Sunday, March 16, 2008
Shannon Matthews the missing 9 year-old from West Yorkshire is safe. Which is obviously great news. I always get the feeling after 48 hours in these cases that if the kid hasn't turned up, the police will be looking at either an accident or murder.
So it's great news she has been found, apparently well after being missing for more than three weeks, and I am genuinely delighted for her family.
Yet it's hard to shake off the horrible feeling that her abduction opened a window into a society that shouldn't exist.
The family life of her mother, Karen Matthews, makes Shameless look like Brideshead Revisited. The statistics are mind blowing.
Age 32. Seven children. Five different fathers. Bloody hell!!
If the average British worker was as productive there would be no recession fears, no deficit worries, no trade gap. We'd be world beaters!
Should Karen fancy her chances as an entrepreneur, I'd suggest she looks into setting up an Internet dating site. She obviously has expertise in the meeting and mating market.
In a way you have to admire her inventiveness and time management skills. How she managed to get time for a social life once she'd got to four or five kids, while still in her twenties, is a puzzle to me.
It must really hurt for couples struggling to have just one kid they'd love unconditionally - marooned on NHS IVF waiting lists that measure in years - to be exposed to an alternative word where kids are produced on a production line, with little apparent regard for their welfare or the likelihood of giving them a stable upbringing.
On a more practical level, it must be galling for families where the parents both work but struggle to make ends meet due to child care costs, to witness a culture where work is a swear word and kids are utilised as a means of enhancing social security benefits.
It seems to me we've reached a point where flawed government policies, allied to a culture that really is shameless, has turned Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection on it's head.
If you are smart, motivated, and hard working, the odds are you won't have the cash, or more crucially the time, to raise a big family. This is especially true where the woman is keen to continue working. There aren't many Nicola Horlicks around!
Conversely, if you can't be bothered working, but think the world owes you a living, having loads of kids seems to be the fastest legal route to boosting your income.
The inevitable consequence of this situation is that survival of the fittest ceases to be the norm.
The smart and hard working will be out bred by the feckless, whilst simultaneously being screwed for an ever higher percentage of their income to fund the offspring of the benefit junkies.
All of which sounds perilously close to a Nazi-esque view of the world. Which makes me very uncomfortable, but I cannot see where else current trends are taking us.
I'm absolutely in favour of protecting the weak; a high standard of comprehensive education; free health services; and Gordon Brown's oft quoted desire to end child poverty.
However it's clear to me that current policies are not going to achieve that aim. There has to be a better way.
I've got some post-budget thoughts on the general economy, but here's a quick hit in the area of Child Benefit.
Currently child one gets a higher weekly allowance and all subsequent kids are paid at a reduced rate. Why not continue the taper so that child three gets less than two, etc? I'd imagine that by child four, condoms or The Pill would be a much more prominent part of the conversation with any prospective partners.
This could be kept revenue neutral by increasing the payments for kids one and two, so no stealth tax here.
I can't claim this as a perfect solution - and it has definite echoes of China - but it's a step ahead of current policy which is a licence to breed without any regard for the consequences.