Beggar’s your neighbour but not for long...

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Heartening though it was to see a phalanx of lep.co.uk readers cheer the imminent police ‘crackdown’ on city centre beggars, one cannot help but feel this effort is merely the first ill-considered step on a long and possibly circular journey.

Clearly far from endgame.

For starters, to where, exactly, is the pan-handling horde laying waste Preston’s beating retail heart to be purged?

Has this been thought through? Because one severely doubts the gaggle embracing this operation do so in the expectation that said undesirable element is set merely to be displaced.

Suppose they start popping up in leafy suburbia where many of those calling for ‘something to be done’ quite likely abide? Outside of Fulwood Booths “looking at you so sorrowful, more or less asking for money,” as one seemingly kindly yet ultimately vengeful ‘man in the street’ described the reign of terror?

So what next? Further, wider dispersal? Out into the villages and greenbelt? Trust me, right-thinking people will consider this a shabby victory should ramblers and forest foodie foragers et al simply supplant shoppers and city centre workers as the hapless prey of hoboes in the hedgerows, cadgers in the copses, and sundry alliterative affronts to accepted middle-class decency.

Rural mayhem almost certainly waits around the corner, and it is easy to imagine (close your eyes, maybe lay down, if experiencing difficulty) our constabulary grimly engaged upon an endless berserk game of WhackaMole from one end of the Red Rose to the other, futilely scattering damaged individuals to the four winds.

What a faff. Thus, it seems, we have but two alternatives. Help or custody.

The former, obviously, presents several philosophical difficulties.

Are we able to acknowledge that, in the ordinary run of affairs, the prevailing economic systems – which can be concisely summed up as survival of the fittest with most inherited wealth – will inevitably spew out X amount of desperate broken individuals so devoid of self-respect they fall to their knees and beg in public?

Why, of course not! That might entail accepting we have some responsibility for one another, as human beings rather than units of economic activity.

So path of least resistance it is. Lock ‘em up. Until we arrive at a solution.