Oh, you poor middle classes, having to cut back on your lovely organic veg boxes

Osborne’s child benefit cuts have left the comfortably-off desperately trying to prove that they are anything but.


So you’re in favour of Adele getting child benefit, jabbed Jeremy Paxman at Chris Leslie, the shadow Treasury Minister, on Monday’s Newsnight during a debate on the middle class’s right to child benefit.

Poor Little Master Son-of-Adele. We do not know your name and have yet to see a picture of your lickle face, but already your right to freebie nappies has been slugged out on BBC2, Tory vs Labour.

Other items on that night’s show were 3D printers and the political leanings of an anthropomorphised Hurricane Sandy; both concepts more simple to explain than George Osborne’s cuts. But worry not, comfortably off parents of Blighty. Set aside your Dorset Cereals Toasted Spelt and your Centre Parcs brochure, pull up a John Lewis breakfast bar stool and I shall explain.

If you earn £60,000 or more or live with someone who does, a letter will arrive soon to warn of your loss of child benefit. It averages out at £1,300 per annum per household. You can still have it if you insist, and are prepared to enter the never-ending means-testing circle of doom. If any tiny good comes from this cut, it’ll be the short, sharp lesson that middle-class voters will have about the truth of benefit claims.

Voluminous booklets will be filled in, posted, and lost. Processes will be repeated, hoops will be jumped through, details of absent partners’ earnings will be asked for, investigations held. Oh, and no one poorer than you will think you deserve it anyway, so prepare for some good old-fashioned shaming. If you really want your cash, you can stay in the begging process and get used to therapeutic bouts of banging your head against your Conran table. Or you can buzz off and fend for yourself. 

That all-in-it-together Tory idea. It’s your turn now. The broadest shoulders, the greatest burden? Oof, you again. Brave George Osborne isn’t worried that it’s probably around now that a lot of middle-class Tory voters are rousing from their Wallander box sets and bellowing, “Hang on, I’m NOT the broadest shoulders! I’m a woman in Cirencester buying her kids’ squash rackets off eBay, driving a clapped-out Volvo estate and holidaying in a bloody log cabin near Thetford beside a branch of Café Rouge”. It might make these Tories rather cross. They might remember the £45bn given to Royal Bank of Scotland or that recent hiccup with Starbucks paying tax. Annoy these people at your peril, George. Hell hath no fury in the voting booth like a Boden-mummy with fewer Malbec tokens.

Better-off people don’t want to suffer a backlash for daring to think they’re entitled to what was always theirs. I’m sure that right this moment some middle-class parents are furious at me for doubting their family of four on 60,000pa doesn’t subsist by candlelight on Asda WHOOPS!-sticker luncheon tongue while little Persephone honks through Greensleeves on a time-worn viola.

I have sympathy for everyone losing money, but my heart will always have less patience with the middle classes losing their cosy extras as it’s often extras that the working poor have either never had or don’t even know exist. My gut lurch here is if the middle classes want an Abel & Cole seasonal veg delivery, pay for it your bloody selves. 

All that is 100 per cent clear here is that Osborne’s cuts have left the comfortable desperately trying to prove they’re not that comfortable and the downtrodden poor scrabbling about to prove they’re skint. To see sharp-focus scrabbling, last night’s BBC1 documentary Britain’s Hidden Hunger – about the rising demand for emergency food banks – was a bleak lesson in who really needs hand-outs. It made me think that the noble thing for middle-class people to do with child benefit would be to use their dexterity and wit to fill all the forms out, claim the cash and then spend it on cheap tinned food to donate to food banks outside supermarkets. Thirteen hundred pounds will buy a lot of marrowfat peas and packet soups. They taste like crap but you will save someone’s life.

Please form an orderly queue, ladies...

What can it be about Ronnie Wood, 65 – engaged yesterday to the fragrant Sally, 35 – which makes him so powerfully attractive to women? To the naked eye, he resembles a medical cadaver left in a hedge, but still queues of young women battle for his affections.

Is it his scintillating wit? His powerful charisma and firecracker-between-the-sheets technique? Is he a frightening intellect, yet also an unreconstructed man who would wrestle a bear for you in case of emergency?

I can’t quite understand but he must have something. Incidentally, apropos of nothing, Rolling Stones stadium tour tickets are on sale for around £375 a seat.

The bit of me that envies those poor New Yorkers

Sandy has been the most modern of hurricanes. I’ve followed its path on Twitter, Facebook and Sky iPad app. On Monday night, I sat transfixed by two hapless berks broadcasting on U-stream.com from their New York basement – which was both flooded and on fire – trying to decide whether to chance being electrocuted by wading through the water.

None of this drama warranted any need for them to value survival over vanity by TURNING THE CAMERA OFF. Think Blair Witch Project. I lost my nerve and logged out before they did. Meanwhile, my Twitter timeline was filled with Brits writing in the style of a Barry Manilow ballad, wishing New York, the Big Apple, the city of dreams, GOOD LUCK BUDDY and to STAY SAFE. It was peculiar to feel envious of all those New Yorkers who were “hunkering down”, cut off from life, with nothing more than a torch and a good book for company. In fact, a sleeping bag, some emergency tinned peaches and blissful ignorance seemed oddly preferable.

Twitter: @gracedent

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