Tuesday 24 May 2016

Britain is still a country and no country for an angry old, film director called Ken Loach

Page views : 1771

Ken, who will be 80 years old in a few weeks and who has been making films for over 50 years, noted for their social realism and driven by his left-wing views, has seen them denied the accolades in Britain which they have been granted in Europe.

He was 28 when he made ten
BBC' 'Wednesday Plays', including the docudrama 'Up the Junction' in 1965, recounting the experiences of three young women in North Battersea and Clapham Junction, one of whom was pregnant at a time when abortion was illegal. It caused a major uproar in Britain due to its rough language, racist characters, graphic depictions of sexual promiscuity and a harrowing abortion scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzfoBN07JXI&t=35m15s

The following year his 'Cathy Come Home', for the BBC, dealt with the issues of homelessness, unemployment and the working of social services and saw his film have such a  massive impact that it led directly to a change in the Homeless Laws. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQJVZI_UF4Y

In 1967, for the cinema, directed 'Poor Cow' about a young woman who married and had a child with an abusive thief who quickly ended up in prison and left alone, took up with his mate, another thief, who seemed to give her some happiness, but who also ended up in the nick. She then took up with a series of seedy types who offered nothing but momentary pleasure until her son went missing and she briefly came to grips with what was most important to her.

Also in 1967 made 'Kes' , the story of a troubled boy and his kestrel and saw it listed as Number 7 by the British Institute in the list of 'Best British films of the Twentieth Century' 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoF-UrCVaCg&t=1hr09m19s and his 1967 documentary, 'The Save the Children Fund Film', so disliked by the charity that it attempted to have the negative destroyed and only saw it screened in public in 2011.

In 1981 and was commissioned by Channel 4 to make 'A Question of Leadership', a documentary series on the response of the British Trades Union Movement to the challenge posed by the policies of Margaret Thatcher's Government and concluded that the decision not to screen the programme was 'politically motivated'.

Four years later saw his 'Which Side Are You On?' about the songs and poems of the 1984-85 Miners' Strike commissioned by ITV's, 'The South Bank Show', also withdrawn from transmission, only to see it broadcast after it won a major prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzFXE961Hwc&t=3m50s

In 1991 saw his 'Riff Raff'', which won the 'Felix Award for Best European Film', receive less acclaim in the USA where it was shown with subtitles because of its English dialect and at the age of 69 in  2006, won the 'Palme d'Or' at Cannes for 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzqHEFHWYy4&t=1h26m00s , about the Irish War of Independence against the British during the 1920s.

Three years later in 2009, saw his 'Looking for Eric', which featured a depressed postman's conversations with the ex-Manchester United football star, Eric Cantona, played by himself, fail to get wide release and only make £12,000 profit, despite receiving critical acclaim.

In 2011, released 'Route Irish'an examination of private contractors working in the Iraqi occupation and 'The Angel's Share' about a young Scottish troublemaker, given one final opportunity to stay out of jail receive the 'Jury Prize' at the Cannes and in 2012, 'Jimmy's Hall' selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in Festival and of which Jonathan Romney in the Guardian described as finding : 'the director in lyrical, but typically angry, form' with its true story of an Irishman of Jimmy Gralton who was deported from his own country without trial in 1933. His crime – to have set up a public hall in County Leitrim, a venue for education, community events and musical shindigs both traditional and featuring the jazz that Gralton had brought back from America. 

Now Ken has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for 'I, Daniel Blake,' which stars stand-up comedian Dave Johns in the title role and was written by his long-time collaborator, Paul Laverty. It documents what happened when an older man living in Newcastle had a heart attack; can no longer do his job; was declared fit for work; had his benefits stopped and began to go hungry; met single mother of two Katie, who had moved to Newcastle from London, 300 miles away and being re-housed with her children, was also a victim of welfare bureaucracy.

The Cannes judges praised the actors' depictions of the characters who "find themselves in no-man's land, caught on the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy as played out against the rhetoric of 'striver and skiver' in modern day Britain".

Paul Laverty researched jobcentres, benefit sanctions and food banks to create the story of Daniel, the joiner and on Monday, speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ken himself said: "If you get out among the people who are in the food banks, who would not eat unless there were people providing charity, I think you'd find there's a great disgust and despair that we live like that in this country now."

