Rural poverty still exists

EVEN carping Conservative MPs in Suffolk and Essex would be hard-pressed to argue that the vast majority of their rural constituents – living in houses worth many times the price they paid for them, driving top of the range cars and ordering their "finest range" groceries over the Internet for home delivery – are today not enjoying a standard of living unimagined in 1997.

EVEN carping Conservative MPs in Suffolk and Essex would be hard-pressed to argue that the vast majority of their rural constituents – living in houses worth many times the price they paid for them, driving top of the range cars and ordering their "finest range" groceries over the Internet for home delivery – are today not enjoying a standard of living unimagined in 1997.

But pockets or rural depravation do still exist in this chocolate box utopia, mainly because the mechanisation of agriculture has resulted in a lack of local jobs.

Combined with declining rural services such as post offices and garages, virtually non-existent public transport, and lax planning laws which have not protected social housing and allowed city dwellers to buy up second homes in the countryside, there is an economic divide here in the prosperous South East. For this, both Conservative and Labour governments share equal blame.

Those good old fighters for the socialist dream – the Workers Beer Company – have reminded me of the desperate realities of poverty on our doorsteps as they organise the 90th anniversary commemorative events for the Burston Strike School.


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In April 1914, Kitty and Tom Higdon – popular and respected teachers at Burston village school a few miles north of Diss in Norfolk – were sacked for their socialist and trade union support.

The pupils walked out in support and until 1939, the villagers and the Higdons ran the strike school, providing an education for local children. It is the longest strike in history.

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"Times change, but the struggle in rural areas for economic justice continues," say the organisers of the celebration events, taking place on Church Green, Burston, on Sunday September 5 from 11am to 4.30pm.

This year's fraternal day will highlight the working conditions that many European migrant workers – particularly the Portuguese – endure working for "agricultural gangmasters" and in "some food processing plants." The leaflet publicising the event has been specially prepared in Portuguese.

Frances O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, will be one of the guest speakers at the rally. More information on the strike can be found on the following Internet sites: www.burstonschoolstrike.org and www.raisingthebanners.org.

WITH share accounts in two mutual building societies, I am allowed to vote on who should be on the board of directors. Therefore, as a BBC licence fee payer I see no reason why I and the millions of others who have to fork out for this ultimate, compulsory, poll tax shouldn't be able to decide who should be on the Corporation's board of governors.

Give us all a vote and let's elect governors capable of rescuing this ailing monolith. If that fails, bring on the advertisers and let Heinz sponsor Radio 4's Today programme – after all, all the moaning liberals dotted around the BBC want the Heinz heiress to be America's next first lady so they surely won't complain at a few plugs for her baked beans.

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