Entitlement instead of responsibility? No deal

Whether it was tapping his foot to his music, or under a public toilet cubicle divide, George Michael made his name performing in public.  But since his death there have been many tales of his anonymous philanthropy, doling out cash to members of the public whose causes he deemed worthy of his largesse, including giving tens of thousands of pounds to people who couldn’t afford medical treatments, while trying to keep his actions away from a ravenous media. One way or another, he enjoyed discreetly pleasuring anonymous strangers.

One of the recipients of Michael’s hand-outs was a leg-up for a lady who’d appeared on Deal Or No Deal, the luck-based game show where people reveal the contents of their boxes, hosted by Noel Edmonds who has recently launched ‘Positively Pets’, a radio station for pussies.  After George Michael’s death the shows producer, Richard Osman tweeted: “A woman on ‘Deal Or No Deal’ told us she needed £15k for IVF treatment.  George Michael secretly phoned the next day and gave her the £15k.”

Whether it was through being horrified at the thought of someone shooting their load up a woman rather than through a gloryhole, or genuine compassion, our hero’s donation will mean that, subject to complications (multiple births, spread of disease and birth defects) the victim (everything has to be somebody’s fault, see) will have been able to make the same lifestyle choice as those who can conceive naturally (subject, of course, to the less than 1 in 3 chance of success).  The thing is, although GM (appropriately enough) will have donated £15,000 for the IVF treatment, the “mother” will receive almost double that in child benefit and tax credits.  And guess who’ll be paying for that?  Yeah, YOU, hardworking plebs.

YOU.

This raises two issues: the first is that with over 5,000 children awaiting adoption placements, it would have perhaps been more ethically and morally responsible for the “mother” to have adopted a child who needs a mother and a stable family to help with their life chances and mental wellbeing, rather than the mother undergoing unreliable and costly treatment because she “needs” a child like her next fix.  A child which would be statistically more likely to develop mental illnesses including autism, ADHD, clinical depression and hypertension, to fill the gaping, empty hole in her life (and not the one between her legs) without a thought for the child (should it materialise) or anyone else.

Secondly and more generally, should people have children – naturally or not – and have that child financially supported by other taxpayers to the tune of almost £30,000 in benefits and tax credits alone? Having children is a lifestyle choice: holidays, cars, a dog or a new iPhone are all lifestyle choices, and a common sense principle of “if you can’t afford to have it, don’t” is not unreasonable.  So why do people think this shouldn’t apply to having children?  Let’s look at the history of state-sponsored spunkery.

After a brief spell in the late 18th century, child tax allowances were introduced in 1909 and were paid only to taxpaying, working people.  In 1942, when you’d be forgiven for thinking there was something more pressing, an additional Family Allowance (FA) was introduced, but there was disagreement among Labour and Conservative politicians about the way it should be implemented.

The Beveridge Report, written by the civil servant William Beveridge, proposed an allowance of eight shillings per week for all children, which graduated according to age, to be non-contributory and funded by general taxation.  After some debate, the Family Allowances Bill was enacted in June 1945, which provided for a flat rate payment funded directly from taxation. The recommended eight shillings a week was reduced to five and the FA was introduced in August 1946.  In an arse-over-tit move which seemingly encouraged frequent rather than limited unprotected irresponsible fuckkery, it was only paid for the second child onwards.

After some Tory-tinkering in the 1950s, in 1966 the Labour Government considered the respective merits of an increase in the existing family allowance, or a new means-tested family supplement that was supported by then Chancellor, James Callaghan, but it took the Conservative electoral victory in 1970, when Sir Keith Joseph introduced Family Income Supplement (FIS), designed to replace further increases in family allowance with a means-tested supplement for the poorest families, to see the implementation of a scheme similar to that devised by Callaghan under Labour.

When back in power, Labour had originally intended to merge family allowances and child tax allowances in a new benefit called Child Benefit (CB) in the mid 1970s, but under financial pressure decided to abandon these plans.  Following inevitable pressure from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) amongst others, Labour succumbed and in 1975 the Child Benefit Bill was born, which replaced FA with a benefit for each child, paid to the mothers, phased in from 1977.

