Weak pay for privilege of being sent to the wall
When I first moved to Lincoln some 32 years ago, I spent a very profitable couple of hours exploring the cathedral, with a most informative – and voluntary – guide.
One of the gems of information that I remember concerns the ledge that runs along the walls of the nave.
In medieval days, before seating was provided, the congregation stood for services, and those unable to support themselves would lean against the ledge.
Hence the expression: the weak go to the wall.
I don't know if George Osborne has ever studied ecclesiastical architecture, but I do know that he is very experienced in sending the weak to the wall. And now they also have to pay for those who have the privilege of seats.
That was his message at the Conservative party conference last month: austerity to 2020. A decade of relentless cuts in benefits, unemployment, wages continuously declining in real terms, the scandal of zero hours contracts. Thanks very much.
And why is this happening? Let's imagine another scenario and see if it gives us a clue.
Think of a town where a small number of wealthy people control the resources.
Over the years they argue that they don't need to be hampered by rules and oversight, and they're left to manage the town's affairs.
But then it goes horribly wrong. A mixture of greediness and bad decision-making results in the money drying up, and they announce that there isn't enough to go around…
So how is this situation remedied? Do the well-paid people who caused the crisis sacrifice their wealth to rectify their mistakes? No: they decide that they must retain their financial rewards, but those in the town who have the least must get even less. Until 2020.
Isn't that what's happening in Britain?
From the days of the Thatcher governments, the banks achieved increasing deregulation.
In 2008/9, their greed and gross incompetence reached a zenith, and the house of cards came crashing down.
The government poured in unbelievable sums of money to prevent total disaster.
Then in 2010 a new government said that the rest of the population would have to pay off the debt.
The financial crisis wasn't caused by people with long-term disabilities who have no choice but to rely on state benefits.
It wasn't caused by working men and women who haven't had a pay increase for three years, while the cost of keeping their families warm and fed goes ever upwards.
It wasn't caused by people who can't find work because the country's manufacturing base has been destroyed. It wasn't caused by single parents in jobs that don't guarantee decent pay from one week to the next.
And actually, it is not true that there isn't enough money to go around.
There is, or there certainly could be, £125 billion pounds of revenue is lost to the exchequer every year in uncollected, avoided and evaded taxes.
Meanwhile, the highest earners in the land have, incredibly, been given a tax cut.
We lecture other countries on weapons of mass destruction, while preparing to waste in excess of £100bn on the Trident replacement programme.
It seems that there's an austerity divert around peace-threatening nuclear missiles.
But there isn't one around the vast majority of the population. The victims of the great finance con-trick are made to pay for the sins of the perpetrators.
You won't find anything quite like this in Lincoln Cathedral: it's a morality play in reverse.