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The husky that weaned its owner off booze – and the woman with cash in her skirts

I've seen two uplifting stories of beating addiction, each as unusual as the other.

I’ve only seen the trailer for the movie A Street Cat Named Bob, but it had me in tears. That’s sort of hypocritical, because I used to see the real Bob all the time as he and his ex-addict human companion James Bowen travelled together on the 38 bus that stops at the end of my street, and I never took the slightest interest in what their history might be.

The film tells the story of an animal rescuing a person from addiction. I once witnessed something similar at a pub off the Fulham Road.

It was an odd place, more like a country inn, all wooden beams and horse brasses, down a cobbled mews right next to Stamford Bridge football ground. In one of the two bars, a very disagreeable man with no friends used to drink himself senseless every night until a hippie girl forced him to take home a fluffy white puppy that she’d found.

This tiny animal grew into a big husky. The man tried to carry on with his old life, but if he left it alone the dog would destroy his flat, so he was compelled to bring it to the pub with him. And the husky used to get bored after he’d had a couple of pints and would force him, with loud barking, to take it for long walks.

As a result, the man became much healthier and was more or less sober for the first time in years. Also, it was such an attractive animal that people used to stop and talk to him about his dog all the time. So, despite his off-putting manner and his formerly unpleasant appearance, he became a popular person with many friends, known and welcomed throughout the neighbourhood.

This is not the only inspiring story of someone who conquered addiction that I’ve been a witness to.

I once knew a woman who would get ready for a night out by sewing £26 in cash into the lining of her skirt. The reason she stitched such a precise sum of money into her clothing was that £26 was, at the time, how much it cost to steam-clean the inside of a taxi.

Eventually the woman came to her senses without the aid of an animal and concluded that it might be a good idea if she didn’t get so drunk so often and spray vomit inside the cab taking her home. With a great effort, she stopped drinking.

However, it had become second nature for her to sew £26 in cash into the lining of her skirt every time she was going for a night out, so she didn’t stop. It was an odd sensation sitting with her in a pub as she sipped mineral water with the sound of clinking and rustling issuing from her garments.

After a few months, she looked in her wardrobe and she realised that there was a substantial sum of money hanging there, stitched inside her clothes – enough to enable her to put down the deposit on a car.

This article first appeared in the 02 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, American carnage

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Forget gaining £350m a week, Brexit would cost the UK £300m a week

Figures from the government's own Office for Budget Responsibility reveal the negative economic impact Brexit would have. 

Even now, there are some who persist in claiming that Boris Johnson's use of the £350m a week figure was accurate. The UK's gross, as opposed to net EU contribution, is precisely this large, they say. Yet this ignores that Britain's annual rebate (which reduced its overall 2016 contribution to £252m a week) is not "returned" by Brussels but, rather, never leaves Britain to begin with. 

Then there is the £4.1bn that the government received from the EU in public funding, and the £1.5bn allocated directly to British organisations. Fine, the Leavers say, the latter could be better managed by the UK after Brexit (with more for the NHS and less for agriculture).

But this entire discussion ignores that EU withdrawal is set to leave the UK with less, rather than more, to spend. As Carl Emmerson, the deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, notes in a letter in today's Times: "The bigger picture is that the forecast health of the public finances was downgraded by £15bn per year - or almost £300m per week - as a direct result of the Brexit vote. Not only will we not regain control of £350m weekly as a result of Brexit, we are likely to make a net fiscal loss from it. Those are the numbers and forecasts which the government has adopted. It is perhaps surprising that members of the government are suggesting rather different figures."

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, to which Emmerson refers, are shown below (the £15bn figure appearing in the 2020/21 column).

Some on the right contend that a blitz of tax cuts and deregulation following Brexit would unleash  higher growth. But aside from the deleterious economic and social consequences that could result, there is, as I noted yesterday, no majority in parliament or in the country for this course. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.