By Bernadette Horton in Britain:
A nation divided in headlines
Tuesday 30th December 2014
We end 2014 much as we started it, but with an even more unequal society — a Britain that is more divided, a Britain where the haves are laughing at the have-nots, a Britain where it does no good to be poor, sick, young or working class.
In the final death throes of 2014, never has this division became more apparent than with recent newspaper headlines.
I thought I had woken in a parallel universe when the Times named Nigel Farage as potentially “Briton of the Year.” Seriously. Briton of the Year.
Farage — a leader of a racist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist party who feels breast-feeding mothers should sit in corners and has numerous parliamentary candidates who try to outdo each other for over-the-top, outlandish, diabolical comments.
Briton of the Year in my opinion is 91-year-old Harry Smith, the NHS fighter who stood up at Labour conference and told David Cameron: “Keep your mitts off my NHS” in a barnstorming speech no MP could match in its passion as he warned us all what it was like prior to the conception of the NHS when his own sister died of TB in 1926.
How can the Murdoch-owned Times even contemplate Farage as Briton of the Year when we have Smith or indeed the inspirational Stephen Sutton who, while suffering from cancer himself, raised nearly £5 million for teenage cancer sufferers from his hospital bed, before dying earlier in May this year?
Or there was volunteer humanitarian aid worker Alan Henning who was held hostage and then beheaded by Isis terrorists in October.
These are the real true heroes and Britons we should be applauding, not the “pound shop Enoch Powell” that is Nigel Farage.
And showing up our divided society further, the Mail showed us pictures of the royal family Christmas, complete with photographs of all the ornate Christmas trees in the many royal palaces and articles on the cost of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s apartment refurb in Kensington.
Costs to the taxpayer are spiralling it seems, yet we are assured that the Cambridges are buying all their own carpets and curtains. A collective sigh of relief then.
While the royals enjoyed their Christmas, news of the utter tragedy of a couple from Sussex with two disabled children made the headlines briefly.
The parents had celebrated a Christmas Eve dinner with family and left the children with relatives overnight.
The couple were thought to be in deep financial trouble but kept it all to themselves.
A neighbour found them on Christmas morning in an apparent double suicide pact.
Without speculating too much, it is obvious that their money worries had reached a stage when they felt unable to cope or reach out for help.
Caring for two disabled children probably had taken an immense toll on them too.
People have no idea just how financially crippling it can be if you have a disabled child.
Even with both parents, one often has to give up work to become a full-time carer.
In this very sad case, caring for two disabled children was doubly tough.
Yet this poor couple felt there was no way out of their financial problems and nowhere to turn.
How many times have we seen the headlines in the past few years of people committing suicide who have been stripped of benefit entitlement through the government’s sanctions regime?
People so desperate that they feel the only way out is to take their own life to prevent further suffering.
The DWP has been urged to come clean on the numbers who have committed suicide where a death has been related to “DWP activity.”
Sixty cases have been looked into and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Sanctions for sick people claiming employment and support allowance have risen a staggering 470 per cent in 18 months, pushing the most vulnerable to the brink.
This is our divided society.
The press also treated us to a peek at Richard Branson’s Carribean island of Mustique, playground of the super-rich, with its secrets of guests eating caviar off a beautiful woman’s stomach and shooting golf balls at human targets dressed in sumo wrestling suits. The mind boggles.
These are lives so removed from the ordinary world, yet our newspapers think we are interested and want to know about the pursuits of the rich and famous.
Meanwhile back in reality, my 15-year-old son co-ordinated his school’s appeal for donations to the local independent foodbank.
The latest stats on foodbank use are due to published shortly, and it’s predicted that the figures will be through the roof.
Over one million people have been to a foodbank in 2014 and that is just to Trussell Trust ones. There are no stats collected from independent foodbanks.
In Liverpool a 22-year-old councillor from Merseyside co-ordinated and ran Christmas dinner at St George’s Hall in the city on Christmas Day for elderly and lonely people and people who could not afford a Christmas lunch.
Thanks to Jake Morrison’s Herculean efforts, 500 people enjoyed each other’s company and a Christmas dinner that they otherwise would not have had.
This is what is going on in the real Britain we live in and not in Rupert Murdoch’s narrow vision of it.
While the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider under this Con-Dem government, it will be the duty of the Labour Party, should it get elected in May 2015, to reduce the gap.
It will be an immense task and certainly won’t happen overnight. David Cameron and his henchmen have done so much damage, it will take some time to challenge and reduce the wealth gap. But it has to be done.
In the meantime ordinary people like us will continue to prop up our foodbanks so people in our communities can eat.
But we want titles like Briton of the Year bestowed on those who truly deserve it — people who have made a huge contribution to our lives, not stood at the bar pint in one hand and fag in the other, laughing at us.
We won’t get that from Murdoch and his right-wing media cronies. The Harry Smiths and Stephen Suttons of the world will be lauded by the people’s paper, your Morning Star. The only paper that fights to pull down the class and wealth divide and expose the real truth to its readers.
Visit Bernadette Horton’s website at www.bernadettehorton.co.uk.