Glitter's Girls, "Difficult" Choices and the Problem with English Hotels

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Revelations of Jimmy Savile's behaviour towards girls under 16 have prompted another bout of BBC-bashing in the right-wing press. But if the BBC was negligent, where were newspapers and their fearless reporters? They plead that libel laws prevented them exposing Savile while he was alive, but even in his obituary, the Telegraph called him an "adornment" to British life.

If newspapers couldn't tell the truth about Savile, they could at least have refrained from raising him to the status of a latter-day saint. The truth is that the press meekly colludes in creating whatever image a star's PR wishes to propagate, with no questions asked. Paul Gadd (alias Gary Glitter), now reviled as Savile's collaborator in procuring underage girls, was interviewed by the Sun in 1973. It celebrated "the rock'n'roll Daddy who makes little girls ask to see more of his hairy chest" and added "Gary Glitter thinks a lot about kids". Such an innocent era.

Family values

The Tories keep talking about "difficult choices on spending" but they only ever make one choice and I don't think they find anything difficult about it at all: they just keep on bashing the poor. The latest idea for, a welfare cut is to deny help to jobless parents who continue to procreate. Given that about 40 per cent of poor children live in families of three or more, this would be a harsh measure indeed. The policy is already partly on the statute book in the form of the benefit cap, which, from April, will save the not very princely sum of [pounds sterling]250m a year.

It is not generally understood that, in paying more benefit for a first or only child ([pounds sterling]20.30 a week) than for subsequent children ([pounds sterling]13.40), the UK is unusual among developed countries. Most pay the same rate for each child and some, including France, Germany and Italy, pay a higher rate for third and subsequent children. Their governments take the view that, though large families enjoy some economies of scale, these are outweighed by the need for more spacious housing and the parents' greater difficulties taking paid employment. Arguments about "incentivising" poor people to have large families do not seem to occur in such countries. A government's business, it is agreed, is to ensure adequate living standards for all children.

Osborne says jobless families should weigh up the costs of extra children as families in employment do though I am not aware of research demonstrating a difference between the two groups in the weighing up that goes on. I wonder if the Tories who applaud this proposal are the same as those who want to slash the time limit for abortions.

Without benefits

Is it really possible to take a GCSE in claiming benefits? …