What do we mean by us and them?

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Out by the Barnes Meadow roundabout in Northampton there are some ragged tarpaulins hanging in the woods marking out a makeshift camp.

During the day it has been deserted, littered with empty food and drink containers. During the night it has been a stopping place for homeless people.

Council officers have been down there with someone to assist with translation into Polish. The occupants of the camp have been given advice about the services available to them.

Although they don’t qualify for housing, they could get some help to return to their home country.

For now they have no work and no means of support.

They have attracted a stream of comments along the lines of “what are they doing here anyway?”, here meaning England’s green and pleasant land.

There have also been some comments resisting this hard-nosed let-them-starvism, suggesting we might take some pride in the fact that this was once a country where this kind of thing didn’t happen.

Well, it was that kind of country for a few decades after the Second World War, our self-styled finest hour. It’s clearly not that kind of country any more.

To be honest I’m not really interested in the rights and wrongs of whether these guys in the woods should get our help.

At a push I would say help them, get them somewhere warm and dry to sleep and something to eat.

It’s the wrong argument.

It’s not the debate we should be having.

Let’s say it would cost £200,000 a year to provide some basic doss-house and soup kitchen facility that would at least keep the peasants off the municipal verges.

What could that get us instead? Some top notch consultants to improve the image of the town? They might tell us to clear the starving people out of sight.

We – the taxpayers and mortgage payers – tie ourselves in endless knots over the way the smallest piece of the wealth pie is dished out while taxes are cut for the rich and bankers vomit money into each other’s pockets.

We’ve got endless enthusiasm for arguments about us and them and who deserves what.

But the irony is the people we identify as “them” (whether it is unlucky immigrants on roundabouts, or work-shy disabled people who should be flipping burgers or, worst of all, single mothers), are usually more like us than we care to admit.