Ken said : "There is a conscious cruelty in the way we're organising our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault. If you have no work, it's your fault you haven't got a job." Back in November he told the Guardian : “The present system is one of conscious cruelty. It bears down on those least able to bear it. The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist.”

Ken has said : "A movie isn't a political movement, a party or even an article. It's just a film. At best it can add its voice to public outrage"

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Britain is no country for old men of the 'Silent Generation' who preceeded Second World War 'Baby Boomers'

Research by the charity, 'Independent Age' has found many older pensioners are worse off than their younger counterparts by thousands of pounds a year on average and around 20% of over-75s, up to 950,000 old men and women, are living below the poverty line. It said that this 'Silent Generation' of pensioners who, as children, lived through the Second World War, are being forgotten while public discussion focusses on the wealth of younger, post-Second World War 'Baby Boomers.'

Independent Age's Chief Executive, Janet Morrison, said the Britain's 11.8m pensioners could not be considered as "one group" and "It would be foolish to assume that inequality simply ceases to exist at retirement age, but that is exactly what some of the recent rhetoric around 'intergenerational unfairness' does."
“This is the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ generation that lived through the Second World War. The older people we spoke to as part of this research talked about ‘keeping a brave face’, ‘cutting their cloth’ and not wanting to ask for help. There is a real risk that this generation will be forgotten and left to suffer in silence.”

Dr Matt Barnes from the Department of Sociology, City University London, who worked on the report with Independent Age, said : “It’s all too easy to take the narrative about wealthy Baby Boomers and apply it to all pensioners. But this report shows that just doesn’t hold true. There are huge variations in incomes of pensioners, with hundreds of thousands of older pensioners living below the poverty line."
The Report argues that : 'It is vital for the government to take concerted action to ensure older people have the support they need to live independently, and to maintain their dignity, choice and control.'
Needless to say, we can rest assured that little or nothing will be done for this group which constitutes the 'weakest of the weak' in Britain in 2016, the estimated 950,000 pensioners in this older age bracket who live in poverty.

This Silent Generation consists of men like 86 year old widower, Jack, who
doesn’t spend as much money now as he used to. He doesn’t buy any new clothes and he doesn’t go to the pub anymore and said :
“I know I have to spend less. You know your commitments. And the thought of being without a penny would be terrible. I wouldn’t ask anyone for help, wouldn’t want to rely on anyone." Having around £1,500 savings, he said : "I've got enough in the bank to bury me, so my daughter doesn't have to do it."
With £1,500 in the bank Jack isn't one of those 1.1 million old people over the age of 75 who have no savings at all, but is one of the 750,000 who have no source of income other than their state pension and benefits. Living in poverty means he lives on less than £134 a week and below 60% of household median average for the rest of the population.  
Jack certainly is part of the cohort of poor pensioners who don' t :

*  go out socially at least once a month
*  take a holiday away from home
*  have access to either a car or taxi when needed
Jack's generation lived through the Second World War and started work, like him, in the 1940s and 50s. Half of them like him are now single and a quarter of these are men. The Report argues that : 'Those who lived through the Second World War must be given the support they need to prosper in their older age, rather than being left behind and overshadowed by their more prosperous successors.'

In order to achieve this goal, the Report made the following recommendations : that the present Conservative Government  should :

with other key agencies, must re-energise their efforts to promote the take up of Pension Credit and other benefits to the groups of older people most at risk of living in poverty.
* introduce a ‘triple lock’ on Pension Credit to guarantee that recipients of the ‘old’ State Pension do not suffer a relative decline in their state income.
* guarantee that proposed reforms to Attendance Allowance will not introduce a means test, and will not result in reduced incomes for older people.
* ensure that lower income pensioners continue to receive vital universal benefits like Winter Fuel Payment and the free bus pass.
* introduce a ‘triple lock’ on Pension Credit to guarantee that recipients of the ‘old’ State Pension do not suffer a relative decline in their state income.

Rest assured that, in Britain in 2016, the Government will do little or none of these things on behalf of old men like Jack and his Silent Generation.


Monday 16 May 2016

Britain is no longer a country nor Scotland a nation and say "Farewell" to old saxophonist who played his way in the USA called Joe Temperley

Joe , who has died in New York aged 88, was a giant of the baritone saxophone and the first Scottish jazz musician to make it on the New York scene. Born and raised in Scotland he spent his first 38 years in Britain where he worked his way through the best British dance and jazz bands and his last 50 in the USA where he did the same serving in the Duke Ellington Orchestra and, later, its closest modern-day equivalent, Wynton Marsalis’s 'Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.'