In 1984, there was a major social security review, announced by the Conservative government and leading to a Social Security Act in 1986, with a new system being introduced in 1988.  Many supporters of CB believed that it might be abolished (correct), means-tested (a start) or taxed (meh).  CPAG was the catalyst behind the formation in 1985 of ‘Save Child Benefit’, a grouping of something-for-nothing-ists who don’t understand that “free” actually means “paid for by those who work harder than those who’ll benefit”.  This mixed bag of worthier-than-thou slackers and spongers ranged from women’s groups to trades unions and from churches to children’s charities. In the event CB was retained.

Many proposals were put forward to restructure, reduce or radically change child benefit, but in 1990 then Prime Minister and Syd Little doppelgänger John Major declared that child benefit “is and will remain a strong element in our policies for family support”. I never really liked him, and his overbearing fat sidekick was rubbish.  Major restructured child benefit to introduce a higher rate for the first or eldest eligible child which at least reversed the most irresponsible of the Beveridge scheme introduced almost half a century previously.

In July 1998, the Labour government under then pre-war mongering Tony Blair abolished One Parent Benefit (yes another one, yet more money for lone parents originally introduced in 1976). They did this by incorporating One Parent Benefit into the main CB. It was abolished for new claimants and existing claims were frozen. Between April 1997 and April 2003 the rate of CB for the first child increased by a staggering 25% in real terms.

In 2010 neither the Conservative nor the Liberal Democrat General Election manifestos mentioned CB. The country was in the middle of a huge recession. Austerity and cuts were the wankfodder of choice for the feckless and left-whingers everywhere, but somehow CB was to survive, cone what may. In his Budget speech on 22 June 2010, then Chancellor George Osborne said that the Government had had to take a “difficult decision” about CB:

“I have received many proposals about this benefit. Some have suggested that we means-test it; others that we tax it.  All these proposals involve issues of fairness. The benefit is usually claimed by the mother. To tax it would mean that working mothers received less than the non-working partner of higher earners. To means test it, we would have to create a massively complex new system to assess household incomes. I do not propose to do those things. I know that many working people feel that their child benefit is the one thing that they get without asking from the state. So instead, to control costs, we have decided to freeze child benefit for the next three years. This is a tough decision, but I believe that it strikes the right balance between keeping intact this popular universal benefit, while ensuring that everyone across the income scale makes a contribution to helping our country reduce its debts.”

All benefits are popular, particularly with those receiving them. But they are being given to people who have made a particular lifestyle choice. It is funding frivolity, more so in cases where people choose to have many children. In his speech to the Conservative Party conference on 4 October, Osborne did little to put this right when he announced that CB would continue to be paid for all children, but that it would be withdrawn from higher rate taxpayers:

“We still pay over a billion pounds a year in child benefit to higher rate taxpayers. Believe me, I understand that most higher rate taxpayers are not the super-rich. But a system that taxes working people at high rates only to give it back in child benefit is very difficult to justify at a time like this. And it’s very difficult to justify taxing people on low incomes to pay for the child benefit of those earning so much more than them. These days we’ve really got to focus the resources where they are most needed. We’ve got to be tough but fair. That’s why we will withdraw child benefit from households with a higher rate taxpayer.”

I find it impossible to justify taxing hardworking people on any income to pay for the CB (and the various tax credits) of those making a lifestyle choice to have children.  Undoubtedly there will be people saying that it is their right to have children, and I would never question that. It is my right to go on holiday, own a car, a dog and an iPhone. But if I can’t afford them, I don’t scrounge off others. I go without.

There’s a disturbing sense of entitlement that’s crept into society, particularly in the last ten ears, often taking the place of responsibility.  It has become far too easy for people to live their lives – often to the full – on the back of the hard work of others, where working harder and longer to earn more money has been replaced by working out how many hours you can work without jeopardising tax credits.  Stories of people on benefits having children, often more than one and sometimes half a dozen or more are commonplace, as is the expectation not only from the claimants themselves but from a left-leaning media that “free” stuff should be paid for by “those who can afford it”.  In other words, if you think of society as a chicken, what benefit claimants contribute would be represented by the Parson’s Nose, and at the same time they’d happily ravish the bird down to its carcass.

