The press and the bedroom

In an interview which focuses on where to locate parliament during the coming major refurbishment, the speaker (of the House of Commons), John Bercow, also took in other subjects, including the tabloid press, in a way that politicians, constrained by party, rarely do.

Would that more politicians felt able to speak truth to the nation.

He denounced much of the UK tabloid press as what he called the ‘more downmarket, low-grade, fifth-rate scribblers on newspapers – if they could be called such – that might be thought to be racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, comic cartoon strips’.

Right on! Few in the media will dare to repeat or report this, and yet it’s the way so many of us feel.

Another big cheer this week followed the Court of Appeal ruling that the so-called bedroom tax ‘discriminates against a domestic violence victim and the family of a disabled teenager’. The bedroom tax euphemistically called by the government the ‘spare room subsidy’ is one of those pernicious pieces of legislation which fails to take into account the realities of ordinary life – the lives of ordinary people. Reduces them to statistics.

Cameron’s comment that it is ‘unfair to subsidise spare rooms in the social sector if we don’t subsidise them in the private sector’, entirely misses its damaging effects. No spare room means no family or friends to stay, no room for emergency, no place to escape. What happens in the private sector is an irrelevance. The iniquity of opposing a Mansion Tax while supporting a bedroom tax, where the occupant in the one case by definition has resources and the other doesn’t, is self-evident.

Policy-makers have to mix with the real world, and have to remember as I’ve argued many times that if your policy fails the basic test of compassion, then you should scrap it.

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