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Punish the Poor

Punishing the Poor:

It’s for Their Own Good

Don’t’ You Know?

That’s Levelling Up.

Punishing the Poor.


So here I am in September 2021,

In the year of our Lord of Paupers’ Burials,

In the year of our Lord of Bet Fred,

In the year of our Lord of Universal Credit,

In the year of our Lord of Universal Cruelty,

In the year of our Lord of Cutting twenty Pounds,

Pragmatically doing my bit

For the Trussell Trust,

Which, I think, also feels ambivalent

About its work – as its website says:

‘94% of people at food banks

Are in destitution. This isn’t right.’


A dictionary definition of destitution:

‘Poverty so extreme that one lacks the means

To provide for oneself’;

Synonyms for destitution include:

Penury; privation; indigence;

Pauperdom; beggary; mendicancy …

Isn’t it interesting to observe,

How many of these synonyms,

Seem like archaisms?

Our lexicon for poverty is reluctant

To acknowledge the impact of modernity,

Universal Credit, the gig economy,

Zero hours contracts and so on,

It likes to pretend that poverty is old hat,

Dickensian: Scrooge before redemption;

So that’s why I have donned my boots and pack,

And walked to London along the Thames,

Piecemeal through the winter, spring and summer,

A homonymic walk along a river’s banks,

To raise funds for the destitute, and food banks.



Food Banks and Hunger Marches


The last century saw hunger marches

In the Great Depression of the 1930s,

Organised by the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement,

Then there was the Jarrow Crusade, too:

Poverty, hardship, cuts in the dole, and the Means Test,

Scant reward for the winning the Great War.


Now we’ve walked to London again,

With a faint echo of those earlier marches,

Preceding us on the ghost roads to the capital,

And an echo of an earlier

Ruling class attitude towards ‘the poor’,

Pursuing us in our pilgrimage and wake:

The distinction, authority has tried to make,

Between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor,

In a constant attempt to cut spending.


The reign of Elizabeth the First,

Saw the whipping of beggars and vagrants:

The poor, once more, punished for being poor;

The 19th century saw the workhouse system:

Conditions inside the workhouse were to be

Worse than from the worst paid job outside,

‘Lesser eligibility’, they termed it,

But the motivation was the same

As with Universal Cruelty-Credit:


Cut spending on the poor and destitute,

While canting that employment and a job,

The magic of a weekly pay packet,

Is the pathway out of poverty,

Even though the Rowntree Trust has just shown

That over half of those deemed to be

Below the defined poverty line

Are actually in work

In the year of our Lord of the gig economy

And the year of our Lord of zero hours contracts.

And now they want to cut twenty pounds a week.

A lifeline removed.

To starve people and presumably punish the poor.

This is the reality of levelling up.

Not the rhetoric.

Cutting Universal Credit is the New Workhouse.

Punish the poor.

Mr Bumble – Oliver Twist wants more gruel!

Punish the poor.

Punish the poor.

That’s Levelling up.

It’s for their own good, don’t you know?

Punish the poor.

That’s Levelling up.

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