Opinion

Paul McNamee: Crossing the line

"Cait Reilly, Damien Shannon... the ‘all in this together’ mantra is a thing of nonsense"

The battle lines are becoming clearer. They are being drawn by disgruntled people who are trying to get on but are locked out by some form of inequity; they have decided to make a stand.

The victory for Cait Reilly in the Poundland work-for-benefits-case was significant. Though she won on a legal technicality leaving the back-to-work schemes judged unlawful, there is a core issue worth repeating. She was being asked to work without receiving fair pay for her efforts.

A fair day’s pay for fair day’s work is an honest, basic request. It wasn’t about her feeling above the job (she now works in a supermarket). It was finding work and building some kind of future.

Damien Shannon’s case also feels significant. A bright postgraduate student of what 19th-century novelists used to call moderate means, he was offered a place at St Hugh’s College in Oxford. This, however, was withdrawn because they said he couldn’t illustrate he had access to £12,900 per year living expenses.

If you’re smart and trying to achieve some sort of social mobility but you are not wealthy and don’t have good contacts, forget it

That’s expenses AFTER he took a loan to cover their fees. The college says it wants to make sure students don’t drop out. It also appears to want to make sure he had enough for things like three expensive meals a day and for spare spectacles. As this is how students normally live. Shannon is taking them to court.

Both stories illustrate that the ‘all in this together’ mantra that marked the start of the current Westminster administration is a thing of nonsense.

If you’re smart and trying to achieve some sort of social mobility – the sort that perhaps your parents enjoyed – but you are not wealthy and don’t have good contacts, forget it. That ladder has been pulled somewhat higher up the social order.

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So, while there is lack of mobility, while shops are shutting at a huge rate of knots, fire is coming from the sky and nuclear tests underground are all bringing on some sort of post-millennium apocalypse acid reflux, fear not: there is always Nick Cave.

Some time ago, it was revealed that the great gothic balladeer, a witty teller of our times, was spotted waving a huge foam hand at a Chico show in Brighton. Last week, Cave further enhanced his reputation as the cool dad nonpareil by revealing that he took his kids to Madame Tussauds so they could see the Miley Cyrus model. And he shops in B&Q dressed in his full suited finery. Proper order.

If you have any comments please email me at paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com, tweet @pauldmcnamee, or send a letter to The Big Issue, 43 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HW

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