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Delude Retreat Indemnify Prevaricate Squander

Things ain't what they used to be

As you do, I recently found myself reading an old copy of Darlington’s Sports Despatch from February 1947. Wolves were top of the First Division; Grimsby were lying in 11th place; Arsenal had beaten Manchester United by six goals to two. Bottom-right, an advert proclaimed the benefits of Phyllosan which “fortifies the over-forties”. The paper cost three halfpence - old money - which would hardly equate to anything in an era of ‘quantitative easing’.

This was the year before Britain put on its last Olympics. 17 different sports - including lacrosse as an exhibition event - were held over 14 days, with the athletics hosted at the old Wembley Stadium. The BBC transmitted 60 hours of coverage, having forked out £1,000 for the rights. Known as the Austerity Games, competitors were accommodated in army barracks and taken to Wembley by Tube. Although it had ended, the war still cast a long shadow at this time: the government was nationalising the coal, steel and railway industries, as well as establishing the National Health Service. Massive house building schemes started as the slums of big cities were bulldozed into history and new homes erected at record rates. The country was building its way out of austerity.

London's new Olympic Stadium, which has consumed a fair slice of the Games £9.3 billion budget.
Photo: Matt Brock

Move on to 2012. Manchester United have just beaten Arsenal 2-1, Wolves are struggling near the foot of the table while Grimsby now languish in the Blue Square Premier League. My newspaper costs 60 pence (12 shillings in real money), I haven’t seen Phyllosan for years and London is once again hosting the Olympics. But this time billions have been spent building new facilities and a competitors’ village; nobody can give these games an ‘austerity’ label.

And yet outside Stratford, the country is in austerity lockdown. Our remaining coal mines, steel works and railways are back in private hands, the Tories are intent on wrecking the NHS and house building seems to have stalled. Acres of land, with planning permission granted, awaits the rehiring of thousands of brickies, chippies, labourers and electricians - all forced to sit on their backsides collecting benefits whilst the housing market stagnates and families struggle to find somewhere to call home.

...outside Stratford, the country is in austerity lockdown.

But not to worry - we’re all in this together. So with gas, electricity and insurance unaffordable for many, no economic growth, petrol at an all-time high and rail fares inflated to fund ‘investment’, it was heartening to hear an announcement on a train the other day informing us that First Class customers were about to be served their complimentary refreshments while the plebs in Standard Class were being robbed of £1.85 for the world’s most average cup of tea.

To paraphrase Eric Morecombe, we are all singing the same words but not necessarily in the same order.

Story added 1st March 2012

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