It is somehow typical that, with the illegal immigration problem at crisis point, Labour's worthies have allowed themselves to be caught up in a veritable can-can of knee-jerk protest at a single word. Meanwhile, amid all the speculation on what is drawing migrants to our shores, the black economy repeatedly raises its ugly head.
It's a subject we have looked at here before, albeit on the local level of businesses which appear surprisingly robust despite the town having, according to one national newspaper, 'three of the most deprived council wards in the nation'.
If you will forgive some timely recycling:
In just two short streets, you can count six hairdressers - of the unisex trendy and expensive kind - as well as a tanning salon, two tattoo parlours, four nail bars and, as of this week, a fish pedicure shop.
Few of these establishments cater for the shy and retiring; the emphasis in on treatments in the shop window under the public gaze - perhaps part of the attraction is being seen to have your roots/nails/feet done in a bizarre form of conspicuous consumption.
After all, none of these things comes cheap - and there's the puzzle. In a town where, we are told, belts have been tightened to wasp-like proportions, where do these customers come from? For customers there are in abundance, smirking out from their shop window vantage points with their hair in foil or their feet in a fishtank.
There is only one conclusion; that the official figures don't even begin to tell the story. That, far removed from the headlines, a black economy is thriving and expanding so fast that businesses like these can open up in prime locations in the current economic climate and be sure of a steady income via the hip pockets of the locals.
The scale of it is a classic 'known unknown' - we are aware it's out there, but the size of it is a complete mystery and there's no way to deal with it; like the giant squid of legend, the monster lurks in the depths of society, extending its tentacles in every direction - unknowable, unquantifiable and potentially dangerous.
On another topic, I am indebted to James Higham for reminding me (via a comment) of tonight's blue moon - the second full moon in a calendar month.
This seems as good an excuse as any for a piece of music so I have chosen an old favourite; although the artist has long since jumped the shark of pretentiousness and embraced the dark side of solipsistic celebrity, he is still capable of a great piece of orchestration.
1 hour ago