Monday 6 May 2013

Life is so easy when everyone else is wrong!

With thanks to my good friend Martin Rowson

Dear Mum,

I know it's a while ago now, but I’m sorry that I argued with you. I felt terrible as soon as I put the phone down, and even though we speak nearly every day, the fact that I've not yet apologised properly has been on my mind for weeks.

Maybe I just felt so comfortable with our chitty-chatting that I thought I’d get away with saying how George Osborne had managed to enrage me. I know that no matter how much I tried to explain my outrage, you would respond with classic Daily Mail stances. 

I’m not suggesting that you are unable to form your own opinions. I remember well the dark and fearsome atmosphere in the family home decades ago when life was tough for the Adleys, and it looked like you might vote for the SDP, rather than the Conservatives. Dad didn't know what to make of it, but I was impressed. It was a huge opinion shift for a woman who had spent all her adult life campaigning and fund-raising for the Tories.

As you know, I lost my interest in party politics when New Labour arrived on the scene. Even though it was great that their victory broke the sequence of four successive Conservative governments, Blair's rebranding made my old socialist party sound like a jazzed-up washing powder.

Trouble was mum, you and I were coming at our conversation from completely separate perspectives. You sent me to Public School, so I know well the Camerons, Osbornes and Blairs of this world. I know them for the self-serving ignorant little twits they are, so when Osborne asked why the English should have to support a dole culture like that enjoyed by child-killer Mick Philpott, I just lost it a little in the noodle.

However much I insisted that there is no dole culture being enjoyed by people like Mick Philpott, because Mick Philpott is a crazy evil man, and that by making such a comparison Osborne was not only trying to scrape some political kudos from the bottom of a stinking barrel, but also, in the process, demonising all other families on the dole, you kept referring to the way Philpott had exploited all his women to increase his welfare payments.

I’m sorry that I lost it, but that sounded so Daily Mail, and I can only take so much of George Osborne’s knee-jerk bigotry. You see, despite the way the English middle classes depict themselves as quintessentially conservative with a small ‘c’, there are few people I’ve ever met more conservative than the Irish. When they’re not comfortable with their own status quo, they borrow someone else’s and stick to that like a mouse in a glue trap. To satisfy this appetite for conservatism, Ireland actually has two Daily Mails: one of them is called the Irish Independent.

So no, I didn’t mean to offend you, and yes, you’re right, Philpott was just doing it for the money and the power, but isn’t that central to Conservative policy?

Now, now, there I go again. There’s no need for such flippant provocation, but I’ve just had it with all these pathetic small-minded propagandist myths that the political Right spread around, like slurry on fields.

Top of the misinformed begrudging Pops is welfare fraud. Apologies for my lack of Irish statistics, but I can’t imagine that, pro rata, there’s a great difference between here and Britain. A TUC poll revealed that most people believe a massive 27% of the entire welfare budget is being claimed fraudulently, when in truth the figure is 0.8%

Can I say that again, so that we can get a grasp on this, once and for all? A measly 0.8% of the entire welfare budget is being claimed by fraudsters. I strongly suspect that much more than that is spent in efforts to catch fraudsters, because clamping down on dole cheats gives good political game. Bagging dole-stealing skangers wins votes, so it’s worth spending loads of money on nicking them, in an extremely visible and public way, but please never say that the welfare state supports people “ the Philpotts...” because thankfully, there are no people like the Philpotts.

I think you’d like it over here, mum. Lots of people think just like you do.  They even use the same expression: 

“We’re just a small country!” say the Irish, just as you do about England, and they go on (and on and on!) “We simply don’t have room for them all. They don’t just come for our dole, they come over here to use our health service and get looked after better than local people when they do. And they get council houses as if they’ve lived here all their lives. And they get cars and mobile phones off the government.”

To them I say one word: “Tosh!”

Thankfully mum, I know you’re not that extreme, although I do sometimes wonder how much you temper your opinions when I’m around! But by god, I do get fed up with hearing all these moaning minnies going on about how everything is somebody else’s fault.

That’s why I loathe the Daily Mail: because it’s just a blaming machine. Life is so easy when you’re the only one who knows the truth, and everyone else is either wrong or dangerous. It’s a comfy and smug place to live, at the top of your own hill of righteousness.

But life is more complicated than that. The vast majority of people are good, sound, honest and well-intentioned.

If they have signed on the dole they most probably need to.
If they have arrived in the country they probably needed to leave where they left. As I always point out, our family were immigrants too, and all of us have benefited from the Welfare State in so many ways.

Of course your right to your own political opinions is sacrosanct, and I think no less of anyone - especially my lovely mum! - for their own beliefs. You are living proof that Tories can sometimes be wonderful, generous and loving people!

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