The single mother’s manifesto, JK Rowling, The Times.
The Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood, castigated single-parent families from St Mellons, Cardiff, as “one of the biggest social problems of our day”. (John Redwood has since divorced the mother of his children.)
Child poverty remains a shameful problem in this country, but it will never be solved by throwing millions of pounds of tax breaks at couples who have no children at all. David Cameron tells us that the Conservatives have changed, that they are no longer the “nasty party”, that he wants the UK to be “one of the most family-friendly nations in Europe”, but I, for one, am not buying it. He has repackaged a policy that made desperate lives worse when his party was last in power, and is trying to sell it as something new. I’ve never voted Tory before ... and they keep on reminding me why.
The village that shows us what society really means, The Guardian:
The early workers built the walls of their crude dwellings from stone, freely available in this landscape. But they had to get permission to take the turf and the heather to put on a roof. That belonged to the estate. If the estate wanted you out, they had the right to burn you out by setting the roof on fire; the roof that belonged to them.
It does no harm to remember how those with absolute power over employees, tenants or employee- tenants used to treat their meal- tickets, given the freedom to do so. But it does no harm either to remember the astonishing resilience with which a community can join together in mitigation of cruelty and dehumanisation, and change things for the better.
There is a reminder of that in Wanlockhead as well, for this remote hamlet boasts the second oldest miners' subscription library in the world; a library that was assembled by men who lived and worked in appalling conditions, yet set money aside for books and for a place where these books could be kept and shared. The library itself was open only once a month, but the building also hosted meetings of the village's silver band, its quoits club and its curling club. Literature, music, sport, leisure – all these were nurtured, and paid for, by the miners themselves. What a Big Society those people made, from so little. No state to sap their get-up-and-go, you see. No welfare, no rights, no easy distractions to featherbed them all and make them indolent.
“The books in the library attest that these miners were very serious people. There is nothing frivolous – barely any novels. When asked if any particularly unusual books were included in the collection, the library guide explains that there were dire punishments for those who suggested the acquisition of books deemed unsuitable by the strict Protestant churches, which wielded the moral power in the village. She suggests that brave souls indeed must have argued for, and won the right to read, the Koran and The Origin of Species, the only books in the collection that could be said to challenge a Christian fundamentalist view of the world.
And bingo! There's the part missing from David Cameron's vision of a grassroots-up, sober, self-help society. It was not ordinary people who needed the state to keep them in line – fearful authoritarian religious leaders did that. It was the ruling elite, who abused their power without restraint, that made "big government" necessary.”
I forget which stately home it was I visited in the north-east that boasted that its wealth was not founded on slave-ownership (perish the thought!) but lead-mining.
Finally, how’s this for nonchalance? The captain of the BA flight caught in an ash cloud following the eruption of Mt Galunggung in 1982 made the following announcement to passengers:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.”
Funnily enough, the newspapers don’t appear to be quoting his comment about the landing: "a bit like negotiating one's way up a badger's arse"