Editor-At-Large: Another hopeless mother slips through the net

Share
Related Topics

Found guilty of kidnapping her own daughter in an attempt to grab a huge ransom, she's been vilified, called lazy, sex mad, and a devious liar. Everyone has an opinion about Karen Matthews, the failed mother who seems to embody all that's wrong with our benefits culture. A pick-and-mix family, kids by a handful of men. Some kids with dads she can't even remember shagging. But is Karen the embodiment of evil? Last week another shocking example of motherhood was in court, Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell, the woman who abused her daughter Constance so badly the young girl turned her memories of a bleak childhood into a best-selling book, Ugly. Carmen claimed it was a pack of lies and sued her daughter for libel. She lost the case.

That both Carmen and Karen were dreadful mothers is beyond any doubt. But evil? Take a look at the case of academic Sally Adams, the fiftysomething singleton who is so desperate to be a mother she has advertised for a sperm donor – but he must be an intellectual who has attended either Oxford or Cambridge. I don't deny any woman the right to long for a child, but Ms Adams has relegated the role of a father to the level of sperm supplier with a high IQ and no more. In this respect, I can't see how she's all that different from Karen Matthews, albeit aiming for a better gene pool. Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell produced 11 children, and when Constance's father disappeared, her mother did nothing when the new stepdad started to treat her cruelly.

In all of this there is a thread: men aren't really seen as fundamental to a balanced family life. The mothers make the rules and run what is laughingly called a "home" in their own bizarre way. Normal standards of behaviour don't apply. In the Baby P case, the little boy's mother was completely in the thrall of her new boyfriend, immune to the cruelty he inflicted on her son. Baby's P's mother and Karen Matthews spent their days in similar fashion. Karen would send her kids to school for their breakfast – she didn't cook. Baby P's mother and Karen whiled away their time watching daytime telly and scanning the internet. Most of their benefits went on booze and cigarettes. During the school holidays Karen dosed her daughter Shannon with tranquillisers to make her easier to handle. Her sister claims that she even taped a plastic bag to one baby's bottom in order to save money on nappies.

We seem to have become a society where officials are so scared of demonising mothers that they come up with euphemistic language to describe wilful neglect. One report said that Karen would "require constant monitoring and support throughout the lives of her children" – but still she went on breeding and taping bin bags to their little backsides.

A new study claims that as many as one in 10 children is abused. That abuse might not be physical. It could just be emotional deprivation. Even allowing for a woolly definition of abuse, it's clear that a lot of women have a very damaged relationship with their offspring. Breaking the cycle of poor parenting is difficult. Bad mums aren't a product of the benefits culture; they've been around for ever. What's astonishing is that we stand by and let them flourish, when we're supposed to be the caring society with so many support systems in place.

Gorgeous George: Film star or not, he still buys his own drinks

There's been much debate about whether the moustache he's grown for his latest movie role adds to or detracts from the gorgeousness of George Clooney. Does it confirm him as the new Clark Gable? After spending a couple of hours in his company last Thursday, I can vouch for the glamour, with or without the greying little brush that sprouts under his nose.

I've had some tough assignments, but running the auction at a fund-raising dinner for the actor's favourite charity, the Not on Our Watch foundation, was probably the most nerve-racking, as the celebrity audience included Kid Rock and Matt Damon, who sportingly splashed out $40,000 (£27,400) to spend a day with surfing legend Laird Hamilton.

George Clooney was out on the town last week, turning down the offer of a VIP table in a nightclub the night before the charity dinner, behaving like a normal human being and buying his own round of drinks at the bar. He's knowledgeable and serious about Darfur – and helped to raise a huge sum of money by chatting to all the guests and making the party go with a swing. He's currently playing a soldier in the film of Jon Ronson's dark satire 'The Men Who Stare at Goats'. In 1979, the US Army set up a secret unit who used ancient Chinese mind techniques to achieve amazing stunts, claiming they could walk through walls and kill goats by staring at them.

In the flesh, Clooney is thin and wiry – and is said to get in shape by running up mountains. I'll think I'll have another mince pie and pop on one of his DVDs. It's a lot less effort than slogging up the Highlands to achieve that washboard midriff.

Matt Damon, by the way, reached my knees – how on earth did they shoot 'The Bourne Identity'? Does everyone else stand in gutters?

Shop till your mouse drops

I spent hours last week Christmas shopping, hunched over my computer and surrounded by magazine cuttings of gift ideas available on the internet.

I've gone online to avoid the traffic and the effort of lugging bags around – and I'm not alone. Last Monday there were a record 4.6 million purchases online, worth about £300m.

But shopping online doesn't deliver the buzz you get from feeling the fabric or smelling the packaging, does it? And the best way of limiting spending is to stick to what you can carry. Sadly, that doesn't apply to internet purchasing, so I predict even bigger credit card debts in January.

Spirit-raising measure backfires

When VAT was reduced to 15 per cent as part of an attempt to reinvigorate the economy and get us spending, the Chancellor increased the tax on alcohol so that we weren't encouraged to binge on cheap booze. After whisky distillers complained, he didn't impose this rise on spirits. Consequently, alcopops, containing 5 per cent spirits and aimed at the young, have actually gone down in price, while beer has gone up by a penny a pint and wine by nearly 4p a bottle. Even more confusingly, the Queen's Speech proposals didn't seek to ban happy hours, but to curb offers that promise "all you can drink for £10". The proposed ban on supermarket promotions will hit middle-class wine drinkers more than young boozers. I'm not sure that this is a joined-up policy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Ashdown Group: Junior Reports Developer / Application Support Engineer

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Recruitment Genius: Client Support Officer

£10 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The candidate must be committed, engag...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should it be okay to split infinitives or does it chop up the English language too much?  

Sometimes it's okay to chop and change the way we write. But most of the time, it isn't

John Rentoul
A man rescues his belongings after his home was affected by floods in Marcovia, Honduras  

Still not sure about the devastating effects of climate change? Then let me tell you what's happening in Honduras right now

Daniel Fine
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible