It's the wealth gap that fuels the Ched Evans debate

Were he a bus conductor, binman or butcher, who would give a monkey’s when he went back to his former job?

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The Independent Online

Readers of this newspaper are – by the very fact that they spend their money on thoughtful, intelligent comment – smart, fair-minded people who are prepared to see both sides of an argument. This is reflected in the correspondence I have received following my column the other day about the Ched Evans case, in which I argued that he should be allowed to resume his football career. I expected to attract a range of opinion, and, as ever, it was on Twitter where the different views were most colourfully expressed. The last time I was called a fuckwit with such vehemence was by James Murdoch almost five years ago.

Independent readers were much more measured. I was particularly struck by a letter which reached our office from Karen Turrell of Leicestershire, who, in saying that I am “missing the point” in relation to Evans, ends her letter: “This case exemplifies some of what is wrong in today’s society.” On this point, I couldn’t agree more, Ms Turrell. There are so many aspects of this unsavoury and unsatisfactory affair that speak to the less attractive aspects of modern Britain, not the least of which, in my view, is the grotesque disparity between today’s haves and have-nots.

I have little doubt that much of the antipathy towards Evans playing professional football again is that he – a convicted rapist – would then be reaping the outrageous financial rewards that this sport confers. Were he a bus conductor, binman or butcher, who would give a monkey’s when he went back to his former job?

We live in a mature capitalist democracy, so we are, in Peter Mandelson’s famous phrase, “relaxed about people getting filthy rich”. But only up to a point. Every time we read about Goldman Sachs workers getting multi-million pound bonuses, or about a business leader getting a massive pay-off as a reward for failure, or about the mega-rich avoiding paying their taxes, or, pertinently, about a Premier League footballer having a fleet of Ferraris, a little piece of us dies.

It is Evans’s fortune that he plies his trade in a ludicrously rewarded world. But also his misfortune, because his position as Public Enemy No 1 is due in some part to widespread public resentment about the mind-boggling sums of money those in his line of work carry home. I am, as it happens, a supporter of a Premier League football club, but even I find myself repelled by the culture of excess and indulgence (not to mention the exorbitant prices the ordinary fan is expected to pay for tickets, or for a subscription to Sky).

“Normal people could never dream of earning in a lifetime what a footballer earns in a week,” wrote Ms Turrell, rather tellingly. This assertion doesn’t bear too much examination: I doubt that Ched Evans, if he pulls on the shirt of Oldham Athletic, will be paid much more than the average middle-ranking executive. But the thrust of Ms Turrell’s point stands: these sort of economic imbalances do not make for a happy and harmonious society, and you don’t have to be Russell Brand to believe that, at some stage, these fissures will develop into a full-scale earthquake.

I think this is where the discussion about Evans should be diverted. So it becomes less about the whys and wherefores of whether a convicted criminal should be free to go about his lawful business on his return to society – a debate that, in this case, splits rather predictably on gender lines. Instead, let’s talk about the obscene imbalances in our society, about the growing gap between Britain’s rich and poor, and about the fact that child poverty is a serious problem in this country in 2015. In the run-up to a general election, these are issues we should all be focusing on.

My iPhone 4 might  as well be a sundial

I went yesterday to change – or upgrade, in the vernacular – my iPhone. I have had this instrument for less than two years, and I was rather fond of it. We’d been through a lot together, me and my phone. We’d crossed continents, we’d been through hell and – almost literally – high water. But recently, my phone had shown, rather like its owner, the signs of age. It became increasingly difficult for it to keep its charge and would give up the ghost at the most inconvenient moment. Its days have been numbered for a while. But most of all, it was an iPhone 4, and it’s now almost impossible, in extremis, to find someone who possesses the relevant charger, or a shop which sells one. People look at me as if I’m carrying around a sundial, or a phone box. I remember when things were built to last. Now, they are designed for almost immediate obsolescence. I know Apple is one of the most admired companies in the world, but I find their exploitation of people’s craving for the newest new thing pernicious in the extreme.

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