Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor...
I blogged the main body of this a few weeks ago (here). The long and the short of it being that there are some people who think that if you aren't poor, you cannot understand any politics to do with the poor and so will always make terrible decisions regarding their welfare. Following in this logic, Mrs Thatcher should only have been allowed to make policy on greengrocers, chemists and lawyers and Churchill had no right whatsoever to be First Lord of the Admiralty with only an Army background. It is, of course, total and utter bunkum.
The next person to add themselves to the list of people criticising the Cabinet because of their privileged backgrounds and financially successful lives is prize plonker and crusader for all that is ill-thought out, David Davis MP. Yup, Davis signs up totally to the fact that the current Cabinet can't understand the financial strains on a £40,000 pa earner facing child benefit cuts because they're all loaded.
Davis states "they are who they are - they come from their own background, they don't actually come from backgrounds where they had to scrape for the last penny at the end of the week." Several points here. The most crushingly obvious one is what a load of bigoted crap. Since when was it ok to criticise someone because of their background? Imagine, if you will, the clamour for heads to roll if this were reversed; if this were about inheritance tax and a politician (or anyone) said, "well, so-and-so isn't rich, they're from a poor background so they don't know what it's like to try to pass on your multi-million pound estate to your children - they never had to work out what to do with all that spare cash even after paying for the stable of polo ponies - so they're not in any position to really make policy here; they just can't understand." It is classist, mean-spirited, discriminatory drivel at its worst.
The next point is how lovely it must be for Mr Davis to be able to talk about this having come from modest roots in London. However, for the last 24 years he has been a serving MP, raking in a pretty above-average wage to say the least. His basic wage these days is a touch over £65,000, plus expenses (but they never make any profit there). I would say he has long since forgotten what it is like to search around for pennies at the end of the week. This is also true of any MP - none of them are on the breadline, but apparently it's ok for the adequately rich but not the very rich to make policy that governs the poor.
Which is really the last point, and the one I made extensively in the aforementioned post. Government is about putting the best people from a cross-section of society, through a fair and open voting system, in a position to take the decisions they think best for all the citizens of the country. Churchill came from a very wealthy background. He ate, drank and socialised with the highest of society. He holidayed in exclusive and prohibitively expensive locations and did much to excess. He was no flat-capper, no working men's club regular. I should say that might not seem 'in touch' with the poorer voters, only back then people cared far more about substance than show. Was he a good leader? Was he a good politician? Was he good for the country?
It is not about who is poor or rich, black or white, tinker, tailor, soldier or sailor. One can do nothing about one's background - it is where they have been. What should always be of infinitely more interest is one's present and one's future - it is where they are, what they do, where they intend on going, and what they intend on doing; and if they are a politician in power, we're probably all going too. Politics, for all its point scoring on who has done what, is about what we should do now. I would like to say this shady subject can be consigned to history and we can move on with getting the nation back on its feet, but I think we all know we shall hear this drum beaten again before the next Parliament.