MPs to attend ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ to highlight “systemic flaws” in economy

Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden

Liverpool Labour MP Dan Carden is set to host a performance of Robert Tressell’s classic of working-class literature The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in Parliament. The performance will be timed with Budget week and is intended to highlight the need for fundamental economic change.

The semi-biographical novel tells the story of a group of painters and decorators struggling to make ends meet in the fictional English town of Mugsborough. A series of discussions between the character Frank Owen and his co-workers explore the plight of working-class people in capitalist society.

It has been re-imagined for the stage by Townsend Productions and actor Neil Gore and will be performed for MPs, parliamentary staff and other guests on Thursday 1 November.

Carden said:

Robert Noonan, better known as Robert Tressell, is buried in a pauper’s grave in Rice Lane City Farm in Walton, and I like to count him as one of my constituents.

After my Constituency Labour Party hosted two performances of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists earlier this month, I was inspired to bring this fantastic production to Parliament on Budget week.

With the drive towards an increasingly low-paid, insecure, zero-hours jobs market under this Tory Government, Robert Tressell’s classic, and the lessons it teaches us, remain all-too relevant more than a century after it was first published.

The ‘money trick’ shows us that it is the system, not the people, that is failing. This week my colleagues and I will be holding the Chancellor to account for his own money tricks to cover up the systemic flaws in our economy, which have been exacerbated by the ideologically-driven disaster of austerity.

Against the backdrop of soaring inequality and record levels of in-work poverty, it is clearer than ever that we need a real alternative. It is not enough to merely tinker around the edges of a rigged system. I hope this performance will inspire us to redouble our efforts to bring about that change.

Dubliner Noonan’s handwritten 1,600-page manuscript was rejected by three publishers before Noonan died of tuberculosis in the Royal Liverpool Infirmary Workhouse on 3 February 1911. He is buried in a pauper’s grave in Rice Lane City Farm in the Walton area of Liverpool.

After his death, his wife Kathleen succeeded in getting a truncated version of his novel published. It became known as “the Socialist Bible” and was even credited with winning the 1945 General Election for the Labour Party. The full version was not published until 1955.

The Budget week performance will take place at the Atlee Suite, Portcullis House, on Thursday 1 November, at 9.30am. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will be speaking during the interval. McDonnell has accused Philip Hammond of preparing a ‘conjuring trick’ to hide the fact that he is not ending austerity.

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  1. With all this rhetoric about the end of austerity, is there a possible snap election in the offing?

  2. Just visit most non union building sites on any day and you will see a live re-enactment of The Ragged Trousers

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