Friday, 6 March 2020

Woke Posturing - Mind the Gap

I couldn't agree more with this opinion piece in The Times by Janice Turner because tackling poverty is about closing the poverty gap - not maintaining the status quo.

Now the only sensible measure of success in tackling poverty is to produce an outcome which means that fellow citizens who are struggling to get by must achieve an improvement in their living circumstances - relative to everyone else.

Because if everyone is treated in exactly the same way, regardless of their living circumstances, then the 'rising tide' raises everyone's boat by the same amount and the poverty gap remains as wide as ever.

So, relatively speaking, throwing £24 million at 'period poverty' in Scotland doesn't help those on low pay or families struggling on benefits.

Quite the opposite, in fact, since spreading resources evenly across disparate groups means that the relative positions of the 'haves' and 'have nots' remains the same.

It's a bit like declaring you're going to tackle the issue of low pay by insisting that those at the bottom of the pay ladder get the exactly same percentage increase as everyone else. 

Even worse the middle classes are much better at using and claiming their entitlement to free stuff such as free travel passes, for example. 

In the same way as the policy of extending free school meals in Scotland to all school children in primaries 1, 2 and 3 did nothing for the low paid, or those on benefits - though it did provide a welcome cash boost to those already on well above average earnings.

So while a typical school teacher with young children will have improved their living circumstances, the low paid cleaner, school meals worker or school janitor will have lost out. 

Which means that the vast bulk of the £24 million set aside by the Scottish Parliament might make MSPs feel good about themselves, but it will be spent on the wrong target instead of being focused on those most in need of a hand-up.

Free sanitary products for all is woke posturing

By Janice Turner - The Times

At the risk of my feminist licence being revoked, I don’t think the best use of £24 million a year is for the Scottish government to supply free sanitary products to every woman and girl, regardless of need. The bill that passed in the Scottish parliament is another “purity spiral”: when a perceived moral value has no upper limit so people battle to be most virtuous, hounding anyone who demurs.

Tampons are not luxury products, so it’s only right that the government has been looking to scrap VAT on them since George Osborne was chancellor. Schemes to end “period poverty” by distributing free products at schools and food banks are excellent. But the Scottish Labour Party, determined to out-woke the SNP, proposes free tampons for all. (Even the vast majority who can afford a pack of 20 at Aldi for 69p.) Fearing social media fury, no politician dared vote against.

Now Scotland crows it is the first country to do this. (And, crucially, more virtuous than England.) Yes, maybe that’s because £24 million is a ton of public money. If you want to help poorer women why not fund domestic violence shelters and Sure Start centres, improve access to justice and mental health services . . . But these are knotty, long-term issues which don’t have the “ta-dah!” flourish of handing out free stuff.

I also worry about this new feminist menstrual obsession. The explosion of books, apps and “period kits” seems less about busting a taboo than flogging us more things we don’t need. The emphasis on the awfulness of menstruation (which is true for some, not so for most) tells young women they are victims of their own bodies. The opposite of empowering.