In spite of well-meaning gestures from well-intentioned celebrities, from the philanthropy of anonymous chequebook cottager George Michael, to the socialist students’ Metropolitan Manc pin-up and professional publicist and poverty campaigner Owen Jones, who swallows £40,000 a year from The Guardian for writing Twitter-baiting pieces on the back of the poor plus, according to Media Guido, Jones has also generated around £1.35 million in book sales which, based on conservative royalties of 35% means he will have earned almost half a million pounds), at the end of the day it is hardworking taxpayers who have to pick up the £25 BILLION a year tab for child benefit and tax credits, the cost of the lifestyle choices of others.

No deal.

We thrive on segregation

Whenever television looks back at the 1970s it tends to do so with disdain: the usual ragbag of modern day worthies pontificate about the bad old days of protests and colour bars, strikes and segregation. But what of today – have things really moved on?

Johnny Speight’s If There Weren’t Any Blacks You’d Have To Invent Them, first shown in 1970 then remade in colour in 1974, dealt with how people thrive on segregation, treating others as belonging a group rather than as individuals. From Richard Beckinsale fantasising about being a woman raped by a man to the blind Leonard Rossiter who thought Beckinsale was black because of the tone of his voice, Speight himself had something of an obsession with segregation, especially that according to race, with much of his work after The Arthur Haynes Show dealing with this subject – though sometimes misunderstood – to great effect.

Students at Oriel College, part of Oxford University, are the latest to find such a cause to leech onto, namely the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. Although it’s origins lay in a post-Apartheid South Africa, the British black and white copy seeks to have removed from the College a statue of former student Cecil Rhodes, seen by opponents as something of an imperialist, a white supremacist, who made his fortune from mining diamonds in the former Cape Colony of South Africa where he later became Prime Minister in 1890.

Rhodes was a shrewd, perhaps ruthless businessman. The discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1867 transformed South Africa into an industrial economy which saw Rhodes amongst others led to the rapid colonisation of the country, so much so that by the end of the 19th Century all the indigenous peoples of South Africa had lost their political and economic independence. White-owned mining companies were able to control workers who often found themselves in dangerous conditions for low wages and Rhodes was able to amass an enormous personal fortune through the creation of the De Beers consolidated Mines Company in 1888.  Today we call that “getting on”.

Rhodes used his personal wealth and political skills to become the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. His treatment of indigenous Africans as a businessman and Premier varied: by today’s standards he is seen as something of an imperialist, but he took a genuine interest in their cultures and language, and had a respect and understanding for Africans that belies his legacy.

But Rhodes’ methods in business and politics were merely a development of over 200 years of British and Dutch colonisation, which were relentlessly intensified after his death in 1902 when the British Government implemented the Act of Union and brought together the previously separate colonies of the Orange Free State, Transvaal, Natal, and the Cape Colony to form the Union of what we now know as South Africa.  In comparison, today’s Britain is a small, insignificant bit-player in a group of nationals with vested interests seeking to unify different peoples under common, unelected law called the European Union, disgracefully championed by a toadying media including BBC Radio Four’s not very funny or clever The Now Show.

Back to The Cape.  For the following two decades successive governments introduced a raft of regulations and discriminatory laws that tightened state control over blacks. The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 which reserved around 90 percent of the land in South Africa for whites and prevented Africans from freely buying land; the remainder of the land became “reserves” and were a forerunner of the “homelands” where illness and malnutrition were rife. For many Africans, especially young men and women, migration to wage-earning jobs in cities and mines became one of the only ways to pay colonial taxes and survive. In turn during this period mass urbanisation saw the number of city-dwelling Africans more than triple, but they lived in terrible conditions, with poor housing, health and transport and no electricity for many decades, and along with poverty came crime and fear for personal safety. Sadly there are some indigenous to Britain for whom that is a fairly accurate picture of their country today.

Of course it is difficult to justify racial segregation in South Africa, just as it is difficult to justify segregation of any kind, anywhere. But Rhodes’ tenure as mining magnate and Prime Minister was merely a progression from what had proceeded him, and by the standards that followed it could be argued he was, comparatively speaking, a free-market Liberal. That is not to say that what he presided over was not cruel. To deny anyone the opportunity to live, learn and earn as they would wish purely on the basis of their being somehow different to what is perceived as a superior group of human beings is as distasteful as it is ultimately self-destructive. And it is this where, for me, the hypocrisy of the “Rhodes Must Go” campaigners at Oxford University becomes apparent.