What you possibly didn't know about Joe, that he :

* was born, Joseph, the son of a bus driver father in the coal mining town of Lochgelly, in Fife, Scotland in 1927, the  second youngest of the children, who left school at 14 when his mother secured him a job in a butcher’s shop by which time, he was playing cornet alongside his elder brother, Bob's trumpet, in the 'Cowdenbeath Brass Band.'

* later recalled : "My brother gave me a sax for my 14th birthday. I took a couple of lessons here and there and six months later I was playing in local dance bands, six piece, five piece bands in local dance halls. It was an alto that my brother paid £25 for in Edinburgh and then I got hold of a Buescher 400 and that was my alto" which, with some regret he traded for a tenor because it was a "beautiful saxophone" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcOQEF0Zj7I&t=1m24s and also recalled : "I started playing the tenor because they already had and alto player in the band so they decided they needed a tenor player."

* formed a band called 'The Debonairs', in which he played tenor sax and when the band took part in a dance band competition organised by Melody Maker Magazine, his talent was spotted and he was invited to play with the winning band and at the age of 17, in 1944 and during the Second World War, left Lochgelly for Glasgow where he played at the 'Piccadilly Club' on Sauchiehall Street for 18 months.

* augmented his earnings by playing snooker : “The guys in Glasgow thought that I was just some country boy from Fife and they would be able to take a few bob off me, but they didn't know that I had been playing snooker at the Miners' Welfare for years. The days were quite profitable for me.”

* went for an audition for the nationally known 'Tommy Sampson’s Band' when it played at Green’s Playhouse and was signed up on the spot and not yet 20 years old, moved to London to take the tenor chair and recalled : "We never got paid in Tommy Sampson's Band because there was never any money. He paid hotel expenses, things like that."

* left Tommy Sampson and "went with this clarinet player called Harry Parry. He had a 'Radio Rhythm Club Sextet'. He was a pretty good clarinet player but a terrible drunk. I went from there to Jack Parnell and that was my introduction to people who played jazz. We played a concert with Billie Holiday with Jack Parnell at the Royal Albert Hall. She was wonderful " and it was 1954 and he was 27.

* had formed his approach to playing as "purely vocal" by the time he was 12 and later recalled  : "A liitle old lady in Lochgelly taught me how to sing using tonic sol-fa before the War and if you can sing it you can play it " https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtiEJF0Y1Tk&t=1m05s and his conviction that just as singing notes taught him to get air out of his lungs so too : "If you can get that amount of air out of that note, there's no reason why you can't do it on the saxophone"

*  in addition, believed that : "When you play a ballad it's important that you sing the ballad. You're not playing the ballad you're singing the ballad. I know the words to a lot of ballads and a lot of the words are very important. It's just the feeling of it to transport that onto your saxophone." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtiEJF0Y1Tk&t=2m23s

* in 1958 at the age of 31, settled into what turned out to be eight year tenure with 'Humphrey Lyttelton’s Band', during which time : "Humph became like my brother, he became a really close friend : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3ZG5nKbZoE&t=30m00s during which he switched to the baritone sax and later said : “That was the start of my professional career. The rest was incidental.”

* the following year enjoyed his first taste of New York, the epicentre of jazz, which left him wanting more : "We got back to the airport and I looked out of the plane. New York was all lit up. There were light everywhere and you could see the bridges and I said to Eddie Taylor, the drummer,"You know ,I've gotta come back here" and over the next few years, with Humph, met many top American musicians : Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley and Anita O’Day.

* in December 1965, at the age of 38, moved to New York with his wife and son, and unable to work for six months until he was a member of the Musicians Union, took a Christmas job on 5th Avenue selling radios and "got promoted to stereo” and then was approached by Woody Herman to join his band.

* recalled that as the years unfolded : "I got friendly with everybody. I worked at the Apollo and Miles used to come and stand on the side. We used to see Little Stevie Wonder who was about 15 years old and The Jackson Five. I played with Dizzy's Band and Jimmie Lunceford, Fletcher Henderson. I worked with Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Diana Ross, Aretha. I was with the Ellington Band, on and off, for quite a while. I played the show 'Sophisticated Ladies' for a couple of years and I also did a show called 'Brigadoon' shortly after in the 80's with the Lincoln Center Band. That was the start of it all. I've always had a beautiful relationship with Wynton Marsalis the whole time I've worked with the Lincoln Centre Band. I can't believe some of the things he plays. I sit there gasping at some of his solos. The standard is so high because everybody is so well well-schooled and so well-drilled, they just eat the music up."

