I was simultaneously delighted and (slightly) horrified that Mumsnet publicised my Child Benefit blog yesterday.
Delighted, because I do think that it’s a spectacularly incompetent and inequitable piece of policy making – based almost entirely on a dog whistle “Look! We’re hitting the rich!” approach, rather than a well-though-out attempt to restructure welfare for families or save money. Drawing attention to this, and trying to hold those responsible to account *is* important.
Horrified, because it’s all too easy to be dismissed as a HAMBY (Hands Off My Benefits, You) middle-class, sharp-elbowed mother who only protests when her own pockets are picked.
I think what I find particularly distasteful about all this is the very British diffidence, and reluctance to discuss income and financial circumstances, which makes sticking one’s head above the parapet when one’s own interests are at stake feel very uncomfortable.
But compassion, concern and engagement aren’t binary. This isn’t, and shouldn’t be seen as an either/or choice.
I can, and do, engage myself in campaigning for those who are genuinely disadvantaged in the world. Injustice and inequality anger and frustrate me wherever I encounter them.
I should, and do, acknowledge that life has dealt me a very decent hand of cards. I wish that everyone could have the advantages (of love, security and stability) that I enjoyed growing up and which still largely prevail today. If I were to throw my problems into a pile with those of a hundred random strangers, I have very little doubt I’d take mine back out.
I really don’t like the way the discussion slides into finger pointing – you’re better off than we are; and look at those pensioners! They’re raking it in! It’s a kind of divide and conquer which I’m sure isn’t accidental, and which serves only to distract from the real issues.
I’m writing this for my own sake, I think, and it doubtless smacks of protesting too much…!