What set Rhodes apart from the Premiers who succeeded him (apart from his statue) was that he left in his Will an endowment to Oriel College whereby eighty-three students each and every year, initially of Teutonic descent but latterly anyone – including some of the greatest campaigners against segregation and for civil liberties – would be awarded scholarships affording them the opportunity denied to others from a different academic and socioeconomic background. Indeed, there is much controversy about the alleged hypocrisy of a black Oriel College student, Ntokozo Qwabe, who although accepted a Rhodes scholarship, partook in the protests. In my view he was given his opportunity and should take it. However, it is a tad disingenuous for him to want to whitewash Rhodes out of history but happily take his cash.

But for these opportunities the students who benefit from them would not have their platform for debate. To be able to attend any university, let alone Oxford, is granted only to those with the very highest academic and economic means. The rest of us are kept in our respective places, working for a living and paying our taxes to, er, help fund “our” universities.

Yet for some even these opportunities are not enough. At the time of writing junior doctors, for example, who could go on to earn £120,000 as a consultant, are in the middle of a series of strikes because they believe that an eleven per cent pay rise is “derisory” and that working after seven o’clock in the evening is “antisocial”. The segregating of blacks in South Africa and forcing them into “homelands” was both derisory and antisocial; enjoying a double digit wage windfall while working when the sun is just about dipping over the horizon is something the majority of people would kill for. Yet for all the talk of Unions existing for the common good, and how important statues are as a symbol of what is right and wrong, what about the one outside the TUC which depicts a man helping another man off the ground? How are striking junior doctors helping others, except themselves?

On a 1980 edition of Parkinson, guests John Betjeman and Maggie Smith were talking about pay protests with the great Kenneth Williams who put it this way:

“Why can’t they march for somebody else instead of a few pounds for themselves? What about somebody who’s really hard up? When a union does something like jeopardising the work of their fellow men. For example if you stop trains, people can’t get to their work, can they? So in doing what you want for yourself you’re jeopardising your fellow men, aren’t you? Well why can’t you act in concert with your fellow men? Why do you have to do something that endangers… your fellow men when that statue represents exactly that, helping not hindering.”

Host Michael Parkinson countered: “Because it might be that one worker is a lot worse off than their fellow. If they were all equal there’d be no problem… it’s all very well if you’ve got a talent, a decent job, you can go on and earn a handsome living… because you work in an area where you can back your talent and because your talent pays off in the end then you had a horizon, you could see ahead.”

The points Johnny Speight, Kenneth Williams and Michael Parkinson were making, that all human beings should be treated equally and have the same opportunities in life regardless of anything, and that given an opportunity one should grasp it with both hands and have confidence in oneself rather than dragging others down with you, are absolutely spot on. Whether the points being made were intended to be interpreted in this way comes down to the simple passing of time: Speight saw the preoccupation with segregation as a regressive brake on society whereas today’s students see it has a bandwagon on which to hitch a ride and get noticed; Williams saw striking as an excuse not to better oneself whereas today’s strikers attach themselves to individual causes such as Ntokozo Qwabe or junior doctors’ pay – in so called “sympathy strikes” to seek attention rather than the greater good; Parkinson was attempting to argue that people who had what might be termed a menial job (the example he gave was people whose job it was to “stick on door knobs”) had more of a right to strike than those with better prospects – of course there are fewer jobs with better prospects than that of a junior doctor.

But while students mourn for their colonial brothers in spades perhaps they should reflect on the fact that in this country, not all indigenous whites have the same opportunity to attend university. The real problem is class not colour.

Segregation is commonplace, is part of our lives, and as such television portrays it in it’s many forms, from the class divide of Upstairs Downstairs and the exquisite Brass, to the more cut and dried Porridge, and not forgetting The Nineteenth Hole which also threw in sexism for good measure albeit satirised in a fashion typical of Johnny Speight. Between them Government and society have taken great strides along the path to equality of all forms, and this has perhaps been best documented by the venerable Coronation Street which, over it’s fifty-odd years, has gone from a stark northern working class kitchen sink drama to taking a more metropolitan, softer snapshot of everyday life with the introduction of characters who are black, gay and transgender. Sadly however the Street’s smokers – black, gay or otherwise – are segregated in the grubby yard at the back of the Rovers Return. That’s progress for you.

