Tag Archives: Austerity

Leeds United’s Promotion Has Ripped the Life Out of the Football League – by Rob Atkinson

The Champions celebrate at the home of the play-off losers

For ten years, Leeds United has been the jewel in the EFL crown, a gem of a club amid the various also-rans, has-beens and nonentities which made up the Football League roster in any given season. Leeds was the fixture they all looked out for, everybody’s Cup Final, the club they just couldn’t stop talking about. That jewel in the crown status was always undeniable, everybody knew that United represented the biggest asset in the sub-Premier League game.

But Leeds were a diamond that was neither treasured, valued nor lovingly polished – instead they were continually chipped away at, treated with little or no respect, sniped at routinely, whenever the opportunity presented itself. Minus 15 and the golden share, Spygate, over-celebrating. The trumped-up charges kept on coming, a run of 59 games without a penalty exemplified a corrupt organisation’s determination to cling on to its biggest asset and favourite whipping boy. For the EFL, it was good while it lasted. With perennial TV stars Leeds United as its most famous, infamous and notorious member, the League retained a certain cachet, despite the sparkling allure of the Premier League.

Now Leeds United has disappeared from the English Football League and, bereft of its biggest draw, that sorry organisation must now reflect on what it has left to recommend it. And, whatever efforts might be made to talk up the spectator and viewer appeal of Derby County, Nottingham Forest or even, comically, Brentford, the inevitable conclusion will be that, without Leeds, the cupboard is pretty bare.

There was a certain karmic satisfaction, inevitably, in seeing United celebrate at the home ground of one of their most envious and resentful rivals. Binoculars of the mime variety were brandished by Leeds personnel on the pitch after United’s 3-1 success at Derby confirmed that our hungover reserves were more than a match for anything the EFL has to offer, with the pressure off and the title in the bag. Off the pitch, a jubilant Victor Orta had thoughtfully sourced some actual binoculars to help him cavort with the unrestrained joy of winners against the odds, for this title success has been the story of a club winning a league that wished them anything but success. How teeth must have been gritted, how bile must have been swallowed in the corridors of power as those scenes unfolded at Pride Park.

A guard of honour had been reluctantly formed prior to the game, with the Derby players, who had gleefully rubbed United’s noses in play-off defeat a year before, now having to applaud the Champions. The attitude of “we’ve got to do this, but we hate it” was exemplified by one silly young man in the Rams line-up who thought it cool and edgy to slow-time his clapping. He came across as a sulky kid, but his demeanour neatly summed up the attitude of the whole organisation that Leeds were now, gladly, leaving. A charge of “over-celebrating” followed, petty but typical. We reflected that, a year previously, Derby had escaped censure despite one of their number defecating on the Elland Road dressing room floor in a typically disgusting gesture of disrespect. One rule for Leeds, another for the rest. The game’s rulers were staying true to type right up to the bitter end.

Derby, of course, went on to play-off defeat against Villa, leaving that solitary win at Elland Road, after three previous defeats in the same season, as the highlight of their recent history. It’s still celebrated across their social media with unconscious irony, a determined focus on winning a battle before losing the war. A turd on the dressing room floor is such an apt symbol for that club.

But will I now feel moved to gloat over the reduced status of the Championship? Will I laugh triumphantly over the fact that Derby are currently preparing to host Barrow as United look forward to a visit to Anfield? If you think I’d be ready, willing and able to indulge in such blatant Schadenfreude – then you’d be absolutely, one hundred percent spot-on correct.

Marching On Together

Crazy Boss for a Crazy Club. Leeds and Bielsa, a Match Made in Heaven… or Hell – by Rob Atkinson

Marcelo Leeds

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa

The Marcelo Bielsa era at Leeds United has officially begun, with the man they call “el Loco” – the Madman – holding his inaugural press conference at Elland Road on Monday. Despite a reputation for lengthy press sessions, this was a brisk hour and twenty two minutes, with much of it taken up by the translation process. During that time, we all learned a fair bit about the new United boss. There were questions, answers, a few laughs and no grenades.

One thing that stood out was that, despite his evident dislike of false modesty, Bielsa is not short of humility. He batted back questions about Pep Guardiola regarding him as the best coach in the world, by hanging that accolade firmly around the Manchester City boss’s own neck. The overall picture was of a man who would not be settling for sound bites or stereotypes – a man indeed with his own philosophy and the determination to see that imprinted on his new situation.

