Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Kill the poor

I don't think Cameron is quite advocating the Jello Biafra approach, but according to the Mail he's saying "If you're fat or poor, it's probably your own fault". Or the fault of people who decide that Pringles shouldn't have VAT charged on them. (Very disappointed by the response to that post; I thought it would spark quite a debate).

I'm doing a child poverty debate tomorrow, so will be cogitating and deliberating over exactly what Cameron had to say later tonight.


Terry said...


It doesn't matter what Cameron sais, it doesn't matter what you say about Boris Johnson. There comes a time, as with dear Maggie, when the game is up.

Whitby Bridge said...

Why aren't you doing something about this?

Your area. Geographically. And politically.


Kerry said...

And that has precisely what to do with this post?

It's in Bristol West and therefore a matter for Stephen Williams MP.

Puppet Freezone said...

Hmmm... well... unless someone has a fat-creating disease or is taking some drug with fattening side-effects, then how can being fat possibly NOT be someone's own fault? That is, of course, if 'fault' is the right word. Some people actually enjoy carrying some extra weight. It doesn't suit me to carry extra weight, so I walk a lot and cycle to keep my weight down. However, I'm not everyone, and I know several women who keep their weight up to some degree to retain curvyness. This would make it their CHOICE, and not their FAULT. Who is anyone to judge what is right for another? Physical wellbeing isn't the only kind of wellbeing there is.

However, if people are fat and unhappy about it, the solution is very simple. No need for doctors or pills or weight clubs. Just eat less, walk more. Crucially, though, this should be their CHOICE.

In terms of poverty, for many people this is most certainly not their fault, but for some, it most certainly is. For example, I know someone who plays computer games all day, makes no attempt whatsoever to work, and yet can't afford to feed himself properly - and so 'borrows' (loose term for it) from friends who do in order to buy food. I also know people who have been living 'the good life' on credit cards and loans for all these years, who are about to realise for the first time how little money they really have. Since a life on credit is a CHOICE (and a bad one to make, in my view), surely their resulting poverty is their own fault.

I really do despair of the way politicians repeatedly speak as though we can all be 'grouped' and 'labeled' so conveniently. Everyone is different, everyone has their own story, whether black, white, rich, poor, vegetarian, omnivore, cyclist, car-driver, non-smoker, smoker.

Not one of us identical. All with our own story and reasons. All with our own joys and sadnesses. All with our own achievements and problems.

For SOME of these people, it IS their fault. For SOME of them, it is NOT.

Blanket statements (apart from the one I made above, obviously...) and blanket policies are always incorrect, from whichever part of the political spectrum they emanate.

DaveA said...

Kerry, while I am here commenting on the smoking ban, I thought it pertinent to have a comment here. Without over egging the cake, unlike many Labour MPs, I am working class and hav lived in East London for over 20 years. While on the face of it Cameron appears to be a bit cruel alas he is right. My ex partner is a teacher in Hackney and parent's evening is deserted. Education is his country is free and these many poorer people have no interest in being motivated to get out of the povety trap. Also my day to day contact with people is an eyebrow raiser. Violence, knife carrying, complemented by the most appalling bad manners and aggressive language. You complained about Terry's tone in your blog, try getting your headround, coming out of Leytonstone tube station, "get out of my way you f%^king c£"t for the simple indescretion of accidentally bumping into somebody. At my local cafe they have a good range of salads and veggie food. But all you see being brought out is chips, bangers and bacon. Also the Labour Party has been negligent in failing to punish and jail criminals who deserve time behind bars, to learn the right lessons. The first time many thugs get pulled up for their behaviour is when the police arrest them. Under Labour society and the common values of decency have been undermined "its there culture innit" attitude has seen the epidemic in crime. As the son of an electrician and a dinner lady, I can confirm much povety is voluntary.

Terry said...


I'm still waiting for Kerry to show me these so called aggressive posts. They weren't aggressive, she's lost the argument and resorted to the oldest trick in the book.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of Cameron.

With his ridiculous Ray Lewis-led grassroots social policy strategy now lying bleeding on the floor, it looks like the Bullingdon Boy is returning to traditional Tory territory sharpish and uttering some crappy old Tebbitisms from the 80s.

Meanwhile no doubt his team of PR wonks are touring the thinktanks in search of another "new" idea to solve all our problems.

Northern Lights said...

What happened to compassionate conservatism?

Sounds like a throwback to public service cuts and 1980s individualism to me.

Of course people should be responsible for their own lives, but we can't ignore the huge social factors involved.

Chris Hutt said...

