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Voice From the Back

Taxing Your Incredulity

Greasy Pole : Life, death or suicide?

Greasy Pole

Thanks to New Labour’s trumpeted policy of being “tough on crime” administered by the likes of Jack Straw and David Blunkett (they never actually got around to the other bit about tackling the cause of it all) there are something over 85,000 people in prison in this country (also, they never sorted out whether over-crowded prisons proved that they had succeeded, or failed, to beat crime). At present none of the prisoners is allowed to vote; in any case if they were not banned the fact that they come from homes all over means that the effect would be dispersed between many constituencies and so unlikely to affect any single result. Which has not lessened the interest, not to say at times passion, over whether anyone who has been locked up for offending against some of the accepted norms of property society, by theft or violence, should have a say in how that society is run day-to-day.


Beggar's belief

Capitalism creates a mass of people who are permanently unemployed and then has to devise means to control them.

In 1728 John Gay wrote The Beggar's Opera for the London stage. It was an attack on the corruption of Robert Walpole's government of private men and on the self-interested motivations that were now to drive society. It featured a central character called Mr. Peachum, a turn-key (gaoler), who aided, organised and fenced for the criminal fraternity of London (representing the cut-throat selfishness of Walpole's ministers) and then turned them in to the authorities when they were no longer profitable to him.

Stir Crazy

A new prison has just been completed near where I live, on the site of an old psychiatric hospital. There is something remarkably symbolic and ominous about demolishing an asylum in order to put up a prison. Of course, the hospital didn't close especially to make way for the prison (it had already become a victim of "care-in-the-community"), but the poignancy is undiminished. The unavoidable impression is that those who are dazed and confused in an incomprehensible world need not seek sanctuary, but should simply await retribution.

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