Seemingly only certain types of segregation attract publicity, mainly to do with race or sexual orientation, driven by a left wing media narrative whose greatest exponent is of course The Guardian, where Owen Jones, who probably believes every word he writes, hitches a lift on whichever particular segregation bandwagon will gain him a few hundred more Twitter followers that day. To be fair to Owen, he doesn’t bleat about “only” earning £30,000 a year for writing about those not afforded his opportunities. That said, he doesn’t mention the fact that the tax arrangements of the proprietors of The Guardian are very well segregated in The Caymans.  That, too, is called “getting on”.

So what do protestors want? Junior doctors would do well to take a leaf out of the Oriel College students’ book – and grab the money and the opportunity, no matter how distasteful they might find it. Maybe in an act of solidarity they should black-up, forming a picket line of Paki-Paddies between scholarship-funded lectures protesting about how downtrodden educational immigrants are. If they want to know real hardship they should do what Matthew Parris did for World In Action in 1984 and live on Jobseekers Allowance. In that year, months after my mother had died of a brain tumour (doctors, eh?) my father joined the ill-fated miners’ strike. Our meals came from food parcels which we’d collect from the stage at Arkwright Town Miners’ Welfare and had about as much nutrition as the crumpled brown paper sack they came in – plenty of Bulgarian jam but no shortnin’ bread – and our heat came from burning fence posts which I stole – aged ten – from hedgerows armed with a wheelbarrow and a set of wire cutters, posts I’d then saw into fire-sized pieces under the cover of darkness.

It is so easy to protest from a position of comfort, not really having experienced that about which they complain. Segregation is a fact of life. Our country thrives on segregation whether as a cause to get angry about or a structure to exploit. Whichever way you look at it segregation puts people in their place. And that’s how society works.

Puns not points

In the last few years stand-up comedy has seen something of a resurgence, particularly on television. Not since The Comedians, the likes of which would give today’s left-wing brigade collective aneurisms, have comedians been showcased quite so prominently and prolifically.

There are three basic breeds of comedian: the middle-aged. middle-of-the-road, middle-of-the-Saturday-evening-BBC One-schedules set (Michael McIntyre, John Bishop) with perfectly polished teeth and performances to match. They’re more Marks and Spencer than Marks and Gran – quality assured but all a bit beige. Mind you, if that’s your thing you’re guaranteed a entertaining evening, made all the better with an enormous glass of pink milk (two straws) and a pack of Blue Ribands.

Then there’s the jeans and T-shirt laddish messy hair type (Russell Howard, Chris Ramsey). The career paths for these are often very similar: start off with a spot at the local comedy club, followed nowadays by a podcast (usually with someone they became friends with at University only to ditch them when they have served their useful purpose), then a plethora of panel shows providing an easy earner (the £500-a-pop hopefuls sat at the end of the 8 Out Of 10 Cats or Mock The Week desk, with the regulars barely breaking into a smirk at the newcomers’ “witty observations” as Des O’Connor awkwardly used to call them) without burning up too much material before moving onto larger theatres and the obligatory Christmas DVD or download. Following that there’d be their own stand up or sitcom on BBC Three, repeated ad infinitum between Top Gear repeats and episodes of How To Masturbate With Reggie Yates (apparently the first episode is called “Knowing When To Pause”).

You see these comedians on the telly and you know exactly what you’re going to get: they’re likeable and charming in their own way and will unfailingly deliver an hour and a bit of “hilarious things that happened to my brother” – the sort of stuff you’d hear on the local radio phone-in after the “wacky” breakfast show but with added masturbation gags that’s more rooted in the ribald rather than reality – smothered with lashings of mildly amusing bonhomie. Nothing laugh out loud, nothing world-changing, they’re not out to make a point, they’re just there to make you happy. Fine.

