THE NEWS is bad, bad, bad. So bad that I feel terrible for being happy.
AT THE risk of sounding like a BTEC Delta Bluesman, I woke up this morning.
And the news was bad.
British Steel ’bout to fail.
Jamie’s Italian had.
Brexit was still happening, or not happening.
Farage was brushing off the milkshake and slipping on the Knuckle Dusters, ready to deal British tolerance another smart whack to the plums at the Ballot Box tomorrow.
And, worst of all, the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty was laying into the Government for recreating a new Victorian workhouse through welfare cuts and austerity.
Philip Alston, who led a two-week UN fact-finding tour here in November, claimed lives that were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” would again become the fate of the UK poor if present Conservative policies continued.
He accused the Department of Work and Pensions of “designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens” and claimed that Child Poverty in Britain was “not just a disgrace but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”
The welfare policies of the Government since the 2010 Cameron-Clegg coalition, such as the rollout of Universal Credit, had caused the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”, Alston added.
The report said that, while the Government repeatedly window-dressed its record by pointing to rising levels of employment, and economic growth, ministers were in denial about the impact of their policies.
It further predicted that close to 40 per cent of UK children would be living in poverty two years from now.
Overall, the UN report concluded that: “much of the glue that has held British society together since the second world war has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.
“British compassion has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and often callous approach apparently designed to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping.”
Oh, and Brexit was “a tragic distraction” that would have another “major adverse impact” on the lives of the poor.
Of course, the Government has rejected the report, saying the picture that it paints is nothing like the Britain we know.
But anyone who has eyes to see or read, or ears to hear, or a mind open to understanding knows that poor and vulnerable people in this country – both with and without jobs – are living lives of unacceptable harshness and hopelessness.
Food banks on their own are a disgrace in our supposedly wealthy and civilised society.
But how about police cuts, care cuts, cuts in education, zero hours contracts, the growing clusters of beggars on our High Streets, the stories about more and more people forced into prostitution to survive?
It’s enough to make you cry into your porridge, if you’re well-off enough to eat breakfast.
Let’s just say, it’s enough to make you cry.
No, actually, I could go further and say it’s enough to make me feel guilty for being happy at the moment.
Perhaps unfortunately in the circumstances, I had the not-all-that common experience of being genuinely cheerful yesterday. The sort of day that doesn’t come along too often when you are a depressive.
What made me content was…
1) the suddenly abundant sunshine,
2) the fact that my work went well,
3) having time to ride my bike, and
4) a couple of hours at the allotment.
My son is right in the thick of his GCSEs (with three exams today), so right now it’s stressful round the house of anyone who has a child in Year 11.
But what helps is that there are also 16 hours of sunshine at this time of year; burning away The Blues, giving us the energy and the time to do what we want.
Right now it’s possible that – even if you have to work a 12-hour shift for bugger all money – you might still find a bit of time to do something that makes you happy. Even if, like me, you can’t afford to buy a nice bottle of wine just to celebrate a beautiful evening.
I suppose the point I’m making is that I shouldn’t need to be guilty about my happiness.
Happiness is in short enough supply that we don’t need the extra burden of knowing that our Government is failing us.
We shouldn’t need to regret the fact that many of our fellow Britons are leading miserable lives because of its meanness and incompetence.
If only Tory governments disappeared as quickly as the seasons…