Excellent comments from puppet-freezone, but we do need to recognise that what may seem obvious and logical to us Guardian reading, Radio 4 listening, Blogging types isn't so clear to those who are poorly educated or just plain stupid.

Such people are mercilessly exploited by a vast array of marketing gimmicks, so that any sensible message of moderation and self-discipline is drowned out by a cacophony of advertising and hype.

If such people are to be helped to take control of their lives, they must be protected from this exploitation. It may sound paternalistic, it may be paternalistic, but what else will work?

DaveA said...

To you tree hugging, Guardianistas, if you believe the out of Africa theory, how has homo sapien survived and flourished for 250,000 years without you lot?

I do not want liberal neurotics and control freaks telling me how to live my life.

May I also add with the welfare state and nannying you are sapping people's motivation to look after themselves. You are creating the problem.

puppet freezone said...

I think that the idea of 'helping' people from a top-down perspective very quickly becomes patronising when too many assumptions are made about those at the 'bottom'.

People often end up getting helped in the wrong way and, as DaveA says, they become completely demotivated as a result.

From my own experience, getting taken in by marketing is not exclusive to any particular group -It happens in all sections of society. It's more to do with an individual's value system. People learn their value systems mostly their families and schools. As it happens, I grew up on a Council Estate and don't listen to Radio 4 at all - but my father (RIP) taught me that real riches lay in the natural world and in the library, certainly not in material goods. Of course, it is in the nature of the curious human mind to test what they've learned empirically, and in spite of this early education, the lure of all the 'stuff' I'd never had caused me to go off the rails with credit myself the moment it became available to me in an easy way (too easy - too young). However, I quickly learned from my catastrophic mistake and sorted myself out because I had the grounding he'd given me to fall back on.

I realise it is both difficult, and not necessarily appropriate for every parent to instill that precise value system in their children (and I wouldn't want that, since I feel that diversity and tolerance is fundamental to a healthy society for all, in order that a broad range of ideas and discussions are allowed to develop). So, rather than becoming increasingly paternalistic, why not simply educate children in managing money, budgeting and teach them about the tricks of marketing and advertising so that they're not led into poverty by making the rich even richer? Children with innumerate parents might even come instinctively to help them balance the household budget.

I'm afraid I don't know what 'plain stupid' means, as I believe that everyone has innate ability of some kind - and that it's up to governments to enable ever broader societies to exist, thereby allowing all to find a place within them (rather than writing people off and leaving them on the sidelines because they don't fit the ever-narrowing model of some fabricated ideal).

In my own experience, if there are sufficient opportunities for people to take up, they will take them up. Nothing turns people towards credit and the quick 'upper' of a later-regretted purchase more than boredom, lack of hope, lack of self-esteem, and a sense that they have been sidelined, forgotten or rejected by society.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"Sounds like a throwback to public service cuts and 1980s individualism to me."

Yes, damn that individualism! How dare people live their own lives as they see fit!

It's disgusting, is it not?

And public service cuts... Hmmm, well, we've had a near doubling of government spending over a decade and are the public services commensurately better?

No: not even close.*


* That's not just my opinion, by the way; it's the opinion of the National Audit Office.

The Bristol Blogger said...

You've got to admire the suppleness of Snooty Cameron's beliefs.

Was it just last week that he was the model of paternalistic one nation Conservatism?

And this week he's a rugged Thatcherite individualist.

What will he be selling us next week? The Evangelism of the Christian Right?

Pat Nurse said...

As someone trapped in poverty for 11 years with three young mouths to feed, I can say with honesty that sometimes you just can't help the circumstances you fall into which is a time when you need most support. Patronising you about how poor and inadequate you are doesn't help.

As soon as I was able to escape from this bare existence, because believe me that's all being on "the social" is, I did but only because I had family support, support from friends and free college education which enabled me to better my job prospects and wage earning capability.

Likewise, I know of people - Thatcher's Children - who have never worked and are still, despite various NuLab govt projects, measures, initiatives and schemes, terrified of employment.

Why? Because as low skilled people they can only earn very low wages, often not enough to justify losing free dental care, free rent, poll tax, etc..and the jobs they find are mundane, soul destroying, and they don't last for life. The in-between employment,and sorting through the red-tape to get back on benefits means its just not worth losing the security of being on them in the first place.

Family Credit has helped a little but still doesn't lift the very bottom of our society out of poverty and into a brighter future.

There is an under culture of "the unemployable" and beating them with sticks, calling them names, and blaming them for their own ills really doesn't help. It just sets one side of society against the other and what we don't need any more of in this country is division.