When it came to brass tacks, the Argentinean revealed that he thought the Leeds United squad was top-heavy by maybe 15 players, whilst acknowledging that it needed strengthening in four or five areas. Although he stated that there wouldn’t be too many players coming in, and that he saw the youth element at the club as being a potentially useful resource, it still seems likely that there will be some significant player turnover in the near future – with outgoing players making up the bulk of that.

Overall, Bielsa’s debut day went well, and seemed to be well-received, certainly on social media. For this, we must thank the affable and efficient translator, who managed to convey not just the text of Marcelo’s utterances, but also nuance, light and shade. There was even some eye contact from Bielsa, a man notoriously not given to that – and, more remarkably still, the odd smile.

The only potential gaffe came when Bielsa was asked whether he preferred Don Revie or Brian Clough, and delivered a brief homily on his football philosophy, stating “In terms of winning the right way, I prefer to lose rather than cheat or play tricks. I prefer beautiful football rather than over-pragmatic football. Playing well brings you closer to winning things. I don’t think we can claim that playing badly is a way that achieves victory.”

That’s all well and good, but anyone working for the United cause needs to be wary of straying into heresy; sections of the press are all too ready to pounce gleefully on any apparent endorsement of the old myth that Cloughy was all good and the Don all bad. Perhaps a little while spent around LS11 will lead to a reassessment in this particular area. It was a distinctly left-field question, though and, so far, at least, nobody seems to be holding Bielsa’s slightly equivocal response against him.

If anything, this one uncertain moment summed up the abiding sense that here is an appointment that could as easily go extraordinarily wrong as it could sublimely right. In the here and now, nobody can predict which of those two extremes is the more likely – people are just settling for the near certainty that it won’t be anything in between. This union of crazy club with crazy man could indeed be a match made in heaven – or hell.

For the moment, then, it’s full ahead for the good ship Leeds with Captain Bielsa at the helm. May fair winds and calm waters see him safe to the destination we all wish so fervently to reach, there to prosper and maybe find some silver. The mission is clear, the rewards are great. And, while the voyage may be long or short, what we can most definitely predict is that it’s highly unlikely to be boring.

Starving British children are looking for food in rubbish bins

Starving children reduced to scavenging in bins – in 21st Century Britain, the 6th richest country in the world. For shame, Camoron. Roll on 2015, and let’s get you and your malign cronies OUT.

Mike Sivier's blog

Who said it could never happen here? Children are starving on the streets of Britain as the Tory-led Coalition's hate policies bite ever-more-deeply into the poor [Image: Stoke Sentinel]. Who said it could never happen here? Children are starving on the streets of Britain as the Tory-led Coalition’s hate policies bite ever-more-deeply into the poor [Image: Stoke Sentinel]. British children are sifting through bins left outside houses in search of scraps of food because they are starving, it has been revealed.

But Tories and their supporters in rich London won’t have to look at them – because they are in Labour-held Stoke-on-Trent.

The Stoke Sentinel reported that “Youngsters have been searching through bins in the Hollings Street and Brocksford Street area of Fenton before eating any leftovers.”

It said, “Dozens of hungry families are referred to Fenton’s food bank for help every week.”

What’s really sad about this story is that some of the people interviewed seemed to think the problem was with the mess left behind by these children – youngsters who are, remember, so hungry that they…

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Home For Rent- Note The Preferences

This is MY local authority – Labour-controlled -joining in the ConDem policy of marginalising the poor, the jobless, the sick, the hopeless. Horrible.

Same Difference

This should go viral. Thinking it in your head is one thing, but writing it out loud is quite another, especially in the UK in the 21st century.

Thanks to reader Kim Cross.

rent

rent

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There IS a legal definition of bedroom for bedroom tax purposes

Very interesting case-law development on the Bedroom Tax. Anyone affected should appeal, quoting CH/140/2013. Take advice, or simply contact your Local Authority, quoting that reference. You should act BEFORE MARCH 2014 to ensure you don’t run out of time. ACT NOW!!