* returned to his native Scotland where he served as a mentor for the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra and visited the 'Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival' in 2009 and played 'Single Petal of the Rose' at the 2012 Festival : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9uFP5vPSmI

* had, on his passing, Wynton Marsalis say of him : “We would always have Joe play at or near the end of pieces because his sound carried the meaning of our music. For someone from another country and culture to exhibit the depth of belief that animated his sound was, and still is, truly miraculous. From the coal mines of Scotland, to clubs and concert halls all over the world, Joe's journey was epochal, and he did it with integrity, style, and piss and vinegar. We will miss him deeply and his spirit will forever live on in the sound of our orchestra." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqEEMEg_p78

* and Roger Spence, Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival Producer, said : " His wonderful sound on the baritone saxophone, and the way he married gruff New York attitude with Scottish romance, created a unique voice in the jazz world. And all the time he was gracing the concert halls and top jazz clubs around the world, he was keeping in touch with all the comings and goings in Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath."

* three years ago at the age of 85 Joe had said : "I feel aged but I'm not old, certainly not old and that's the thing : music keeps you alive and vital and curious and that's a great part of life. So just get on with it and love it."

Thursday 12 May 2016

Britain is no longer a country nor Wales a nation and say "Farewell" to an old BBC TV comedy producer called Gareth Gwenlan

Gareth, who grew up without a father in a backwater farming community in South Wales and triumphed at the heart of the world of comedy in BBC TV has died at the age of 79.

What you possibly didn't know about Gareth, that he :

* was born Brecon, Powys two years before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1937, where his father, a teacher, died when he was 2 years old, and as a boy learned to think on his feet, having been brought up by his mother, also a teacher, on his grandparents' farm in Cefn Coed, a small community on the north western edge of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough in South Wales and also acquired his life long love of horses.

* when he was 11 in 1948, started school at the relatively new 'Vaynor and Penderyn Grammar and Secondary School' where the Head was Dr Gordon Williams and where his predecessor, the first Headmaster, Mr. Trevor Lovett, had gained a national reputation as an advocate of multilateral schools, a kind of precursor to comprehensive education and was instrumental in placing this school at the forefront of educational innovation in the 1930s and 1940s and against the backdrop of unemployment and economic depression that South Wales experienced during the 1930s.

* grew up knowing that, in order to avoid working in the coal pit or factory, he needed to get himself a higher education degree and at the age of 20 in 1957, after two years of National Service in the RAF and active service in Cyprus during the EOKA rising against British rule, took himself off to a mansion in Lamorbey Park in Kent and the 'Rose Bruford Training College for Speech and Drama.'

* in the next three years clearly had his formative theatrical experience at the College, founded in 1950 as an alternative to London drama schools, took a dual course as actor and teacher since Bru's mission was to train actors who could teach and teachers who could act with a commitment to community and theatre in education

* having graduated in 1960, started his stage career at the Theatre Royal in York before transferring to the Derby Playhouse, where he shared digs with John Alderton and where he took up the role of Assistant Director and between 1962 and '64 in his mid twenties served his directional apprenticeship with work on 40 productions.

* in 1964, after answering an advert in 'The Stage', became Artistic Director at Altrincham Garrick Theatre and although his tenure at the Barrington Road playhouse was short, made a big impression on the actors who appeared in his productions and he himself said the theatre made an instantly positive impression on him and recalled : "When I first came to the Garrick I was amazed. Instead of having a small number of actors as you do in rep there was this huge pool of acting talent. The most exciting thing I did the Garrick’s first pantomime which I had directed at the Derby Playhouse. It did very well for the Garrick although we probably did break the budget building the sets and making the costumes.”

* between 1964 - 65, led a bohemian existence,dividing his time between working at the Royal Northern College of Music as Principle Lecturer in Drama and Opera, where he staged productions of Otello and Madam Butterfly and working
at the Garrick ,while home was a canal barge, moored near, what is now Timperley Station and recalled : “We sailed it all the way from Derby, along the Trent and the Mersey and then on the Bridgewater Canal.”

