Drink, drink, drink…

Here is Will Fyffe, actor and music hall star, singing the song for which he is best known…’I belong to Glasgow’…ostensibly the tale of a man sure neither of his balance nor his syllables as he makes his way back to the bosom of his wife after celebrating the end of the working  week in the company of his pals.

Not, by the sound of things, that he would have passed the ‘Wee Deoch an’ Dorus’ test:

There’s a wee wifie waitin’ in a wee but an ben.
If you can say, “It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht”,
Then yer a’richt, ye ken.

Try it yourself and see how you do…

Still, his character’s fate at the hands of his wife apart, Mr.Fyffe’s character exposes the  atmosphere of the time: he and his kind, the working man, who made the country what it is (was) are treated with contumely by the rich who pass them in their motor cars as they weave their unsteady way home on foot..

Mr Fyffe’s character asks how those rich made their money: answer – from him and his kind.

He further asks what the rich actually do: answer- they ‘do’ (cheat) him and his kind.

Sounds familiar? Yes.

Nothing has changed? No….

There was change: the post war settlement of the late forties and fifties aimed to ensure acceptable housing, proper education and guaranteed health services for all, not just for the few.

It had its faults -but over all it produced a  society where the threat of destitution no longer existed should you be too young, too old or to infirm to work.

And then came Thatcher, who declared that there was no such thing as society.

Who deregulated financial services.

Who willfully destroyed core national industries in order to break organised labour.

And son of Thatcher….Blair…under whom Britain became the money laundering centre of the world, while the people his party used to claim to represent went to the wall: jobless and despised.

And now we have Cameron: no programmes to promote industrial growth, zero hours contracts and demonisation of the poor.

In the agricultural depression of the late eighteenth century the magistrates of Speenhamland in Berkshire decided to aid the poor by topping up their wages -the idea being to keep them from following the example of the French peasants whose revolution was going on at the time.

Needless to say, as the burden of payment fell on the very landowners who were underpaying their workforce it was not at all popular.

The modern way is to put up the wages of those who work for skinflint employers by finding it from general taxation – which falls less and less on the very rich thanks to cosy understandings with the taxman.

The modern way is to undermine family life by making it impossible to have what was once known as a steady job…

No wonder people take to drink….


And no wonder they effect the same betrayal of love and trust as did the ‘Student Prince’.
















33 thoughts on “Drink, drink, drink…”

  1. We agree on much but I can’t resist the opportunity to just put a couple of things across from my own viewpoint.
    Firstly, it’s easy to demonise the rich but many of them are the ones with the ideas, the ability to find capital and the know how to get started. in business. Yes they become rich but they create jobs which is good for the economy and the working man.
    Incidentally, I was a working man from the age of 15 paying my tax like the rest and not rich.
    We complain that the poor are driven to drink yet they’d be less poor if they spent on the family what they spend on drink before they decide to start weaving their way unsteadily home.
    Finally, though Margaret Thatcher did much to be despised and as a person wasn’t a pleasant person, I for one was not sorry to see organised labour broken. I paid my dues to the union but Arthur Scargill and his ilk did tremendous damage to the country before she did. As the wage bill went up so did the price of the product until we were not competing in the market place. It became cheaper to import product. The closure of the mines (my grandad was a miner who walked in the Jarrow march of 1926) hurt some communities but many miners didn’t follow Scargill at all. The closure of the pits in fact did some good in that the valleys look so much nicer now and there’s no chance of another Aberfan.
    OK, it’s not as black and white as that but what I mean is that out of her reign came some good.
    None came out of B-Liar or the current contender so far.
    At the end of the day it’s down to points of view and I don’t think mine clashes with yours on too much.
    Nasolig Llawen

    1. As you say, nothing is entirely black and white – and we all have our preferred shades of grey!

      You put your finger on it when you say that the rich have access to capital….you don’t get off the ground without it and if grandad hasn’t enough under his mattress to help you you have to turn to the banks where the criteria for loans lack transparency.
      I doubt that businesses now create many jobs…not jobs in the sense of full time work at rates of pay that make it possible to support a family.

