If it's true, we'll be bloody well fed up then

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THE best literary expression of Labour's fear of means testing is Walter Greenwood's working-class novel, Love on the Dole, from 1933.

His Lancastrian hero is out of work:

"Harry Hardcastle, white mercerized cotton scarf wrapped loosely about his neck, a tuft of fair hair protruding from beneath the neb of his oily cap, patches on the knees and backside of his overalls, stood in a long queue of shabby men, hands in pockets, staring fixedly and unseeing at the ground."

Harry's friends learn of the means test:

" 'An' what about this here Means Test as Larry Meath was spoutin' about. Ses they're gonna knock us all off dole. Ah've filled my bloody form in, anyway. By Christ if it's true what he ses we'll be bloody well fed up then. Ah can see me father keepin' me when Ah'm bringin' nowt home. Ah don't think. Bad enough as it is.' "

Harry goes to the unemployment exchange where he sees a man's dole money stopped:

"The manager ordered a clerk to look up the man's particulars ... His superior, after perusing some notes written upon the forms, looked at the applicant and said: 'You've a couple of sons living with you who are working, haven't you?'

'Aye,' the man answered: 'One's earnin' twenty-five bob an' t'other a couple o' quid, when they work a full week. An' th'eldest...'

'In view of this fact,' the manager interrupted: 'The Public Assistance Committee have ruled your household's aggregate income sufficient for your needs; therefore, your claim for transitional benefit is disallowed.'

"The man flushed: 'The swine,' he shouted. 'Th' eldest lad's gettin' wed ... 'as 'e t' keep me an' th' old woman?' "

From the Penguin Modern Classics edition of 'Love on the Dole'