Opinion – Britain’s New Underclass – Hiding in plain sight | The Economist – John Gelmini

English: Letchworth Railway Station. At least,...

English: Letchworth Railway Station. At least, that’s what it says on the front so I have no reason to doubt it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Letchworth Salvation Army Hall. One o...

English: Letchworth Salvation Army Hall. One of the town’s many churches. It is at the bottom of Nevilles Road on the junction with Norton Way North. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



English: Letchworth power station. No longer o...

English: Letchworth power station. No longer operational, these chimneys could be seen for miles around. They were demolished in 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr Alf brings us an excellent article from the Economist, dealing with Britain’s “New Underclass Hiding in Plain Sight”.

They are hidden in the sense that many such people live in estates and eat and drink in places where most of us would not want to go, consort with people we would not want to meet, that we would not want our loved ones to meet, and with whom we have little or nothing in common.

Some are Housing Benefit recipients, living in areas which they would not be able to afford if they were working in a normal job that they were capable of doing.

A trip to Letchworth, Hertfordshire, which is 2.5 miles from where I live, can pinpoint some of these people, guzzling beer and smoking cigarettes, outside a downmarket pub called the “Three Magnets”, particularly on days when it is sunny and they have received their benefits. Late at night, the local fish and chip shops have snaking queues of such people, including grossly overweight single mothers, and elderly social class C1, C2, D and E pensioners, wearing their customary uniform of grey crepe soled shoes, white trousers, a cheap shirt that has seen better days and a battered mobility-scooter, taking up most of the pavement. The offspring of the grossly overweight mothers rush about hither and thither, throwing sweet wrappers everywhere, wearing cheap football shirts, reversed baseball caps and jeans worn so low that their underpants and rather too much of their bottoms are showing. From their grunts, feral appearance, and speech you can see in an instant that a glittering career in the City, the law, the professions, medicine or business is not going to be the lot of these youngsters but a life of shuffling up and down at the local Jobcentre, and being shouted at, with the words “Done any work”? and “Next!”, interspersed with petty crime and work in the black economy, is going to be the future for most of them.

I have met a lot of these people during the course of an interim assignment to discover whether a salesforce of 3000 people and the layered management structure above it should be kept by a particular insurer which has to remain nameless, or whether it should have gone into closed operation and runoff.

To undertake the assignment, I wanted to see how people were managed and trained and what was actually happening on the ground.

So I effectively went “undercover” and during the day and for several months of nights, I became a life assurance agent, selling to this hidden underclass, who many of the managers of that firm used to call “scummers” or “scum” for short.

The present UK state school system is churning out more people who will become like those people because trendy heads and local authority education apparachiks have already written them off and fail to discipline them at school, whilst they are being similarly failed by inadequate parenting at home.

The system is beyond reform and must be replaced with a composite system embodying Chinese and Singaporean teaching methods a longer schoolday, whole class teaching, Saturday schools for slow-learners, and military style discipline in boarding schools run by the Army for the worst behaved.

As a child, I used to dislike my father insisting that 7 days a week, I had to be up and about by 7.30 am, and doing things to earn pocket money without recourse to him. All these years later, I understand and appreciate the logic of what he did, which was his way of not featherbedding or mollycoddling us in a competitive world.

Today, the combination of “everyone must win prizes”, “learning must be fun” and lack of discipline is corrosive to the mind and spirit, and it turns people, who might have a chance of self-improvement, into mindless blockheads, sadly often adicted to drugs and poor quality food.

Whilst I appreciate that not everybody might agree with me, I challenge you to ‘go undercover’ and produce your own evidence. From my own school days, at least I empathize. Sadly, I fear that the political classes are clearly many times removed from the raw evidence – it is they who are responsible for the underclasses, not so much the unfortunates themselves. The worst offenders are probably the trendy liberals, working in education, the public sector and politics.

I say again,  ‘It’s time for Chinese and Korean rules!’


John Gelmini

Opinion – Policies and actions to shift eating patterns: What works? | Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) -John Gelmini

I would like to share my views on dealing with obesity and the related issue of poverty.

John Gelmini



What works is variable tax on foods, people not drinking carbonated drinks and people not drinking on an empty stomach.

This is a matter of political will and the toughness to legislate against tobacco companies,processed food manufacturers and the chemical industry.

Less fish and chips, frozen Mars bars, pre-packaged junk food and getting out of bed before Jeremy Kyle starts his programme and doing some walking at pace also helps.

Dr Alf’s basic question is not answered by denial nor pretending that sensible self-control on the part of everyone, rich and poor alike, is the key to tackling obesity.

Certainly the wealthy can afford trainers, de-luxe gym memberships and the like but Nicholas Soames is not the only very corpulent rich man in the world and from what I saw when I lived and worked in America will not be the last.


Poverty is a much wider issue, and to prevent it, you would have to reverse a number of unstoppable trends, including the automation and robot process, outsourcing of much of the work that the poor can do, and the gap between rich and poor widening as fast as it is.

You would have to change the way the poor think, by getting them to practice mental exercises, and be in an alpha brainwave state which rich people are generally in most of the time.

That would mean changing the education system and most of the teachers.

None of that is easy to do.

Some among the poor have the innate ability to rise above their personal misfortunes and grinding poverty. Let me share a personal example.

My late mother, who had to leave school at the age of 12 and came to this country (UK)  from a village in Southern Italy,  which the Nazis destroyed during their scorched earth policy in 1944, prior to the Allied invasion through Sicily – she knew no English, had that ability as did my late father, who had to leave school at 14 despite having won two scholarships and ended up here in the UK in 1948, doing work which the then Ministry of Labour prescribed.

Both of my late parents could actually think for themselves and kept their own counsel, worked and saved diligently and put up with being laughed at and ridiculed, rather than following the herd, which is a recipe for poverty in old age as many studies have shown.

Social workers and middle class ‘do- gooders’ have no answer to poverty because the answers come from within people and are largely mental.

We see this with pools and lottery winners who fritter away their new wealth and revert back to their former status and we see it with the “clogs to clogs” syndrome whereby an impoverished founder of a business creates an empire only to have dissolute grandchildren lose it all.

John Gelmini