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Barrie Hudson column: A harsh lesson in life
IT’S great that the council has joined forces with an outfit called The England Illegal Money Lending team to highlight the scourge of money lenders.
Only last week they were spreading the word to young people at the Swindon Foyer in Old Town.
I only wish there was an expanded series of lessons we could put kids through while they were still at school, arming them with all they needed to know about various situations they were likely to encounter as adults.
We could do it as computer presentations and start with a lesson devoted to finance: “Now then, children, settle down. Here we see an image of a loan shark. Note his low hairline, his baseball bat and the fact that his fingers are like sausages. You’ll also notice that he’s laughing in the picture. That’s because he’s just heard that his brother, a loan shark in another town, has been taken to court and then let out after promising not to do it again, but had his fingers crossed behind his back.
“Our next image shows a payday lender, who is easy to distinguish because of the trail of slime he leaves and because he wears a mask showing a cute, smiling, friendly and helpful face. If you could see his real face, that would be smiling as well. You see, he’s just heard that he can carry on charging 3,000 per cent interest or more and raiding the bank accounts of his victims for as long as he wants to. Looks like all those donations in the right places paid off.
“Now we come to a big bank boss. He’s just told all the little bank bosses not to lend any money to customers, not even if it’s a temporary overdraft to pay for a sick baby’s medicine or fix a central heating boiler in the dead of winter.
“He looks so happy because he’s just been paid a £10m bonus, even though he’s the reason why desperate people go to payday lenders or local thugs who threaten to break their arms and legs if they miss a payment.
“The final section in the ‘Finance’ lesson, children, deals with insurance. The man in our illustration is the boss of a big insurance company who’s just won a court case. It was brought against him by the widow of a customer who was denied a payout on the policy her husband spent 20 years paying into, so she and their four children would be looked after if something happened to him.
“After he died, the insurance company found out that the man forgot to mention on his application form that he’d had a slight cold one Bank Holiday weekend when he was seven, so they voided the policy. The widow and her children have been thrown out of their house and the insurance company boss is now going to crack open a bottle of champagne with his friends in the boardroom.
“Can anybody tell me how these people are morally different from one another? Sorry, that was a trick question. They aren’t.
“Next week’s lesson will be all about shopping. We’ll be asking the question: ‘What do you call a major supermarket chain whose mission is to extract as much cash as possible from its customers while feeding them any old dross sourced from God only knows where?’ “The answer, of course, is: ‘Nothing special.’”
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