An Apt Illustration of “The Big Lie” as Perpetrated by the Daily Mail & Others – by Rob Atkinson

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By appointment to Goebbels and Cameron

Having blogged elsewhere about the tendency of this “government” to rehash the old Nazi-acclaimed method of “The Big Lie“, I’ve been looking for a good, satirical piece, the better to illustrate the point. And, just over a day into 2014 – which I hope will be the last complete year of this appalling administration – I found the example reproduced below. Linda Cox of Norfolk is a carer, thinker and an active campaigner against the iniquities of “austerity” – and against the endemic persecution of the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the sick. As a small part of her efforts to lift the murky veil of tabloid-retailed government propaganda, she has summed up the whole thing very neatly indeed. I quote her in full below, with her permission and without further comment.

I feel so secure and looked after by proper newspapers like the Daily Mail. Yes, it is controlled by the government, but that’s why it is there to serve my best interests, like Mr Cameron who loves us really – he wants us all to be rich, and if I shop at M&S and wear stuff like Kate Windsor, celebrities and other important, very clever people I will be rich too. I also know that by looking down on those less able or poor, it will improve my self esteem, and mean I am better than they are. We are more like the Beckhams… well, we would be if we had the money. We will, once they have stopped the foreigners and dole cheats. Then people who want to get on in life, can.

The DM lets me know what is going on in the real world and gives me warning about the things I should fear and we know forewarned is forearmed.

It tells me what to buy, what to watch and what to wear to be more like rich people and to be better than my neighbour.

I am safe in the knowledge that the Daily Mail – and The Sun – have the most readers, therefore I must be reading the facts and it fits in with my own beliefs….and fears.

When I go out I make sure I avoid places where there are nasty, dirty homeless people, because they are all addicts and they might steal my purse to finance their habit.

There is a council estate around the corner where all the people have HUGE flat screen tellies… especially those on the dole. The people are mostly foreign, because they get first choice of all the council houses. The families consist of three, sometimes FOUR generations that have NEVER worked in their life! That’s because they don’t need to. Each child you have on the dole gets you an extra thousand pounds per week. That’s why dole families in council houses have ten or maybe fifteen kids each. Sometimes they murder a few to get on telly. Their neighbours watch them on the news on their massive plasma tellies, while Jeremy Kyle is on an advert break. They all smoke weed and drink alcohol… even the kids, while they play X-box on their own plasma tellies. That’s during the day, because they have all been excluded from school. In the evening and at night, they hang around the streets mugging people, but the victims are from their own estates, so it doesn’t matter. It’s not like they are mugging decent folk. They steal from their own because of the high welfare benefits – these people carry Giros worth thousands of pounds! Especially the foreigners, because they get Girocheques for £6,000 to buy cars!

The Daily Mail told me that most disabled people have nothing wrong with them, so I started spying on so called disabled to make sure they limped, wobbled or fell over every time they got out of their car parked in a disabled bay…. because if they don’t use a wheelchair, there’s nothing really wrong with them, right? They are worse than dole people. They get even MORE money from us, The Taxpayers. They get a new car EVERY YEAR! Nothing to pay at all. The Daily Mail told me so.

Did you know that every single person on benefits gets £26,000 a year? AND that’s the lowest rate, after the government capped benefits. People used to get much more.

Recently poor people have had access to free food, so that’s another thing that doesn’t have to come out of their £26,000 budget. They just turn up at what’s known as a foodbank and get bags and bags of food! FREE! Now lots of people know about it, more people are going there, then they have more money for drugs and holidays. They are opening up in every town. Other people donate food from places like Aldi and Lidl and dole people just pick it up… some places even offer a delivery service! I don’t shop in places like that, so I can’t donate anything….and why should I when I can’t even afford to eat out every night?

We struggle sometimes and can’t always go 5-star on holiday. That’s when I know who to blame. If Johnny Foreigner, Billy Pretend-Cripple and people popping kids out daily, got off their fat backsides and got jobs, I wouldn’t have to pay so much tax! Maybe I could even have enough money one day to be in the Daily Mail myself…..

For now, I’m happy just to live in my ivory tower reading my Daily Mail.

All successful satire or parody has an important kernel of truth. Thanks for reading – I hope it makes a few more people think about what they might read elsewhere.

