David Cameron: Politics of the playroom

This morning my eldest child’s school had the photographer in, so I took him and his younger brother in early for a picture. I’ve got the proofs and order form with me on my desk right now. They look gorgeous. Really, totally, absolutely gorgeous. I look at it and I feel incredibly proud. Or at least I would do, if I didn’t know that five minutes before those photos were taken, I’d been in stressed mum from hell mode, and telling them to “grow the fuck up”.

I don’t usually swear at my children. I’d been having a bad morning. The kind of morning so bad, even knowing that the feckless are having benefits cut can’t ease the pain. Even so, I feel totally ashamed. I’d feel ashamed even without the swearing. What am I, a grown woman, doing telling two tiny people, aged three and four, to grow up? God knows they’ve been doing their best.

The person who really needs to grow up, of course, is David Cameron. I mean, yes, my children can be annoying sods. They’re used to having everything done for them. They’ve never had to worry about money. They think the way they live is the way everyone lives. But that’s because they’re little. David Cameron, just what is your fucking excuse? And yes, that’s swearing. But I think that’s the very least you deserve.

Like your average four-year old, Cameron seems to think it is in some way realistic to order the world in response to resentment. Here’s him quoted in the Guardian:

We have, in some ways, created a welfare gap in this country – between those living long term in the welfare system and those outside it. […] This has sent out some incredibly damaging signals. That it pays not to work. That you are owed something for nothing. It gave us millions of working-age people sitting at home on benefits even before the recession hit. It created a culture of entitlement. And it has led to huge resentment amongst those who pay into the system, because they feel that what they’re having to work hard for, others are getting without having to put in the effort.

Yes, it’s just not fair, is it? Waaaaah! *stomps off to room. No Playstation time for me tonight* But seriously, David, if you think it’s realistic to have policies based on playing off entitlement against resentment, you must, surely, know this: huge numbers of people, working or not, resent your own privilege and sense of entitlement. So what are you going to do about that?

I am not exactly Miss Underprivileged. I went to Oxford University when I was 18 (this was back in the day when you even got small grants. Which is just as well. I’d have found it a right bugger to get to lectures every morning if I’d been sleeping back home in Cumbria every night). When I arrived at Oxford, though, I didn’t consider myself particularly privileged. I’d been the only person in my school who’d even applied. I’d worked really hard. I thought I deserved my place. I still, kind of, think I did, at least as much as anyone ever does. But this is where I went wrong: I thought that just because I worked hard and got what I wanted, anyone could get what they wanted by working hard. That anyone who didn’t was a bit of a loser who deserved to be where they were. This was, of course, complete bollocks. But sadly it took several terms of being around people far, far more privileged than me for me to work this out (what with me being, fundamentally, a selfish sod).

I have heard it suggested that as you get older and acquire more stuff, you become naturally more right wing. That you become a liberal “mugged by reality”. This hasn’t been my experience. But then, perhaps I haven’t acquired enough stuff yet. David Cameron, well, he’s always had lots of stuff. No wonder he hasn’t the slightest perspective on what it’s like to be without it. Even so, I don’t think having stuff is a sign of maturity. Certainly not in this day and age, when children can no longer expect to achieve the same standard of living and wealth as their parents did (as my dad kindly informed me on Saturday evening; in an odd way, I was actually quite touched). In some ways, I think the resentment politics proposed by Cameron is the politics of someone who has never, ever had to grow up.

People like Cameron find themselves with all the toys in the playroom. Then the minute someone else wants to play, they’ll be screaming it isn’t fair. Those are their toys. Of course, you might add that this in itself isn’t fair. But then you’ll get told that life just isn’t fair, and why did you expect it would be? (Toddler Cameron does have flashes of pseudo-maturity, at least.)

So anyhow, there I am, swearing at my lovely, beautiful kids. The kids I think I am allowed to have (although you never know; perhaps I’ve failed on account of not having a partner who can support me not working. It’s confusing). Anyhow, really I need to be swearing at David. He at least totally deserves it. But I’m not taking him for a school photo shoot afterwards.

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