“Gross impiety it is that a nation's pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.” William Penn wrote these words in 1669. We have no means of knowing what his voice might have sounded like when he read them aloud, as he undoubtedly would have done, but when I hear them in my mind's ear, they are spoken with firmness and a touch of anger. They are words we do well to heed in our own time.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the BAE Systems Annual General Meeting. Shareholders were today (2 May) welcomed into the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, to be greeted by plush carpets, free coffee and glamorous posters featuring BAE staff saying how great it is to work for one of the world’s largest arms dealers (they don’t quite put it quite like that).
Teachers in England are witnessing increasing numbers of pupils coming into school "hungry", "dirty" and "struggling to concentrate" since the economic crisis began, according to a Prince’s Trust and Times Educational Supplement survey. Interviews with over 500 secondary school teachers painted a bleak picture.
“Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.” These words from Disraeli's 1845 novel 'Sybil' could have been written for Norwich MP Chloe Smith.
In a recent BBC debate on unemployment, there was an unbearably poignant moment, when a middle-aged man, Michael, was asked how he felt about being unemployed. ‘I feel humiliated’ he said, close to tears, ‘I feel like it’s my fault’.
He went on to tell of a young woman he knew who had killed herself because she despaired of ever getting a job.