And then there’s the left-wing comedians. For convenience (and descriptive accuracy) let’s call them “Leftards”. They really do make me want to vomit. In the 1980s and 1990s you had Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle and Jeremy Hardy, not laughingly self-styled “alternative” “comedians” who inflicted their unsophisticated bile via Saturday Live upon impressionable kids who lapped it all up with the gratitude and ignorance of a dog drinking from a toilet.

In the Noughties and now we have Marks Steel, Thomas and Usbrigstocke, and Jeremy Hardy. Little has changed. Leftards always think they’re right – whether in comedy and politics – and everybody else are wrong, nasty, evil people. But, as with those on the Left in politics, Leftards aren’t as popular as they’d have you believe or wish to be. That’s why they usually occupy the sixth-form socialism at six-thirty slot on Radio 4, or write for common room communist rags like The Guardian. They’re never happier than when making a point, and their latest fetish is the anti-austerity “movement”. I, too, have just had a “movement” and couldn’t tell the difference.

The thing is, when making their points, they’re usually not borne out by much in the way of facts. Plus, their fans/supporters are usually so intellectually bereft the Leftards have to resort to the absurd or distasteful to get that much needed attention and to ram home their message.

Here’s Mark Steel writing about how wages are starting to rise, and with the deftness you’d expect, manages to be both absurd and distasteful in the same piece:

“it would be greedy to expect that after only four years of austerity and cuts, we can swan about in the carefree 24-hour party lifestyles enjoyed by our lucky grandparents in the Great Depression, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

“Presumably, as we’ve all been in this together, this good fortune will be shared out equally. For example, the people who now rely on food banks could be said to have endured their share of austerity.

“So maybe next week their food bank will give them an extra pickled onion each, or a Cheesy Wotsit to share, providing more compelling evidence that George Osborne’s methods have worked.

“There’s even more good news, because it was also announced that the amount lost to corporate tax ­avoidance last year was down £2.5billion. That’s down £2.5billion to £18.8billion.

“It’s like if Oscar Pistorius said in his trial: ‘In my defence I shot three people the year before, so to get it down to one last year is a change that should be welcomed, m’lady.'”

Now aside from the absurd references to pickled onions and a maize-based cheese flavoured snack there are a couple of gems here, the stand-out one for me being the flippant use of the horrific murder of his wife by a South African paraplegic athlete shooting her four times in cold blood as a metaphor to measure the reduction in corporate tax avoidance. Had, say, Johnny Speight written about a disabled South African man who murdered his wife, whatever the context, for comic effect he’d have been vilified by every Leftard in the land. But maybe we live in enlightened times, and the audience should be credited for knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, a concept left-wingers, and particularly left-wing political parties have always failed to get hold of.

The other is the subject of corporate tax avoidance itself. Now, when the Marks and their buddy Owen Jones, 31, are enjoying their game of soggy biscuit at a food bank on the outskirts of Manchester while sharing naked videos of Spain’s Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias (and, just like when any left-wing political party scaremongers its way into power – Labour in the UK or Syriza in Greece – after a brief period of euphoria there’s the inevitable sticky mess for someone else to clean up) they might reflect on the fact that those nasty vicious evil corporate tax avoiding bastards who put their money into subsidiary companies in the Cayman Islands such as, er, thinking off the top of my head, the Guardian Media Group, who are paying Owen Jones, 31, his £30k a year to write about how terrible everything is.  His solution, in an article written for the New Statesman today in his role as it’s Lost Causes Editor, is for a resurgence of Social Democratic parties across Europe, which would be about as welcome as Daesh winning the contract for Channel Tunnel security, funded by selling body parts of anybody who isn’t part of Momentum.  You see?  You’ve got me at it now.

That’s the point about the Left. It’s riddled with hypocrites who’d enjoy nothing more than for everybody to have the same as everybody else. Except themselves.

Maybe the reason the lefties haven’t reached the heights of your McIntyres, Bishops, Howards or Ramseys is that they’ve hit the glass ceiling that socialism seeks to inflict on others. An allergy to aspiration. And it’s the same glass ceiling that sees the Leftards and left-wing political leaders only ever play to those who agree with them. The security of a faithful following with the certainty of never quite making it. For those devotees of The Guardian, The Independent, Radio 4 or Her Majesty’s Opposition, unless you look somewhere else for something better you will forever remain a captive audience.