Just tuned in to Woman’s hour and became outraged at views expressed by Lord Digby Jones, (formerly ‘Sir’, formerly ‘Mr’), on the subjects of education and parenting. Jones has developed a proposal of cutting benefits to all parents whose children cannot read, write, count and work a computer by age 14. He went on to say, reassuringly, that these families “will not starve, they will be given food stamps” but will be deprived of monetary benefits as they would, apparently, only be spent on “luxuries” such as cigarettes and alcohol. Stopping families’ benefits wholesale at the drop of a hat seems to be the populist policy de jour, with no concern for the serious effects such measures would have on child poverty, human rights and the development of a lawless underclass. Aside from the fact that such a proposal would hit migrants and disabled people worst, it is unrealistic and out of touch. Lord Digby Jones turns out to be the former Minister of State for UK Trade & Investment. Perhaps he should confine his opinions to his area of expertise.
I think this is symptomatic of a larger problem. While many of the casual prejudices held against Britain by my aquaintances here in Berlin are amusing, harmless and easily refudated, the stereotype of a British political system in which the monarchy and peers have far too much say is not only damaging, but seems to be turning out to be true.
As a Briton abroad I feel humiliated over Prince Andrew’s gaffes and mood swings, concerned by Prince Charles’ several inappropriate interventions, disappointed as to the lack of progress on Clegg’s House of Lords reform.
It all puts me in mind of an Oscar Wilde quote, spoken by Lord Fermor to his nephew Dorian Gray – “When I was in the Diplomatic, things were much better. But I hear they let them in now by examination. What can you expect? Examinations, sir, are pure humbug from beginning to end. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.”