The Tory Approach to ‘Stock Management’ in Animal Farm UK

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The three Great Offices of State as represented by the current incumbents

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm“, written as an anti-communist allegory in 1943-44 at a time when, due in part to wartime alliances, Joseph Stalin was well-regarded in the UK, remains a classic of its kind. The allegory is a versatile literary device, and in the skillful hands of Orwell it painted a bleak picture of the events in Russia leading up to the Revolution of 1917 and those developments afterwards which brought about the Stalin era. Clearly, Orwell’s target had to be one easily identifiable through the clear vision of hindsight; he had in mind what had already come to pass and was making no predictions as to any future dystopia. But history has a way of reviving familiar themes and it is hard to look at the events that have been unfolding in the UK since the ConDem alliance of 2010 seized power sans mandate – and not to credit Mr Orwell with an uncanny prescience as his work assumes a new and chilling significance.

This coalition government assumed a power it was not elected to on the back of a welter of slogans and promises; those slogans have become sick jokes, perverted out of their original bright and shiny aspect, retailed now in the bitter coin of irony and disillusion. The promises, meanwhile, lay shattered into myriad fragments, reduced to dust to be blown away by the chill wind of austerity – while the original text of vows that became lies are being erased from political web servers, lest they be waved in righteous indignation at the lumpen Untermensch and thus perhaps foment rebellion.

The 21st Century reality of Tory-fabricated propaganda in ConDem Britain is, if anything, even sneakier than the crude tactics of Squealer, the mouthpiece pig of the allegorical Animal Farm. Where Squealer teetered on a ladder with a bucket of whitewash, the better to change the sense of the First Commandment “All animals are equal” by the addition of “…but some animals are more equal than others”, the Tory revisionism is unspoken, the whitewash job more subliminal. So, the internet records are abruptly wiped and old slogans or promises such as “We’re all in it together” are simply dropped quietly, used now only as satirical barbs by those who would counter the Big Lie. And meanwhile, the MP’s get an 11% rise while belts are being tightened among the hoi polloi, the bankers get their munificent bonuses while theplebs face the “heat or eat” dilemma and present themselves at food banks – because what were previously recognised as bare subsistence-level benefits have now been heavily cut from every direction – so harsh choices must be made courtesy of the Orwellian Pigs who banquet in the farmhouse, aloof and uncaring.

Some of the repugnant individual characters in the book hardly do justice to their modern-day counterparts. At least in Orwell’s work, the pigs – on a literal level – really are pigs. The farm stock, literally, are stock – cattle, sheep, horses; the unthinking, uncomprehending functionaries exploited all these years by humans and now hoping in their trusting way for a brighter future under an administration of their alleged peers. “All animals are equal”. But, lo and behold, in modern-day Britain, real life imitates the literal level of art. The Secretary of State for Work & Pensions no longer needs to bother referring to those under his benevolent care as human beings. To Iain Duncan-Smith, they are “stock“, we hear. So our deepest fears are realised: the ruling pigs really do regard us as dumb animals to be exploited for economic success and neglected to mitigate cost – the money saved to be devoted to improving the already lavish lot of the said pigs.

“These people”, trumpets IDS in response to murmurs of mild protest, “are referred to as “stock”. So, he’s emphatic about that, he can’t see that there’s any problem with it. It’s so hard to listen to for anyone who still retains any vestigial dream of a more equal society. People in caring professions are trained not to use terms like “these people”, because it sounds so pejorative, so demeaning – as if the human beings thus discussed are in a box labelled “Problem” or “Undesirable Element”. It’s almost too horrible for words, a litmus indicator of the contempt in which this privileged man, this latter day ruling pig, holds the millions of needy and vulnerable fellow human beings currently at the mercy of his incompetent tenure in office.

The “stock” is not to be trusted. They must be kept penned up and fed on rations, lest they gorge themselves and exhaust the farm’s resources. Any gorging to be done shall be done by the ruling pigs, because some animals are more equal than others. The stock cannot be trusted to have a work ethic, and so quotas are set (we call it Workfare) and sanctions are applied to those who are unable, for whatever reason, to make their contribution. These sanctions do not apply to the pigs, because the pigs are the sort of chaps who can be trusted to work given sufficient fiscal encouragement – so it’s all about incentives there. A bushel of apples in Orwell’s book – a seven figure bonus in 21st Century Britain – if, of course, you’re “one of us”. Incentives for the few – sanctions for the masses. Carrots and sticks – the Tory pigs find it easier to rule with the latter than the former. Easier – and cheaper too.