* moved from the Garrick because he “wanted another ten bob a week" and at the age of 28, got himself a job at BBC Television as an 'Assistant Floor Manager' and had a revelation when he spotted a queue of people outside Television Centre and discovering they were there to see a comedy production, realised he may just have stumbled upon his spiritual home and later conceded that : "As a director in the theatre I definitely found that the challenge presented by comedy was more fun, although more difficult than straight drama." In addition, he also "missed the audiences immensely. As a theatre director I was used to seeing how the audience reacted to the action in front of them. But once I was in the comedy department, I would wake up every morning thinking - surely I can't be getting away with this!"

* in 1967, was seconded to the Foreign Office from the BBC and left the country for a 2 year stint helping Pakistan's Central Television Company set up its own television service with news, documentaries and drama and where he read the news in English and interviewed Prime Minister Edward Heath when he stopped off in Islamabad, en route for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Hong Kong.

* on his return to the BBC in London, was rewarded with his appointment as 'Trainee Producer/Director' and four years later, at the age of 36 in 1973, had his directorial debut with 'Oh Father' starring Derek Nimmo as a sequel to his 'Oh Brother' and saw it run for 7 episodes and with limited success.

* the following year directed a couple of shows of 'Parkinson' and 'The Big Job' for 'Comedy Playhouse' starring Peter Jones and Prunella Scales and in 1975 an episode of 'Only on Sunday' written by Michael Frayn and starring Eleanor Bron, before he got his big break with 'The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin' which he produced over 13 episodes from 1976-77. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4uSKBjySgk&t=16m25s

* recognised that it was his "first big break, working with the wonderful Leonard Rossiter. It was a success, and the rest of my career sort of fell in behind it” and took delight in finding the film clip of the waddling hippo used whenever Reggie thought of his mother-in-law and commissioned the rude-sounding music for whenever the celebrated clip was screened. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2mLAajm7ZY

* with Leonard Rossiter notoriously difficult to work with, reflected : "Early on in my career I was allocated to work with Rossiter and that was a steep learning curve for me. As a result of surviving that I got offered good things to do. it's like a self-fulfilling prophesy. Sure, I must have an understanding of what it takes to make comedy work, but I also know lots of very talented directors who work very hard but have little success."

* went back to directing, in 1977, with six episodes of 'The Good Life' script writers John Esmond and Bob Larby's 'The Other One', starring Richard Briers and Michael Gambon and had his next hit as producer with 'To the Manor Born' in 1980 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9qNH97hoaY&t=13m39s and saw the final episode in 1981, which featured the wedding of Audrey fforbes-Hamilton played by Penelope Keith and Richard De Vere, watched by a record breaking audience of 27 million viewers.

* had been given a third script to 'look after' in 1976, along with 'Perrin' and 'To the Manor Born' in the shape of Carla Lane's 'Butterflies' and remarked : "She was lovely. I worked with her on 'Butterflies', 'Solo', 'The Mistress' and 'Bread' although every script she brought into our production meetings was at least five or six minutes short of the time allocated. So she would hide herself in the corner of the room and come up with the extra five or six minutes in a morning, when it had taken her months to come up with the rest. And these extra minutes would generally be the funniest bits of the show. She was prodigiously talented." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDdRzBj4FNE&t=0m05s

* between the age of 46 and 53 from 1983- 1990 was appointed BBC Television's 'Head of Comedy' and within a week had cancelled 'Are You Being Served' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z05p0JLipYk and then over the years was responsible for commissioning  'Yes Prime Minister', 'Blackadder', ''Allo 'Allo' and 'One Foot In The Grave.'

* saw 'Only Fools and Horses', which had started two years before his tenure in 1981 and finished 13 years after it, become the show for which he was best most remembered and the Christmas trilogy in 1996, pick up more than 20 million viewers when they tuned in to watch Del Boy and Rodney finally became millionaires.

* was present on set when David Jason performed, for a live audience and for the first time, the famous stunt of calmly leaning back with his drink only to fall through an open bar hatch and said : “David timed it to perfection and it literally stopped the show!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63rcdLeXiU8

* in 1984 coped with the sudden death of Lennard Pearce who played Grandad by replacing him with the recently retired bank manage, Buster Merryfield to play Grandad's Brother and old sea-dog, Uncle Albert.

