Sunday, 16 May 2010

On the scrounge

The Daily Mail has been waging a war on benefits for years now, using broad brushstrokes to portray anyone receiving any kind of government hand-outs as worthless, lazy and ignorant. According to the Mail, innocent hard-working middle class people are toiling away so that families on council estates can buy plasma TVs and Playstations.

So it's hard to know what they were thinking by publishing Liz Jones latest self-indulgent and staggeringly ironic column. You remember Liz - she moved to Somerset and wrote a book about how all the villagers were toothless, banjo-plucking inbreeds then wondered why no-one liked her.

Liz's other main claim to fame, other than have a writing style that makes the Peppa Pig books look like Tolstoy, is the fact that she blew over half a million pounds on clothes when working as an editor with Marie Claire.

Since admitting that she was in debt last November, her articles have become a weekly confessional, allowing her to gripe about unscrupulous banks and money lenders.

A heartless pragmatist might suggest that Liz should cut her cocktail gown according to her cloth, and perhaps downsize some of the extravagances in her life - when money's tight do you really need a gardener? And perhaps a train ticket might have made more sense when traveling into London, since Liz says "The poorer you are, the more day-to-day life costs a fortune, the harder it becomes to claw your way out – last Tuesday, I didn’t have £8 for the Congestion Charge, and so I now owe Transport for London £60."

Last week, Liz wrote in You Magazine that she felt close to suicide, "I was in despair. I had no one to turn to. I won’t go into why I found myself unable to afford food, heating, petrol. I can only say I was landed with a huge project with no warning, and stupidly continued it so as not to throw a dozen or so people out of work." That's Liz, always thinking of others.

In the days that followed, Liz found her bullet-riddled mailbox (like I said, her neighbours aren't fans) filled with envelopes from concerned Mail readers. They contained touching personal notes, cheques, offers of donations, and lots of lottery tickets.

One woman wrote "I’m a 77-year-old widow on a state pension, but I’d do anything for my cat, Josh. I’ve won £50 on Premium bonds and I want you to have it, so how can I get it to you?" Another £50 came from a 56-year-old disabled woman whose husband had given up work to care for her.

Liz ends her column by saying "We’re always being told we live in a broken society. That we’re greedy. My faith in human nature has been restored." The problem is, it's the Daily Mail that invented the concept of Broken Britain. And the venal greed she refers to is the grotesque consumption that got her into this mess in the first place.

How lovely that it took the foolish generosity of idiotic pensioners to make her feel positively about her fellow man. Like the credulous fools who send their life savings to preachers and televangelists, these people can't see the awful hypocrisy that's staring them in the face.

Liz may have a renewed faith in human nature, but mine has taken a serious hit.

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