On February 17, the Mid Wales Journal published a letter from Caroline Parkinson of Nantmel, responding to my article, ‘Britain’s idyllic rural life – poverty and joblessness’. The letter is reproduced below and you will see that it made several points that required a response. Unfortunately the paper has steadfastly failed to publish my reply. Now, I don’t want the world to think I’m going to let a few ill-chosen words by someone who doesn’t understand the situation go past without a fight! If the Journal won’t afford me the right of reply, I’ll just have to publish it here.
This is what Ms Parkinson scribbled:
“Mike Sivier makes a good show of spouting statistics about the various aspects of poverty in and around Llandrindod Wells.
“However, when forming an opinion on what he has said, bear in mind that as Llandrindod’s Labour Party secretary he is hardly going to be unbiased.
“Also, how much credence do you give to someone who calls himself ‘the biggest loudmouth in Wales’? Does he intend to get his point across by using bully tactics? That’s how it appears to me.
“He finds it ‘revealing’ that LW is ‘the 15th most likely town in the UK to have overspent’ and says that some of the most generous householders have some of the lowest incomes!
“These are not ‘generous’ households and I am deeply concerned that he seems to be applauding them in such a way.
“They are simply the product of a reckless society that is entirely built on debt, where no-one lives within their means, selfishness abounds and if next door’s got it, well, I’ve got to have it too, whatever the cost, both financially and otherwise.
“There is no sense of self-restraint, no modesty, only greed and the weakness of those who cave in so easily to the pressures of our consumerist modern world.
“You will often hear people using the word ‘need’, when actually they mean ‘want’. What we need and want, is self-serving loud-mouths and others to develop a sense of humility, stop always blaming the opposition for everything that’s wrong in society and lose the obvious chip on the shoulder that so negatively influences their musings.
“The help Mr Sivier seeks will not be forthcoming and he is too short-sighted to see why. One little word: debt. Until the British learn the lessons of the mess we’re in, the problems faced by Llandrindod and the developed world will not go away.”
Here’s my response:
I’m not going to lose sleep because Caroline Parkinson has a low opinion of me.
But she has also – disgracefully – insulted the people of Llandrindod Wells, and I’m not going to let that pass.
Ms Parkinson doesn’t know me and therefore cannot know that the subheading on my blog is based on a friend’s comment: “Oh, so now you’re going to be the biggest loudmouth in Mid Wales?” Her attitude to me proceeds from a false assumption and I think her comments about Llandrindod are also based on prejudice rather than reason.
By the way she highlights my political affiliation, one can deduce that Ms Parkinson is a supporter – or a member – of one of the other main parties, Liberal Democrat or Conservative. If they think this behaviour is acceptable then I am doubly glad to be Labour!
According to Ms Parkinson, it is the residents’ fault that much of Llandrindod is in poverty. She claims that this is a town where “no-one lives within their means, selfishness abounds and if next door’s got it, well, I’ve got to have it too, whatever the cost.
“There is no sense of self-restraint, no modesty, only greed and the weakness of those who cave in so easily to the pressures of our consumerist modern world,” she writes.
“These are not ‘generous’ households.”
Since she does not apply them to any individuals or groups, her words must be applied to the whole town. I’d like to see the factual evidence for these assertions, please, Ms Parkinson.
I supported my claims with facts. The average wage in Powys is only 72 per cent of the national average but we all know that income tax, council taxes, utility bills and the cost of groceries are as high as they are everywhere else. Unemployment in Llandrindod is the highest in Powys. Child poverty in Llandrindod North is the highest in Powys. The last fact follows on naturally from the others and you can check these figures; I didn’t make them up.
Taking them into account, it is no wonder that people in Llandod were among those considered most likely to have overspent in the run-up to Christmas. It’s a very expensive time of year and in a town with as much poverty as ours, they simply couldn’t stretch the budget any further.
It is easy to sit in Nantmel and slag off people in hardship in Llandrindod. But I live here too. Nobody near me has been overspending because they want what the person next door has. They’re too busy trying to keep what they have themselves.
I said I was doubly glad to be Labour – here’s why: Labour is standing up for Llandrindod. The parties represented by Ms Parkinson will only run it down.