Oh dear. It seems that Tory peer-to-be Howard Flight has put his foot in it. Cameron has told him to apologise, and apologise he has, and furthermore the apology was "unreserved".
What has he been saying? That the Jews were to blame for the Holocaust? That
None of the above. His crime was to say:
We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible.Labour have called the comments "shameful" and said they showed how "out of touch" the Tories are, and Plaid Cymru have called them "disgraceful". Brendan Barber, of the in-touch-with-the-people's-mood TUC, said that Flight was "an insensitive throwback to the worst of 1980s politics". Man-of-the-people Eric Pickles has said that he found the comments "personally repugnant". David Cameron was clear that he didn't agree with the remarks, and was sure that Mr Flight would want to apologise. Which, after a brief interlude, he has. Shame.
The Tories are planning to remove child benefit from families where someone earns more than £43,000 a year. This will prove a slight disincentive for those familes (who may be accurately called middle-class) to have more children. At the same time, families on less than £43,000 (which will include those on benefits, or should) will continue to get the full child benefit that they do at present. I would be grateful if anyone could explain how anything Mr Flight said was wrong. The first two sentences are pretty much uncontested fact, or at least reasonable assumptions. It can only be his comment that encouraging those on benefits to "breed" is "not very sensible" that is causing controversy.
Paying people to have more and more children (i.e. breeding) when they can't even afford to support the ones they have is indeed not very sensible. I can see the argument for helping anyone who finds him or herself on low or no wages to support children they already have, and that is reasonable and humane. But the current system pays the feckless to be even more feckless. In an age of reliable contraception, there is no reason why anyone should have children they can't afford. Why I should keep on paying for Che'lsee to pop out her fourth and fifth sprogs while sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle is a mystery. The noises from the Left are as expected. But for Cameron and Pickles to join in an attack on a man who is only saying what many ordinary people are thinking shows a lack of balls.
I happen to think that Flight is wrong on the issue of the higher earners. If you are earning over £43k, you can afford a couple of children, and these are the kind of people who are the least likely to have children they can't afford in any case. His remarks on the incentive that those on benefits have to produce even more children are spot on.
The Coalition - gradually revealing themselves as New Labour with a new coat of paint.