Friday, April 25, 2008

Of course children are poor, Polly Toynbee

In this morning's Guardian Polly Toynbee observed:
in the tightest budget this March poor children were the one cause Darling paid out to generously.
But when Martin Amis wrote in his memoirs Experience:

I was very short of money when I was a baby. I slept in a drawer and had my baths in an outdoor sink. My nappies bore triangular singe marks where they had been dried on the fireguard. It was tough.
it was a joke. Of course he was poor. All babies are poor. And if his early years were more straitened than most - which is unlikely, given that Kingsley Amis was a university lecturer - it was because his parents were poor.

To a large extent Labour's concern for child poverty is a way of attempting to preserve the welfare state by sentimentalising it. As if one could help children from poor families without helping their parents. Deborah Orr has said so. Chris Dillow has said so. For what it's worth, I have said so myself.

But there is a sinister side to it too. Again and again in her work Toynbee praises schemes like Sure Start and sees the fact that children are spending less time with their parents as a triumph. Most of us, if we were describing our utopia, would include happy family life. Not Toynbee.

At the back of her thinking is the idea that children have interests which are quite separate from those of their parents. And that those are interests are to be secured by the state acting through... well, people rather like Polly Toynbee, actually.

2 comments:

dreamingspire said...

A bit hard on Polly, for much of her argument in the article is well constructed. Maybe she does need the hand of a strong editor on her shoulder at times, particularly when she seems to veer towards the state knows best (totalitarianism is at the end of that road).

WEG said...

Well, in total, Miss Toynbee speaks some sense. She concludes rightly that Mr Brown and Mr Darling should start again and stop tinkering with their broken system. But I believe your comments are nevertheless well-directed.

Is she related to Arnold?