i suppose that i am being overly sensitive but at the moment it seems that if you are unemployed you are seen as being scum of the earth (this must be how supporters of the liberal democrats or millwall fans feel).
it’s bad enough when the press falls over itself to find stories of the feckless poor who live in mansions and have plasma screen tvs on every wall, then treat this as if it were the norm rather than the exception. meanwhile the plight and struggle of unemployed just gets ignored – it doesn’t fit the current narrative.
it’s bad enough when some posh toff who has never had to worry about money talks about feelings of entitlement and how work will set us free – yet doesn’t seem to realise that there isn’t jobs out there for all the people who want them.
yet that pales into insignificance to the knobs who manage to claim that they are somehow better than the average run of the mill unemployed layabout. no i am not talking about those lucky souls who pop up and say ‘i have never been unemployed, i have worked every day of my adult life’. this is normally coupled with ‘i don’t know why people need benefits’ or ‘why can’t they find work’. i can live that that sort of sentiment – they have been lucky enough not to have needed to receive state benefit or to sign on (and i am sure they are in receipt of no other state benefits).
no i am thinking of someone like hugo rifkind. who he? hugo is a columnist at the times, he is one of the humourous ones (which generally means not funny). in his column today he raises an important question: what are state benefits for? are they to provide a safety net that just allows a barely tolerable living or should it provide a comfortable lifestyle? he is right that there is a debate to be had on this. however with one quote hugo proves that he really isn’t in a position to speak about being unemployed.
in his piece hugo speaks about how that during his move to london he was unemployed for two years and how he lived on just packs of biscuits: “the thought that this might have been somebody else’s problem never really occurred to me.” so said hugo rifkind.
rifkind where have i heard that name before? oh yeah that’s right hugo is the son of malcolm rifkind, the conservative party grandee and not short of a bob or two or of connections (not that i am implying that hugo’s tenure on the times might have anything to do with his father).
so why do i think that hugo’s bold manly claim that he survived two years in london on just biscuits is just so much hooey?
hugo claims he was unemployed and that he wasn’t on benefits. that means no money, living in london on no money is impossible. where was he living? how was he buying his biscuits? if his friends were helping him and paying for him – then it was their problem (though i am sure hugo has paid them back). or perhaps he was supported by his dad: a place to stay, some money to spend. whichever it was i am pretty sure that hugo rifkind wasn’t actually ever in a position where he was wondering where his next meal was coming from – and that my friends is the real difference, that is when you know how important state benefits can be – when you have to make sure every penny counts, when sometimes the decision might come down to do i eat or do i pay a bill or two.
i truly doubt that hugo rifkind has ever been in that position – no matter what his claims of being self sufficient when he was ‘unemployed’. it isn't that hugo and his ilk can't have an opinion (or a solution) to the situation, but just don't dress it up as if you have been there, done that and worn the grubby t-shirt.