All of our allotment gang grew up in an age of full employment and it is hard for us to imagine the plight of those now in search of work. In fact I, like most of the others, found it hard to come to terms with being unemployed once I had retired at 65! We may not always love our work or those we work for, but having no employment creates a sense of worthlessness, of being of no value to anyone.
The latest unemployment figures this month showed the dole queue has soared to 2.49 million, and grimmest of all is the statistic showing that the number out of work for more two years is soaring. More than 400,000 are now in that sorry state and the worst hit are young job-seekers aged 18 to 24. The real danger here is the longer a youngster remains unemployed the more remote become his or her chances of ever finding work in a fiercely competitive market.
None of which augers well for social harmony. I have spoken to kids in the Burnley area who have given up on seeking job interviews and the constant rejections that they result in. Some have told me that there is little point to their lives, little to break its constant emptiness. These are difficult times but imaginative training or community projects could provide an anchor, but politicians are too preoccupied with their own skins to be imaginative. Right now the jobless see pictures of the Cameron’s on their fourth holiday of the year and of the tax evasion of the super-rich. They may well read of billionaire Philip Green, the Conservative Party Adviser, who has taken up residency in Monaco to avoid paying UK tax. They may well read a hundred articles, all of which demonstrate that we live in a two-tier society and they are in tier two.
The Insitute for Public Policy Research predicts that the sitaution is about to get a good deal worse and its chief economist Tony Dolphin warns that the longer people are out of work, the more they lose motivation and confidence. He has produced a plan aimed at a guarantee of a mininum-wage job to anyone unemployed for more than a year in exchange for a range of undertakings. But who in government will listen, who cares?
The central problem really is that there is no one capable of inspiring young people, of convincing them that anything is possible however hopeless things seem. Name just one politician of any party with whom young people identify. Short list isn’t it. Jobless youths are hardly likley to draw motivation for Old Etonians living on another planet and whose only achievement is to tell enough porkies to win votes.
Yet outside of politics there are such people. Yesterday I watched the final day of the Friends Life t20 competition at Edgbaston. Unfancied Leicestershire beat Lancashire in the semi-final and went on to beat highly fancied Somerset in the final. They didn’t have the skills of the teams they vanquished, they didn’t have the highly paid stars. But they did have Paul Nixon, a 40 year-old who never accepts defeat, who battles on when the game is seemingly lost, who inspires everyone around him into believing that anything is possible. As it proved to be.
Paul Nixon could start a fight in an empty telephone box but he cares, he refuses to ever concede defeat. That is the sort of character that could inspire youngsters to start their own self-help enterprises, to create their own jobs if necessary.
The problem is that he and many like him would baulk at the thought of becoming a politician and they hold the power. Until someone finds a way of putting leadership in the hands of real people, real fighters, schemes such as that of Tony Dolphin have no chance of success. People like Nixon would inspire kids to join, people like Cameron or Miliband would not even register.
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE SUNDAY GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ!
1. Who was the Bond girl in “Die Another Day”? 2. Pumpkin Pie is the traditional dessert on which special American day? 3. Who played Eleanor Bramwell in the TV series of the same name? 4. Who painted “The Starry Night”? 5. Which word can be a swan, a horse, a bread roll and a basket? 6. What was Dianna Ross’s first solo No 1 in the UK? 7. What are progeny? 8. Who had hits with “I Can’t Dance” and “Invisible Touch”?, 9. In which part of East London was David Beckham born? 10. If you heard a John Gabel Entertainer, what would be playing?