Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rough sleeping: the day it was zero

Our free newspaper reported that as at the last count the number of rough sleepers in Cambridge was: zero -- down from 30 in 1997 and something that has not happened in living memory.

It seems to me this is:
* Mostly due to Zion Baptist Church, who opened Jimmy's Night Shelter in their basement
* Partly due to the (Liberal Democrat) council who helped join together different bits of homeless provision. (The person who takes the lead on this, interestingly, is a colleague of mine and a churchgoer.)
* Somewhat due to the Labour government, providing money for rough sleeper initiatives.

Politics is enjoyable at the moment. In scenes reminiscent of 65 million years ago, New Labour mastodons bellow to each other across the cooling swamps saying, 'We must listen and learn from that giant meteorite.'

Gordon Brown, like some giant wounded herbivore, topples over, mouth fixed in a last, glassy smile, pursued through the TV studios by raptors eager for his corpse. One raptor wants to go back to good old New Labour; the other wants a New Old Labour. Such is the quality of debate in his party as they all head for their future life as a peat bog.

I do believe, though, that (laying aside the 10p tax thing for a moment) no currently working UK politician has done more for the poor than Gordon Brown. Some of the money he provided, thanks to the churches, took every single one of the rough sleepers from Cambridge's streets. Some more bought bed-nets and forgave debts and upped the UK's international aid to about the best in the world. As he crashes into the swamp, never to rise, there are worse legacies.

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