* in 1993 at the age of 56, appeared as a mounted police officer in the Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, 'Fatal Extraction' and at the point when Del Boy driving Raquel and Damien in the Ford Capri Ghia back home when they found their way blocked by rioters, played by drama students, fighting with the police played by extras, shouted out : "Hold it, hold it. It's Del Boy" and saw the crowd part to let the car through with Del Boy pausing to tell the occasional rioter about something he had for them and then out of the way, sound his horn to signal the resumption of the riot.

* recalled that he stepped into the uncredited role because he was the only one present who could ride a horse : "We couldn't find an actor who could ride, so I did it" and "The students were bloody marvellous. They were being real but within the bounds of being safe and no one was even bruised" http://www.steveclark.co.uk/a-tribute-to-only-fools-and-horses-producer-gareth-gwenlan/

and maintained his interest in horses serving as President of the BBC Riding Club where he was a riding instructor.

* in 2001, at the age of 64, was appointed Head of BBC Wales Comedy and said : "This is the right challenge for me at the right time, I've decided to do it for selfish reasons. I feel I've done my penance working in London for 35 years and now I want to put something back into the country where I grew up and besides, Wales is well-represented in the worlds of opera, pop music, and acting, but there is no-one great in the world of comedy, and that's very odd. I think it's got something to do with a lack of self-confidence" and produced 6 series of the popular sitcom, 'High Hopes' set in the Welsh Valleys and in 2003 was captured as the white-haired presence on location outside of Treharris Library which was dressed up as the town hall. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G635j8sh4BA&t=1m37s

* once confessed  "I also have an ancient Welsh aunt who, if ever I do get above myself, will cut me off at the knee. Her opening remark to me when I told her about the BBC Wales job was - 'gosh - you're coming back to Wales to save us - God help us!'"

* on his passing received tribute from BBC Wales controller Rhodri Talfan Davies, who called him "quite simply one of Britain's finest comedy producers. He was a pioneer, a perfectionist. What finer legacy than to know you brought happiness to millions."

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Britain is a country where more and more poor old men live relatively shorter and shorter lives than rich old men

New research from Cass Business School and the International Longevity Centre-UK has found growing inequalities in the life expectancy of old men in twenty-first century Britain. Based on data from the 'Human Mortality Database', Professor of Statistics, Les Mayhew and Dr David Smith measured the differences in age between the earliest 10% of adult deaths and the top 5% of survivors and found that while people in Britain are living longer than ever, the gap between the longest and shortest lifespans appears to be increasing. In particular, the life expectancy of those in the lowest and the highest socio-economic groups is diverging for the first time since the 1870s.

Historically, "Everyone benefited from improvements in clean drinking water, better housing, higher incomes and better health," said the Professor. After 1950 there were further rises in life expectancy although inequalities in lifespan persisted rather than narrowing further. However, in the 1990s lifespan inequalities actually worsened, particularly for men, for the first time since the late 1870s.

The Researchers found that for men who died in 2010 aged over 30 :

  • the oldest 5% reached an average age of almost 96
  • but the youngest 10% died at an average age of just over 62 - more than 33 years younger
  • by 2009 this longevity gap was 1.7 years greater than it had been at its narrowest in 1993

  • An explanation of these figures, according to the Report, can be found in the fact that old men in lower socio-economic groups are the most likely to make damaging lifestyle choices. 'They put themselves in harm's way on average more than women do - they smoke more, drink more and there are periods in their lives when they partake in riskier activities.' The fact is that poor old men are more likely to suffer the cumulative effects of decades of poor lifestyle choices and income inequality - while wealthier, more educated old men may find it easier to adopt healthier habits. The authors say the negative health outcomes of smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet and lack of exercise 'are disproportionately associated with the poorest in society.'
    Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the 'International Longevity Centre' said the figures were "particularly worrying" and "Preventing inequalities in ill health and disability must be a priority for policy action." "This very timely report highlights how, despite huge increases in life expectancy, the gap between rich and poor is increasing for the first time since the 1870s. This trend is particularly worrying for society and policymakers must do more to begin to narrow this gap again. Preventing inequalities in ill health and disability must be a priority for policy action”.
    It goes without saying, that her plea will fall on deaf ears. The present Conservative Government has no intention whatsoever of addressing the issue of poor old men in Britain living shorter lives in relation to rich old men. In fact, the previous 'Labour' Government in 2003 set a target that by 2010 life expectancies in the best and worst areas of the country would not differ by more than 10% and not only was the target missed, but in fact, the opposite has happened.
    Britain in 2016 : a country where little changes for the better for most of the people and life gets relatively shorter for poor old men.