reach them.
We the voters and citizens of this country are frequently told by this Coalition Government that there is not enough money in the public coffers to support the weak, the ill, the unemployed, the elderly, the unfortunate. Yet there seems enough money to support threats of military intervention, maintain nuclear weapons, plough on with projects like HS2 which will probably be out of date by the time it is finished, help out failing banks - not to save clerical jobs but to preserve high officials bonuses and too much more. 'Money saving' schemes like the student loans to repay the high fees that have been instituted, we are now told will probably never repay the original debt - so instead of the student fees saving money the process will actually cost the country money.
Job seekers are being demonised, news that they will have to sign on everyday as a 'punishment' for being unemployed for over two years broke last week. Apart from the logistical nightmare of getting that many individuals in and out of job centres every day, the length of time attending and travelling to and from job centres will leave individuals lots of time to find non-existent jobs [sarcasm alert]
'Everyone' professes to know 'someone' who is claiming 'Thousands off benefit'. Oddly not many can put an address on that 'someone'. More realistic are the stories like that of the young man in our local supermarket who travels nearly 30 miles a day by public transport [definitely not cheap!] to a low waged job, has applied for over 150 better paid positions in the past year - many of which have not replied and has had one interview. He is acknowledged to be a very hard worker and would like to learn to drive to enable him to seek a job further afield/better paid but cannot afford to on his present wage. We often have a little political debate behind the vegetable section and he is knowledgable and well spoken. The job centre are not able to help him with courses etc because he is already employed..........
I am not as depressed as I sound. Whilst their are still those of us who are asking questions, blogging, annoying the politicians we can still turn things around. My grandparents and parents did it, my children and grandchildren can do it. But make it soon - please!!
*The engraving 'At the Dock Gates' is borrowed with humility from the website CANNING TOWN FOLK which is really worth visiting. The section Social Reform & the Settlements describes the sort of situation I describe above. Canning Town was very near to where my Gret Grandfather lived and may even have been one of the dock gates at which he stood.
Elizannie has been missing from the airways for some weeks. A campaign on which she & Other Half have been working for some years has all but reached its culmination and requires an awful lot of legal work and confidentiality. Other Half & Elizannie are communicating with each other mostly by means of lap tops in their different rooms, and mostly about important things like what is for dinner and who is going to buy/make it. Those who have enjoyed the peace be warned that Elizannie hopes to be back annoying you full time in the very near future. Some may notice that various posts are missing from the archives of this blog, this is a temporary 'blip' and can be 'got at' via me if there is a need!