'Now Im not so sure. The reason I say this is Labours
plan to spend a quarter of a million pounds of taxpayers money
on a preChristmas campaign to dissuade you and I from giving money
by John Peters
It may sound odd to say this six weeks in advance of the event, but Christmas
always takes me by surprise. Maybe its because Im allergic
to shopping or because I spend TV advert breaks with my head buried in
the paper. Either way, the whole build up passes me by and Im left
on Christmas Eve with a stack of presents to buy. This isnt a problem
though, far from it; present buying is so much easier when theres
hardly anything left in the shops. You just take whats left over.
No agonising choices to keep you from the pub.
My Grandma used to plan for Christmas, big time. Due to reasons of economy
and retirement she would take the bus into Birmingham city centre to start
her Christmas shopping during the January sales. Because of this, the
Thorntons toffee we got each year had a rather peculiar texture.
You had to scrape off a (not unpleasant) soft sugary layer with your teeth
before getting to the chewy stuff underneath. I thought it was supposed
to be like that until I bought some in adult life and took it back to
complain that there was no squishy layer.
Despite her impressive forward planning, Christmas to Grandma was about
far more than just buying presents. As a committed Christian it was a
time to think of Jesus, to celebrate with her family and to pray for the
rest of the world. After my Dad said grace at the dinner table she would
always urge us to think of those less fortunate than ourselves. Trying
to do this while faced with a mountain of food was very hard.
Grandmas religious convictions informed her politics. As a Christian
she was, of course, a Socialist. She believed in the Unions, the National
Health Service and the redistribution of wealth. Until she died nearly
twenty years ago, the Labour Party to her stood for the people, of justice
and moral good. Throughout my life Ive still clung to the notion
that the Labour Party, for all its many faults, is more caring, kinder,
more principled than the other parties. Now Im not so sure.
The reason I say this is Labours plan to spend a quarter of a million
pounds of taxpayers money on a preChristmas campaign to dissuade
you and I from giving money to beggars. What, I wonder, would Grandma
have thought about this? Well, in fact, I dont wonder. She would
have been horrified. I mean, if there was ever a time to give to the poor,
to redistribute the wealth and be true to the spirit of socialism, isnt
it at Christmas?
Not according to the homelessness tsar Louise Casey, mastermind behind
this shoddy campaign. According to Casey, direct assistance to the homeless
such as soup runs and handouts is misplaced goodwill. No doubt
Ms Casey would have deemed the Innkeeper who gave over his stable to a
couple of ragged travellers one of whom happened to be heavily
pregnant to be misguided also. He should, obviously, have referred
them to an appropriate agency or made a donation to a charity, then sent
them on their way.
Now, I know that being pestered for cash can be a drag. It used to happen
to me a lot when I worked in the middle of Birmingham. Most lunch times
I would get stopped. Sometimes you could tell they were just trying it
on; one guy with a sign saying hungry and homeless lived in
a decent flat round the corner from my girlfriend, and occasionally youd
get asked ifyou could spare some change please by someone too pissed to
get the words out properly. But other times you could tell they were desperate,
caught in a situation where they clearly needed a few bob for a meal and
maybe a roof over their head. Quite a lotof the time you couldnt
be sure if they really needed your money or not, but I always reasoned
if someone is prepared to beg in public for some of your spare change,
they must need it pretty badly. Even more than Blair needs the votes of
It seems that, having incurred the righteous indignation of Daily Mail
Land with its refusal to climb down over fuel tax, the Government has
clearly spied an opportunity to win back the hearts and votes of this
selfcentred constituency. I fear how far it will be prepared to
go to achieve this end. After all, didnt the Daily Mail support
Sir Oswald Moseleys British Union of Fascists in the 1930s? Grandma,
incidentally, met Moseley once: she refused to serve him and turfed him
out of her corner shop with his tail between his legs. Thinking about
it, whilst Grandma may have disapproved, Im sure Sir Oswald would
have whole heartedly approved of New Labours clampdown on
some of the most downtrodden members of our society
"This generation has grown up ignorant of the fact that socialism
is as old as the human race
When the old civilisations were putrefying,
the still small voice of Jesus the Communist stole over the earth like
a soft refreshing breeze carrying healing wherever it went."
James Kier Hardy, From Serfdom to Socialism, 1907.
© John Peters 11/2000
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