|In which I interrupt the travelogue to have a rare public political moment
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
The Evening Standard, a free newspaper of right-leaning sentiment that I often pick up on my commute home, recently launched a campaign to raise £1 million to fight poverty in London. The “Dispossessed” campaign will give small amounts of this pot to charities with budgets under £30k to provide services and activities for the most deprived members of the community. I’ve been following the promotion of this campaign with interest. The ES featured a number of heart-rending anecdotal tales about potential beneficiaries, most of whom are hard-working sober types who can’t make ends meet on their pathetic salaries. There’s the Treasury cleaner who has to rise at 4 AM to catch the night bus from a dismal suburb to get to central London in time for work, for instance. David Cameron is supporting the campaign, praising it for its scope and expressing dismay that society tolerates such hidden levels of deprivation in the capital that paupers’ graves, in which multiple people are buried together, are still in use for babies.
I’ve no doubt that the Dispossessed campaign is laudable. But I don’t think it’s society that must shoulder the blame for the necessity of running it. Ordinary Londoners and other British citizens, who can’t help but be aware of London and its problems due to intensive media focus and fiscal dependency on it, give a good deal of money to charity. More importantly, these people pay their taxes. These taxes pay the salaries of MPs who are meant in turn to ensure the welfare of this country’s citizens. That is the primary role of government, is it not? So I’m sorry, Mr Cameron, but I don’t think that the destitute single mother who was provided with an unfurnished flat and no money with which to care for her infant daughter is there because society doesn’t care or would churlishly withhold the financial means to help her. She’s there because the government elected by that society has failed, and is still failing, to give adequate support to its weakest and most disadvantaged citizens. I suggest that instead of just praising the noble philanthropic efforts of private individuals, you start entertaining the possibility that if national agencies were providing the services that these charities do, there wouldn’t be a need for them. It’s your government now. Don’t just stand there wringing your hands and wailing. Do something with it.