In Orwell’s book, when through sickness or age productive work is no longer possible, the consequences depend on whether you’re stock or stockman. Faithful servant Boxer, the once-mighty workhorse, is therefore taken away when finally exhausted, to be slaughtered and boiled down for glue, amid fanciful lies about a hospital bed and a peaceful end. The ruling pigs retire to the farmhouse, don the trappings of humanity and live the high life. As a parallel, in 21st Century Britain, thousands who have been found fit for work – when they clearly are not – have either died of their condition or have committed suicide. They have become “economically neutral” in official jargon; this government don’t like to talk about people dying as a result of their policies, so have rather conveniently stopped providing statistics relating to such matters as well as making it much more difficult to uncover such statistics. But Mark Byford, on the other hand, the former Deputy Director of the BBC, was paid an eye-watering £1 million over and above his contractual entitlement because – in Orwellian terms – he’s a pig. Certainly not “stock”, anyway. The ruling animals look after their own. Some animals are, after all, more equal than others.

It’s difficult to say what the future may hold – and it may well be that we’re faced with a sort of Devil’s Alternative, looking for the least bad option the next time we go to the polls – if, that is, such quaint and old-fashioned ideas as elections aren’t done away with in the next batch of nasty little surprises the ruling pigs have for us. I am speaking allegorically, of course. But to say we’re at a crossroads is to show a huge talent for wild understatement. At the moment, official figures are being manipulated to show what the government wants us to see – if they want us to believe that the threat of sanctions, or the effects of Workfare are helping people into jobs, then that’s what those figures will say – with an utter disregard for the truth and the casual brushing-aside of any peeps of protest from those who are aware of the truth. The mainstream media, also, can be relied upon to perpetuate the Big Lie, in all of its loathsome forms – and sadly, people appear happy to swallow this bilge as long as they themselves are not directly affected by the more swingeing examples of government policy. To the despair of those who wish to see transparency in government, and the interests of all strata of society advising policy – the opposite is happening, and that trend remains on the up and up.

What seems certain is that now is no time to be thinking of a new way, or some ballot-box chicanery based on the provision of a “none of the above” option. Nothing would be better calculated to succour our current rulers than such idealistic measures; instead, what is now needed is emergency pragmatism in the quest for that “least bad option” towards the desirable end of ushering out this unscrupulous and incompetent regime. So much damage has been done already, unwittingly forecast in uncanny detail by George Orwell in the mid-forties – and in such a relatively short time – that it’s too horrible to contemplate what might happen post 2015 if Napoleon, Squealer and Co actually manage to get elected next time around. More Workfare, more poverty for those at the bottom, more ostentatiously obscene wealth for those at the top – that could be the least of it.

And ultimately, there will be many thousands more poor, sick, disabled or simply old who will die for want of fair government for all. Perhaps they will reflect as their lights go out, on the essential truth of an old Latin tag: “Qui mori didicit, servire dedidicit” (Who has learned how to die has learned how not to be a slave). For many, that might quite literally be the only way out.

Welfare Reform Blamed For Soaring Malnutrition

Are the ConDem coalition overseeing a return to widespread malnutrition in one of the world’s richest countries?

Is it fair that pensioners and the disabled should have to face the “heat or eat” dilemma when the country’s billionaires have seen their wealth DOUBLE since the so-called global financial crisis??

Is it remotely just that the poor, the sick and the downtrodden should pay the price – some with their lives – for the mistakes of fat cat bankers who will never know the meaning of the words “cold” and “hungry”?

This excellent blog from “the void” sheds some light on such burning questions – and delivers a damning verdict on a government which will go down as the most callous and incompetent in living memory.

the void

IDS-malnutritionCuts to social security, stagnating wages and high fuel bills have been blamed for a trebling of hospital admissions due to malnutrition in Leeds.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, 93 people needed hospital treatment for malnutrition in 2012, compared to just 30 in 2008. These tragic cases could represent the tip of the iceberg says Councillor Lisa Mulherin, warning that the number of hospital admissions: “tells us something about the changes to the welfare system, wage stagnation and the way fuel prices have gone up out of all proportion with people’s pay.”

A shocking 27,000 people across Leeds were estimated to be suffering from or at risk of clinical nutrition said health professionals in the city last year.

Appalling the situation is likely to become far worse as a wave of cuts to benefits begins to bite.  The Bedroom Tax is just a few months old and 9000…

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‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets?

The latest symptom of this country’s inexorable slide back into the dark times of squalor, chronic ill-health, poverty and deprivation for a despised underclass of hopeless, neglected and helpless people: the poor, the sick, the disabled. Rickets has made a return much to the shame of one of the richest countries in the world.

