So two old friends, Erasmus and Tom More, are sitting one sunny afternoon in the Fox and Hounds, lovely little Chelsea pub just off Sloane Square. The two mates are ensconced in the cosy blue sofas right at the back, near the dartboard, and they’ve already a had a few, so a nice little argy-bargy is developing. Erasmus is sipping on one of those non-descript completely characterless continental lagers, could have come from anywhere, which is why Tom calls them ‘bastard beers’. He always sticks to the same old same old pint of Irish stout (no names please).
TOM MORE: So what I’m saying is. Is. . .
ERASMUS: I heard you the first time.
TOM MORE: No listen, listen up. What I’m saying is that during the War, you know, 1945 and all that, the housing stock was bombed to blazes, right? So come peace, not enough houses, right? Temporary accommodation on all sides, right?
ERASMUS: Yeah, s’ppose so.
TOM MORE: So emergency house building programme, right? Local authority housing going up left, right and centre.
ERASMUS: Yeah, I know but what’s your point, what is your point?
Tom takes a long swig of his beer, emptying it with a final gulp and a belch. He then places his glass down and stares into it for a moment, as though the answer lies at the bottom of the glass, in the dregs.
TOM MORE: My point is. . . my point is this. Who caused the recession? Go on, who caused it? Who caused the banking crisis, go on, go on, who was it?
ERASMUS: You’re going to blame the bankers aren’t you?
TOM MORE: Dead right I am. Look at state of the country, look at what they did. But did they go to the wall? They did not. We baled them out and they still got banks today, ain’t they, us taxpayers baled them out. And then what do we get? In the wake, so to speak? We get bloody austerity, more and more of it. Left, right and centre. And food banks, and more and more kids living in poverty and people unable to afford a decent home to rent, never mind buy.
ERASMUS: But you can’t blame everything on the bankers, it’s a much more complicated situation and you just simplify everything like you did in that dreadful book of yours. Utopia. No-hopia, I call it, more like, cloud-cuckoo land, biggest load of.
TOM MORE: Well there you’re wrong see. I don’t just blame the bankers, no I don’t. I don’t. I blame the politicians too, see. Who allowed the bankers to do what they did, run rings round us, get away with blue murder, although in fact the bankers’ books were all in the red (little joke, sorry)?
ERASMUS: Come off it, what about the world economy, the world downturn, what about Greece, and Spain and God knows where, and China and what about Ireland, yeah what about Ireland?
TOM MORE: Now don’t get personal, leave Ireland out of it for the mo, right, no need to get personal, did I say Netherlands, did I? What I’m saying is this. Is austerity an emergency or not? Is rising child poverty an emergency or not? Is the lack of available affordable housing an emergency or not? Answer me that. What is and is not socially acceptable in this bloody day and age?
ERASMUS: O for God’s sake.
TOM MORE: Answer the bloody question, will you, yes or no?
ERASMUS: No, now let’s change the subject.
TOM MORE: What you mean no? How can you say that? What I’m saying. . . I’ll just say this. . . no. . . no let me finish. . . no please let me finish. What I’m saying, and it’s the last thing I’ll say, promise, what I’m saying is quite simple. War time, they bomb the country to bits, right? Smithereens, economy in ruins, rations, the works. So what do we get? Emergency rebuilding, homes up in record time, free school milk, welfare state and all that. Sixty odd years later the bankers bomb the economy to smithereens and what do we get? Go on. . . tell me. . . what do we get? Zilch, nothing, niets, nichts, nada. Last election, economy on the mend, so-called, and what do we get? More austerity, you couldn’t make it up. And they win, they get elected. . . Jesus wept!
Great little pub, by the way. Won’t hear a word said against. Staff very friendly!