I honestly believe that communities are dying because of the "divide and rule" politics that aims to get neighbours spying on neighbours, and encouraging them through anti-social behaviour laws to get the authorities in to deal with them as "problems".

Where once we had tolerance and the ability to talk things through, we now have laws which set us all against each other.

I agree that legislation brought in to protect kids has gone too far and does in fact support those that take delight in first assaulting an adult and then threatening to "get you done" if that adult reacts or dares to defend himself. Balance has got lost here somewhere and it's these difficult issues that makes me glad I'm not a politician. I don't envy you Kerry, David Cameron or Gordon Brown on having to come up with ideas to sort this issue out.

I also wonder about the fat/obesity issue and wonder if this is again another over-hyped health problem. I wonder if obesity is genetic. That has been reported before and if so, how is it someone's fault to be born that way?

Final point, as somewone who tries in vain to put weight on - I'm constantly on get fat diets without success so I can go from an unhealthy Size 0 to size 10 - I wonder if other factors come into play here such as one's own metabolism.

(I imagine you'll probably advise me to give up smoking and watch the pounds pile up, Kery.)

All the best, I hope we can agree more on the above points than others I've made elsewhere on your blog.

And, btw, Ms Merron has been in touch and I'm happy to say she will talk to the minister for me. I thought I should let you know in case you were minded to help.

Northern Lights said...

Devil's Kitchen...amusing post. Although it misrepresented (or just misunderstood?) the point I was making.

As I said (although just to be clear perhaps it needs repeating) I DO think people should be responsible for their own lives.

In some cases, however, social factors are important. It's all about balance. I wouldve thought that would be obvious.

Mr Potarto said...

Pat Nurse wrote: "I know of people - Thatcher's Children - who have never worked and are still, despite various NuLab govt projects, measures, initiatives and schemes, terrified of employment.

Why? Because as low skilled people they can only earn very low wages, often not enough to justify losing free dental care, free rent, poll tax, etc.."

I think it would be more appropriate to describe them as Gordon's Children - it's his policies that have left them institutionalised on benefits.

Pat Nurse also wrote: "I wonder if obesity is genetic. That has been reported before and if so, how is it someone's fault to be born that way?"

Well clearly obesity itself can't be genetic - it is simply the result of consuming more calories than you burn. A compulsion to eat may have some genetic influence, but it would still allow those 'afflicted' to do a bit of exercise to work it off.

In the absence of evidence, it seems more likely that obese people just like eating and find exercise to much hard work. Nothing wrong with that, it is their prerogative.

I don't understand why people get into such a lather about a quarter of the population being a bit lardy. Many countries would happily swap their undernourishment for our over-eating.

We've spent tens of thousands of years trying not to die of malnutrition or starvation, it's only in the last few decades we've been able to do this without spending most of our day harvesting food. So what if we've gone a little too far the other way?

Our lifestyles may not be perfect, but it seems to me we are so desperate for things to find wrong we are picking on irrelevances.

Obesity should be recognized for what it is - a slight overshooting of the successful eradication of the need to work 12 hours a day to feed yourself.

V said...

I understand that the Labour view is that "Soup is Good Food"

Pat Nurse said...

All fair points above. I guess I was rambling a few thoughts out which I hoped someone would help me make sense of!

Thatcher's grandkids are Tony Blair's children. Gordon is just an uncle who's looking after them until Cousin Dave takes charge.

There will always be people dependant on the state. I'm not sure that we will ever change that culture or even that we should.

Attacking those who live in it, or patronisning them, will do nothing but cause divisions so I don't think Dave would be wise to follow that line.

I do agree that NuLab's policies have resulted in more poverty and made people's chances of climbing the class ladder a bit more difficult. Just the thought of tuition fees is enough to put the lower paid off going to Uni, for example.

I do agree, also, that we are responsible for our own lives and the choices we make (including whether we work or stay on the social) but I also think we shouldn't be condemned for our choices.

Cameron said he wants to get tougher on those who do "wrong" but surely what's "right" and "wrong" is the bone of many contentions...?

Is it really "wrong" to like eating a lot or smoking, for example? Or taking drugs? Should we draw the line? Drugs prohibition in itself seems to cause more problems and creates the right climate for criminal expansion into illegal guns and knives.

What I do know is laws and penalties should be reserved for what we all know is "wrong" - a criminal act that does cause real harm to another person.

Whether the wrongdoer in these circumstances is rich or poor makes no difference and so, I suppose I agree with Cameron there.