Category Archives: BBC Sport

Welfare Compassion

The pathway to universal social benefits for those who need them has never appealed to the Right in politics. Their message has alway been, ‘very nice but the nation cannot afford it’. In their time the country could not afford a state pension, or the NHS, unemployment benefit, a minimum wage, or a guaranteed income for the disabled and the destitute. This conviction runs  in parallel with a value judgement: these benefits should only go to the deserving poor, and to its associate idea, that not many are deserving. It was once the case that poverty was considered not to be a sin but a misfortune. It was  the Victorians who branded it otherwise.

Social democrats have always considered welfare as a safety net through which the unfortunate should not fall. Human nature being infaillable it was accepted that there would always be some who abused the system but that no device of man could prevent some abuse. Taxpayers were the fortunate: after all they had income and their taxes helped the unfortunate.

Is it possible to select the deserving and weed out the spongers? One can try, it is right to attempt it, but the pathway leads to poverty, discrimination and, yes, a lack of compassion. There are a thousand reasons for some not working: mental or physical problems, looking after children or incapacitated adults – and a lack of work. Now all these people and they run to hundreds of thousands are for the high jump. If they try and fail to get a job any payment being made to them and their families will stop.  ‘Work will make you free’. Hold on, are they not the words above the entrance to the Auchwitz concentration camp? Some of these people, staring at the tellie with instant coffee to hand, know at the start they will fail. And what about the children? We shall look after them say the Coalition at the same time denying this family financial help. How will this be done? If they are shunted to a boarding house in Hastings, homeless, penniless, away from school and friends, are they being helped? Surely it is better and more compassionate to help keep this family together in its own home. It is usually better to have a home than not.

Well it is objected, I exagerate. It will not come to that. But it will for some family near to you, perhaps many near to you. What about your neighbour or your neighbour’s friend?  Let us consider the 8,500 London families whose  Housing Benefit is to be cut, some of these will lose their home and fail to find another. Not all of them you mutter, and serve them right, they, this family, should get on their bikes, assuming that they have them, and find something else. Some will, but some cannot. Perhaps no more than half, you retort, will lose out.  Oh that’s good not more than a  half, being 5,000 families in southern coast boarding houses. No problem. One would be too many, ten a mishap, but thousands of avoidable family disasters? Surely,  a shame on us all!


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Living the Dream: Cesc Fabregas

The football season is upon us. The annual British religious experience is here. We Arsenal fans know what this means for us:  frantic last minute endeavours by Barcelona to wrest away our captain Cesc Fabregas for their very mixed motives;  to have Cesc become part of them;  to rescue Barcelona FC from its nightmare of bankruptcy and  fading glory. For those of you who are not on this planet and do not know, Barcelona discarded Fabregas when he was sixteen years of age in 2003 and Wenger, and Arsenal,  had the sense to take him on and help him become the most gifted young midfielder in the world. Cesc is happy with us and we are happy with him. We believe that with Cesc we will move on from being a highly talented team to a great one, from a nearly side to the trophy winning phenomenon of modern football; and that one day we shall look back on the unbelievable shenanigans of Barcelona’s attempt to tap up our captain as their last throw of the dice.

Today our team assemble for the group team photograph. Our captain will be there, smiling we hope, and still sharing our dream. We want to tell him that we love him, that he is one of us; we need him to tell us that we are still part of his dream. Wenger, who does no more that speak for us, wants Cesc tell the world that he is committed to us for the next four years of his contract, that he wants to play for us – and good riddance to Barcelona.

If he does this other dreams will be shattered. Not only Barcelona football club and its fanatical devoted fans but Cesc’s family, friends and millions of adoring Spanish football fans, and not least the Spanish media who feed on Cesc. Choosing us, Arsenal, will dent the dreams of his  father and agent, Franscesc, senior. His family aspirations will be bitterly disappointed. His mother and father are divorced. Franscesc, snr has a small property company and his mother Nuria Soler is the owner of a pastry shop. They have their own dreams: they need their  son back where he belongs to fulfill them; they need him where they think he belongs, Barcelona.

At Arsenal we know we have done nothing wrong. We have been good to Cesc and he is good for us. Our club is impressively run and managed. Our house is built on solid foundations and not on sand. We can name many players who have grown impatient with us and who sought new and greener pastures only  to find that they were mistaken by the siren sounds of new clubs and then to be quickly discarded on the whim and the politics of the moment.  Not us Cesc, not us.

We cannot bear these constant rumours each and every season. Speak up Cesc, do it today. We know that if you do this, you will not let us down and we shall stand loyally beside you because we can believe in you without fear and believe in ourselves. Do it now Cesc, do it loudly and firmly, and let’s get on with the beautiful game.

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