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’.