For the Tories – rejoice! The Good Old Days are coming back!!

Mike Sivier's blog

David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.

The announcement brings to fruition a prediction made by Vox Political almost a year ago, when we said: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase.”

According to the NHS Choices website, rickets “is a condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and malformed, which can lead to bone deformities.

“The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D comes from foods…

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Snouts In The Trough – But It’s Time Those Living High On The Hog Picked Up The Tab

The Three-Party System

The Three-Party System

The thing about politicians is – if they’re not talking, or furiously thinking of a way out of their latest web of deceit, or maybe sleeping (a swift forty winks on the backbenches, the ultimate power nap), then they’re most likely at some or other official function, stuffing their faces with the finest of freebie food and drink.

Now, I’m not making a party political point here. I said “politicians”, and I meant the whole unsavoury crew of them, be they high-powered cabinet members, lobby fodder rank-and-file MP’s, or even your humble Joe Bloggs, Mavis Dogood or Tarquin FitzHerbert-Smythe in the local Council chambers. They all have the same basic bodily need for nourishment as us mere mortals. The difference is, they will quite often fill up to the Plimsoll line at the taxpayer’s expense. Is this fair or appropriate in these straitened times?

At a veritable crisis point of global financial meltdown, when our national debt is so high that even Wayne Rooney would need to ask for an extra week or two to pay it off, I find myself wondering: what’s the accumulated value of all the state and civic banquets, dinners, receptions, working lunches and other freebie jamborees that take place every day, all over the country? It must come to a good few bob. We’re not, after all, talking a few limp ham sandwiches, curling up at the edges and accompanied by motley shreds of anaemic lettuce. No, Sir. These people do not skimp; they do themselves well, very well indeed. There’s proper, grown-up, posh food on heavily-laden and groaning tables – and it must be highly debatable how much productive thinking is left in those bloated plutocrats, after the desserts have been and gone, and the port, nuts and cigars are passed around.

Of course, piling into the snap at the highest levels of power is nothing new. It’s been pretty much de rigueur ever since Henry I wolfed down half-a-dozen too many eels, and expired before he could gasp “surfeit of lampreys”. Kings, Queens, and assorted courtiers and other hangers-on have always been notable for their over-indulgence on rich food and fine wine. It sort of went with the territory in those far-off times, but it strikes a more discordant note these days when essential services – the culmination of the whole process of civilisation and enlightenment since before Henry I – are being cut left, right and centre. And yet still the state and political chomping goes on apace.

It’s only a matter of a few weeks since MP’s of all parties were calling for a 32% pay rise, despite their broad consensus that the rest of us should be grinning bravely and tightening our belts. Just what sort of message does that send out, when so much of their weekly calorific intake is provided and paid for, as part of their remit as legislators of our country? And the same applies at least in some degree to our business leaders – no subsidised canteen serving scrummy beans on toast with a poached egg on top for them – it’s Marco-Pierre White catering at the very least – and waiter, send that bill to Accounts, there’s a good chap.

What if – bear with me here – what if MP’s, ponderous boardroom types, and indeed power-brokers everywhere were to embrace a novel concept, and actually pay for some of the scrumptious fare that comes their way so often, and gratis at that? If this were the general principle, multiplied across all the many thousands of vastly expensive official meals and banquets that take place in this over-stretched nation every week, what would be the saving to the national purse? I’m struggling to work that out on my fingers and in my head, but it’s a big, big number, make no mistake. It’s not as if the people we’re talking about are exactly impoverished – are they now? And what do the rest of us do when it’s time for lunch at work? Not everyone has even the subsidised canteen; many of us are away down to the high street for a cheese roll, which we’re – quite reasonably – expected to fund out of our own pockets.

It’s about time we all woke up to the fact that – on a grand scale – we’re being made right mugs out of, you and me. Every time there’s a new cost-cutting measure, or another idea for a wage freeze, you can bet your life it’s been hatched over the smoked-salmon canapés and the pâté de foie gras. And what’s more, we’re the simple souls paying for it. Could that money not be used much more productively, elsewhere?

Just think about that, the next time you’re counting the pennies at the end of the month, and wondering whether you can delay the big shop till after the weekend. Then again, it might even act as an appetite suppressant. Just thinking of all those banquets, all that luxury food, and above all, where the bill’s heading – might just actually make you sick.