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‘There is poverty and there is poverty of spirit … this is not a broken society’

There are already many thousands of losers in the Glasgow East by-election – the people who live there, writes Tom Shields. On a visit to the constituency last week Conservative leader David Cameron pointed the finger at them: people who were fat, unemployable, dependent on benefits, knife-wielding products of a broken society. And it was their own fault. They could have made other choices.

That is the subbed-down version. In his speech in the church hall of St Jude’s in Barlanark, Cameron said much to give heart to the more right-wing adherents of his party. He said: “If you can work, you must work. We will insist on it and, believe me, we will stick to our guns when the going gets tough.”

Father Allan Cameron, the priest at St Jude’s, who is still mildly puzzled as to why Cameron’s people chose his tiny church hall as a venue, does not recognise his parish as a broken society populated by the dirt poor.

He said: “The change has been extraordinary over recent years with huge improvements in housing and community facilities. My experience of living in the east end is that it is a very positive place although some people have not been able to make the progress we might hope for.

“Lack of work leads to lack of dignity. Lack of dignity can mean you don’t have respect for yourself or your environment. There is poverty and there is poverty of spirit. In my daily experience I do not see this place as a broken society.”

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There is no shortage of hard-working people here who did not have as many options as, for instance, Old Etonian Cameron. As he was putting his foot in his mouth (beside where his silver spoon is firmly lodged), some commentators noted he did so at the church of St Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes.

The full name of the parish is St Jude and St John Ogilvie. Ogilvie is the Scottish martyr who is credited with the miraculous recovery of cancer of Glasgow man John Fagan.

As Father Cameron says: “We’re the only parish in Scotland with our own miracle.” There is no miracle yet in Glasgow East but a lot of those so-called dirt-poor residents are working hard at self-healing.

• Full story at the Sunday Herald.

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