Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Monday 8 April 2013

A class act.

WE are at war.

No, not with North Korea. The chances of Michael McIntyre's petulant younger brother doing serious damage to any nation other than his own are slimmer than a heavily-pregnant Kate Middleton, which is very.

We're at war with ourselves. And, not for the first time, it's entirely about class.

In the past few days not only have a series of welfare changes kicked in - including extra charges for people in social housing deemed to have a spare bedroom, a benefits cap, and an end to Disability Living Allowance - but the people who run the country have been spinning like ice skaters on crack.

BOOM! Charities, campaign groups and even the Church of England spoke out against the changes, warning the cuts would punish the most vulnerable.

WALLOP! Today Gideon and IBS hit back by blaming 'the Left', 'The BBC', and 'lazy journalism' for giving the impression their plans are flawed. Lazy? That sort of thing takes a lot of work, I'll have you know.

KERPOW! From the Today programme to The Agenda to getting their most persuasive advisers to write op-ed pieces in newspapers, the people who run the country have been arguing reform is necessary, that to argue with them is to get into debt, and that they know best.

Whether they are right, wrong, or halfway between the two is neither here nor there - the simple fact is these changes affect the poor, and they're being pushed through by the very nicely-off. That is enough to put up the backs of almost every Britisher in one direction or another, regardless of which category of society the new 'class test' wants to put them in.

On top of that, whether you are a fan of his policies or not, we have a Chancellor who forgets which company he ought to register his shares in despite the fact said family firm is the basis for his entire economic knowledge, lets his chauffeur park his £50,000 car in a disabled bay, and skanks his way into first class on a standard rail ticket.

Even his best friends would facepalm over those. He might be rich, but he's got all the class of Karen Matthews. They even look a little alike.

We journalists have been sat on our underworked bums proving also that the Prime Minister's £300,000 armoured Jag squatted in a free parking bay for six times as long as it should and irritating IBS even further by showing the voters how many spare bedrooms he has at no cost at all.

In the space of two days, journalists who couldn't really be bothered also captured Gideon doing a Dick van Dyke impression while talking to blue collar workers and his bizarre contention that a nasty, vicious, arsehole who murdered his own children did so because he was on benefits.

Whichever side you land on those stories probably depends on your class. And class, whatever idiots with new tests say, has nothing to do with money or how often you go to the opera.

Class is simply the position from which you view the world. Some are stood at the wrong end of the telescope and have a narrow field of vision, others think they're closer to everything important than they really are, and then there's people like me who wonder why both sorts don't just use their eyes.

If you stop hitting each other with a telescope long enough, you might see that charities and churches have been lobbying against the changes simply because by shouting about the problems they can be fixed. IBS announced u-turns on spare bedroom charges for foster carers and Army families purely because it was pointed out by campaigners via the newspapers, and a good thing too.

You may also spot that being left or right isn't an insult, it's an opinion and they're not illegal yet. The BBC usually bends over backwards to be fair like a teacher determined to give a trophy to every child in class even if it's for just sitting quietly, while journalists work flipping long hours and in my experience are only ever called lazy by people with much wider arses than theirs.

You might spot, too, that Gideon wants to be liked and appreciated by people he does not feel comfortable enough with to talk to normally, and that he tried to make political capital out of the gruesome deaths of six children because he's desperate for a bit of publicity and has his finger so far off the pulse it's in his own ear.

And if you drop the telescope altogether you will see there are people without empathy in every walk of life, whether it's the Philpotts hitting the karaoke bar days after their children died or a millionaire parking in a disabled bay so he can get a Big Mac 30 seconds sooner, and sod anyone in a wheelchair.

They both despoil the place, and themselves, in different ways and they exist in roughly the same proportions.

If the few who think a life on benefits will get them a flatscreen, a nice house and happiness could see it will actually lead to despair, supplementary crime, and the kind of attitude that makes Mick Philpott a catch, they might try harder to join the millions who successfully study and work to haul themselves out of their parents' poverty and never get a slap on the back for it.

And if the people who run the country stopped to read their own figures which show the bankers have taken us for nearly a thousand times more than benefit fraud, they might realise the greatest threat to the nation's financial stability is the money launderers, profiteers and loan sharks they keep insisting we need to keep happy.

Maybe then we'd have a sense of proportion about who's to blame for what, and we'd know it's worth more of our time to bollock bankers, financial regulators, economics advisers, and chief executives whose cupidity cost us £1.162trillion than it is the truly lazy who diddle us out of £1.2bn a year.

Perhaps, even, we'd fix the errors in our benefit system which underpays people who really need it by £1.3bn.

But then, that would involve noticing the government gets to keep more money than it loses to fraud, that 97.9% of benefits go to people who deserve them, and that we jail and despise the cheats of the world 1,000 times more when they are poor than when they have knighthoods.

And the reason we don't do that? Because we all like to pretend we have something we call 'class' but is actually feeling secure in our own place in the world by knowing who's above us and who's beneath us. It's all an act, and it's a very British war consisting of elbows and nastiness and muttered insults, and it's got nothing to do with true class at all.

That comes when you stop trying to put other people down to make yourself look better.

He hasn't cracked it yet.