'Waste not want not'

Many years ago I visited a National Trust home. It was Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire if memory serves. I was old enough to start questioning the inequality I saw all around me, but too young to know what I wanted to do about it.

The house was full of faded tapestries, beautiful paintings, old furniture and the musty whiff of ancestral ghosts who seemed to follow me around the building questioning my presence. It took a long time to explore all those rooms, and the final part of my visit took me down a long twisty stone staircase into the kitchen.

The deserving poor
I say ‘kitchen’ but it looked more like an aircraft hanger. This is where the ‘deserving poor’ (those with jobs) would have sweated their lives away for next to nothing. The unlucky ones would have been shipped off to languish in workhouses and die, forgotten by the world. More about that later.

Perhaps those servants felt grateful to their lords and masters for being allowed the dubious privilege of cooking meals in the big house. Or perhaps they secretly hated them, quietly slipping some servant DNA into his Lordship’s game pie.

We’ll never know; but what hit me between the eyes like a bag of cricket balls were some huge words painted over the kitchen hearth, like the warning written over the gateway to Dante’s Hell.

'Waste Not Want Not', they yelled from the wall. A moralistic reminder to be careful. 'Mind your Ps and Qs or you might lose your place here.'

I felt a sudden wave of nausea and left as soon as possible. I left because I could, and because I knew that the kitchen staff would have been unable to. I wanted to breathe and do something life affirming.

'Bloody hypocrites!' I muttered angrily. Imagine lecturing the poor about waste when you're a rich land owner. Things have changed for the better.

Nick Clegg’s greenwash speech
No they haven’t! The UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently gave a speech about ‘greening’ our economy. A speech with a hook because Clegg asked, ‘Can lean times be green times?’ Here he tried to marry two unrelated ideas: that the government’s economic and environmental ideas are somehow in tune. Clegg said:

'We are undergoing a profound transformation within our economy. And for the first time ever our economic and environmental mantras are exactly the same: waste not, want not. Whether it's waste of energy, waste of money, waste of our potential, we are focused on conserving our precious resources. Responsibility and sustainability are the watchwords of the day.'

Fine sentiments. We are indeed undergoing a ‘profound transformation’. The public sector is being profoundly torn to shreds; dismantled by a government hell-bent on austerity (their only idea) aided and abetted by so-called ‘liberals’, who are about as liberal as Mrs Thatcher at her most very worst.

The irony is bitter because no-one is doing more to squander human potential than this government of turncoats, devoid of meaningful ideas.

'Waste not want not', said Clegg the hypocrite - natural successor to the robber barons who were the original owners of Britain's stately homes. Clegg - the Uriah Heep of modern politics.

The price of poverty
Enforced poverty is not a virtue or a way to progress economic savings. Poverty is always about disposal and dispersal. The poor die before their time, so they do not have long to contribute to society. All too often they end up as human commodities, cast aside when they have been broken by the people they are forced to serve.

While struggling to make ends meet the poor are less concerned with ‘green issues’ than the wealthy. There is nothing sustainable about pushing ordinary people over the cliffs of desperation in the name of useless and ineffective policies.

My ancestors knew all about workhouses and serving rich masters because I’m descended from those people. They worked for rich families as servants. They ploughed the land and were uneducated. And yes - some ended up in the workhouse. That’s what I mean by dispersal. Husbands were separated from wives and parents from children.

Protest and survive
Think again, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, if you believe we are going to regress us to those times. Think again if you suppose you can destroy a welfare system which supports so many and saves them from abject poverty. You will be challenged, found wanting - and above all you will fail.

We should waste no time in organising against this coalition of fools. We should want them to go, and go soon.

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