      Clearly spending on the family should come before spending on booze….but I find the hypocrisy of the boozing middle classes in condemning the poor rather hard to take.
      Those in Hogarth’s Gin Lane would hardly be drinking themselves to death en masse were life itself not seen to be hopeless….and the modern version of drug taking arises from the same source. Rich…you like the thrill and can afford it. Poor,…you like the thrill because that’s the only one you’re likely to get.
      Yes,there were indeed over mighty unions. But had British bosses been willing to consider the German model of union representation on the board Britain now might have the stable, if low wage, economy of Germany. It takes two parties to make ‘us and them’.

      Scargill was a pig headed man who could not distinguish wood from tree. I remember how hard people argued with him to take the new, legally obligatory, strike ballot. He would have had the majority he needed, and it would then have been impossible for the rest of the unions to turn their backs on the N.U.M. But he would not accept facts…and ‘the brothers’ left the miners swinging in the wind.

      Mark you I could never see why any parent would want their child to follow them down the mines…..except that there was no perceived alternative.

      The greatest crime of Thatcher? Not the selling off of public housing, bad though that was,but the deregulation of the financial sector. Bang went all the measures put in place after the Great Crash -and here we are about to face another.

      1. I still don’t think we’re too far apart Helen. When I said they had access to capital I was thinking for many more on the lines of bank loans based on good ideas. Not all bosses start off with access to family wealth.
        As for Hogarth’s gin, I wouldn’t have been drinking it for either purpose.since I made a choice that my family came first so no drinking.
        Nasolig Llawen xxx Hugs xxx

  2. . . ‘personal taxation’, PAYE’, National Insurance’, etc – one of the cleverest and most divisive cons ever perpetrated on the workers. Those who fall for the scam are easily manipulated into believing that it is our/my tax money that is being wasted on lazy gits, scroungers, illegal immigrants, you name it! In reality tax is a burden on capital – think about it for a moment, do you (thinking of the comment above) really believe that if ‘personal’ income tax was eliminated that you would be allowed to retain your gross income?
    It’s the nature of the beast to give ground (but only as much as it can get away with) when labour/skilled worker are in short supply – after the workers have slaughtered each other in wars and conflicts for the benefit of the elite for example), only to claw it back later (Thatcher et al).
    There is only one solution, the system has to go, because you cannot reform capitalism. Mind you, with anthropogenic climate disruption already over the tipping point, the future of capitalism along with most of the species on the planet is already determined.

    1. As you ‘believe’ the con of AGW that has been introduced as a method to support Agenda 21 for domination of the world by the UN, then I’m afraid I can have little confidence in your other take on Capitalism. However, I still believe we have the right to our own thoughts and to be able to express them. Rather like Marmite – I liked Mrs T.

      1. Lesley, I keep picking up references to Agenda 21…so now I’ll have to go and look at it.
        The idea of the UN as it stands running anything fills me with horror.
        Yes,we do,still have that right…and I think we have the duty to use it!
        I shall be looking at my jar of Marmite in a new light tomorrow…

    2. No ring fencing for N.I.contributions has left pensioners – and those coming up to an ever receding pension age -at the mercy of incompetent (to put it in the most favourable light) governments. Where is the security in old age?
      Come to that,where is the security for any one of any age….you even need dosh to appeal an unfair dismissal!
      Successive governments have reduced education to a tick box system, have managed to disarm all but criminals,and bolstered the power of a press which can by no stretch of the imagination be described as informative.
      Even if the brainwashed eventually riot they will face militarised police.
      I could not have imagined how far and how fast Britain could abandon its values when tempted by the whiff of pelf.

  3. OK. I’ll be the first to say I agree totally. The only thing that has moved forwards in the last 50/60 years is technology. The concept of society, ie one that looks after its members, has disappeared. Greed is paramount. I’ll stop at that.

    1. I think that the ‘haves’ down the ages assumed that society did look after its members…society being themselves.
      There was a brief period post war when the ‘have nots’ – President Hollande’s ‘sans dents’ – enlarged the idea of society, but the ‘haves’, finding that this model reduced their own pickings, have returned things to normality….

  4. Aye. Guid stuff as usual Helen.

    I joined 2500 brothers and sisters at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on Thursday night – all campaigning against the so-called Trade Union Bill – in reality the Anti TU Bill.

