Letter: We're no underclass - just persecuted for being poor

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The Independent Online
Sir: My class is as good or bad as yours, or Mr Mandelson's, and "under" neither ("Labour task force to help underclass", 14 August). If I am "socially excluded" it is because I do not have the money to participate in such a society as we still have, which is built upon money and the inequality of its distribution.

I and millions like me - pensioners, disabled, unemployed - do not need clever phrases to disguise us from all but ourselves. We need some relief from persecution by the debt collector and the council bailiff. We need to be lifted out of poverty by a booming economy, and we need the reordering of social priorities, so that real attempts can be made to help us rather than to penalise us for being poor.

Every time a benefit claimant is prosecuted for non-payment of the regressive council tax, a political and social prosecution has taken place. Poverty was made criminal by Thatcherism. Those of us who live with it might begin to regain a little of our lost respect for politicians if they would launch a moral and social crusade against it. A small but important start could be made by instructing local government to take its thieving hands from the pockets of the poorest.

If Mr Blair would like to know how to proceed from there, there are very many of us, currently voiceless, who could advise him very much more effectively than the civil servants and worthy foundations on which he is likely to rely.

ROBERT JONES

Newport,

Isle of Wight

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