Edwina Currie has returned, triumphantly, to what she does best: attacking people living in poverty for having the temerity to do things like watch TV, smoke cigarettes, or own pets.
In an phone-in show on Radio 5, Currie spoke with Hayley, a mother from Derbyshire, who’d been explaining that her and her husband sometimes have to skip meals to feed their children.
The first thing Currie said in the discussion was to quiz Hayley on her lifestyle, asking:
“Have you by any chance got any animals? Dogs or anything like that? … Do you feed the dog everyday? … How many animals and pets have you got in the house? … Have you got Satellite TV? … Have you got clubs, are you paying through catalogues for clothes? … So where’s all the money going, Hayley?”
Currie’s implication is that answering yes to any of these questions – having a pet, buying clothes through mail order, paying the equivalent of two cinema tickets a month for TV – renders one ineligible for sympathy. And her incredulity at the difficulty of Hayley’s life despite not committing these ‘sins’ belies her ignorance at life below the poverty line in the UK.
When Currie hears something she thinks she can blame Hayley for, she jumps to conclusions almost instantly.
One of the expenditures mentioned is paying off bills. Currie hears this, and goes for the throat, declaring:
“What’s happened here… is that when the money was coming in – this sounds like there were two salaries coming in and no savings – life was being lived to the full and a very good life indeed.
“But when that’s no longer the case, when there’s no longer money coming in, then you have to evaluate whether you’re going to be able to get back to the good life quickly or not in which case you’re going to have to think about maybe declaring yourselves bankrupt.”
Which causes Hayley to tearfully respond:
Can I just say to Edwina that I’ve never lived life to the full, I don’t go out every weekend, and I don’t— cause you’ve really upset me to be honest. We don’t buy clothes on a weekly basis or anything like that, we’ve never lived life to the full… When have I borrowed money? I’ve never said I’ve borrowed money from anywhere…
[Paying off bills] isn’t borrowing money, I’m paying council tax, I’m paying my debt.
You can listen to the discussion, and Edwina’s shocking heartlessness, below:
Currie simply can’t believe that people who have hard lives aren’t personally to blame. It’s the point she made in November, when she said:
“I don’t think people in this country go hungry. But are these people at the same time maybe buying the odd lottery ticket? Do they just occasionally have the odd cigarette? Somewhere along the line does food come as the first priority?”
And it’s the point she’s making now. She is a walking embodiment of the just-world fallacy, she appears to be impervious to reason or evidence, and she makes people cry on the radio.
• The right’s attack on child poverty targets shows their ignorance – Tim Nichols, December 15th 2011
• How can we fight child poverty without hitting people’s pockets? – Matthew Butcher, December 8th 2011
• Does the child poverty agenda now belong to the Conservatives? – Declan Gaffney, December 7th 2011
• Look Left – Tories past and present battle to out-nasty each other – Shamik Das, November 20th 2011
• Currie v Jones: Do people go hungry in Britain? – Alex Hern, November 14th 2011