    At least Sturgeon and Cosla have pledged not to adhere to any of the Bills provisions – but Corbyn was clear that the Bill would likely be passed.

    The Bill represents an ideological attack – on workers but also on all of our human rights. The new restrictions on organised labour would make Pinochet look liberal.

    I am sickened by the continual assault on employment rights and the clear determination to crush organised labour.

    But was filled by hope by the young campaigners from #betterthanzero – funded and supported by the STUC.

    You know what continues to sadden me well one of the many things…)? The misguided but oft repeated opinion that the poor somehow have no sense of persobal or individual responsibility; should not be indulging in any escapist activities (they’re solely for those with cash) and should simply be grateful to have whatever exploitative job they can get.

    Incentives are apparently required to motivate the obscenely wealthy – but the working poor get sanctions and ever poorer workplace rights.

    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist should be required reading. It’s still pertinent. #betterthanzero demonstrates that the same cruel and exploitative conditions still exist.

    I am glad to be a Scottish resident just now. At least we have some cushion against the worst excesses of Westminster.

    But I fear for those in the rUK. They are exposed to the full force of oppressive policies designed to dismantle the State and to privatise every aspect of their lives.

    1. All in favour of the compulsory reading of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – a book put into my hands just about as soon as I had the vocabulary to read it.
      Yes, Scotland will be a safer place to live than the rest of the U.K. for those who-through no fault of their own – find themselves needing a helping hand.
      As for having no sense of personal responsibility…let those who criticise try living from hand to mouth because that is what you are condemned to do by the system in force and see how long it is before they are looking in the fridge for the bottle of wine that isn’t there…

      1. I was brought up in a Council house (80%+ of Scotland’s residents were council house renters) that I called ‘home’ – living hand to mouth particularly during the Thatcher years when my Father was more out of work than in it following the catastrophic destruction of ‘manufacturing’ (he was an engineer in the car industry) – and latterly his series of heart attacks (at the age of 39 – I believe his ill health was another symptom of poverty). It’s a deeply stressful life to live. Relentless grinding poverty that has you doing cash-in-hand jobs and rigging your leccy just to get by. I weep for those who still suffer – and thank the visionary social engineers who introduced ‘full grants’ and encouraged (this was 1985) University access. It’s getting harder and harder for kids like me to escape the poverty they’ve been born into.

  5. In the 1970s the UK was supposedly broke and we no trouble accessing free health care, good schooling, libraries and university education and care for the old. Now the UK is “well off” we still have these services but if you want good service you have to pay . All the wealth seems to be diverted to individuals not to the general good.

  6. So sorrowful a situation that your state of affairs, “no wonder people turn to drink” motivated. And drugs. And Food. And all sorts of numbing agents to hope for relief. If only the utilitarian principal had some strength. That aside wishing you a happy weekend Helen.

  7. It’s quite remarkable how, no matter what the party affiliation, we always manage to find a leader who disappoints. I never could abide Thatcher and although I was living overseas when he was in power, Blair’s initial promise evaporated when he hopped into bed with Bush. Cameron was much better when he had the Lib Dem’s keeping him in check. The nature of politicians I suppose. Sigh.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. Britain is hurtling backwards to the Victorian era at a terrifying speed. At this rate those too poor to afford either home-ownership or rent will soon be living in corrugated-iron shanty towns under the nearest motorway. While the Prime Minister tours the world in his private jet hobnobbing with one dictator after another.

  9. I was already depressed before I read this post. Now I am even more depressed; why? Because I agree with every word you wrote.

    As a latter-day cynic I cannot see any change happening any day soon. Even if we all band together and form an anti-Tory alliance who is to say that a new colour ruling class would be better? It’s big business which rules the world. Big business and big business’ profits.

  10. Well, you’ve followed enough of my posts about politics on FB to know that I agree with every word you’ve written Helen. I am horrified to my marrow by what is happening to the country I live in and love and am grateful; to be in Wales where even limited devolution helps to mitigate at least some of the worst excesses of the Westminster government.
    People turn to drink and drugs for many reasons, but escape from soul-destroying poverty and lack of hope is one of the most understandable, even if doing so only makes the poverty worse. 😦 I wish I thought things might improve, but I fear the reverse will happen.

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