Sunday, 21 November 2021

So I read on the BBC News website today that former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke has told a court, he's in dire economic straits and has made a claim for Universal Credit. This prompted me to post a tweet, mocking him, and many people found this story rather hilarious, but there were one or two moralistic respondents telling me I should not revel in someone else's misfortune.

I would like to call bullshit on this take and here's why:

Charlie Elphicke was suspended from the Tory Party in 2017 after being accused of sexual assault by two members of his staff. He was disgracefully reinstated to the party in 2018 to save Theresa May's skin when she was facing a vote of no confidence. In 2019, Elphicke was convicted in court of three charges of sexual assault against the two women and he was sentenced to two years in prison. He was also ordered to pay £35,000 in court costs.

Charlie Elphicke chased a woman around his kitchen, yelling: "I'm a naughty Tory boy," after sexually assaulting her.

Upon release from prison, after serving half his sentence, Elphicke spent all of his money on six months rent on a luxury London flat. He then pleaded poverty in court and explained he'd applied for Universal Credit, knowing he was benefiting from the money he was ordered to pay to the court. Pretty sure it's fair to call that theft.

It's worth pointing out Elphicke voted five times against increasing Universal Credit so he is definitely reaping what he sowed. And as a person who is currently claiming Universal Credit, I absolutely get to gloat now.

Obviously, there are clear differences between Mr Elphicke's financial situation and my own. I never sexually assaulted anyone, I never voted to create our unfair welfare system, and both myself and my wife are actually earning money. It's just that wages are so crap around here, we need Universal Credit to top up our meagre earnings, just like almost everyone does where we live.

People told me I shouldn't gloat about someone else's misfortune, but while they're busy empathising with a sex offender, people in my town are calling that "misfortune" everyday life. 

Mr Elphicke is simply joining us in this life of misfortune, and given that we are unquestionably experts at scraping by, I would like to share some budgeting advice with him.

First of all, Charlie, have you tried pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? I can confirm doing that normally brings an end to poverty in one fell swoop. But if you're still struggling to get by, please try not spreading avocado on your toast. I tried this technique and I was able to buy myself like three mansions and a speedboat! Finally, and this point is quite brilliant, drink fewer fancy coffees at Starbucks. Do this and you'll be flying around in your own private jet in no time.

Sounds so incredibly stupid and patronising to hear this nonsense when you're living in poverty, doesn't it? Now imagine you didn't have the cosy flat in Fulham which you're renting by essentially ripping off the courts. Imagine you're in a homeless hostel, as I once was, on the waiting list for a council flat, surrounded by drug addicts and criminals and your everyday regular lost souls, with all your welfare money going towards rent on the hostel, so you don't have a penny to your name. Now imagine being told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Imagine just how ridiculous that advice would sound in that situation. Because that is the real Britain for the working class. That is the life you chose to impose on so many regular people, most of who did absolutely nothing wrong, while you lot pretended we were living lives of luxury at your expense. We were not fucking sex offenders and you chose poverty for us and you told us we need to budget better. Well, now you are getting a taste of karma.

Anyways, here are a few genuine poverty tips that I picked up through firsthand experience:

  • Dilute your milk so it lasts longer.
  • Pick specks of mould off your bread because you absolutely cannot afford to waste it.
  • Reuse teabags because you will need the caffeine to help you deal with the hunger.
  • Buy expiring food from the discount section.
  • Stock up on cheap tins of beans and spaghetti.
  • Don't even think of turning the heating on. Layer up instead.
  • Don't forget, if worse comes to worst, a bag of porridge oats can feed you for a week. I've been there.
  • Enjoy the free Sky subscription, gold chains, cigarettes and alcohol that you've just discovered you don't actually get when you're unemployed.

Mr Elphicke, you are surely well aware our welfare system is not fit for purpose, that it takes too long to make a claim, that the requirements are absurd, that the process is stressful and humiliating, that the system is needlessly punitive, that it leaves people without enough food and energy, that it essentially makes life near-impossible. And yet your former party chose to take £20 a week from Universal Credit claimants in the run up to Christmas, when we are facing huge food and energy inflation. The inhumanity...

The 130,000 excess deaths caused by our broken welfare system were described by UN rapporteur Phillip Alston as "economic murder". In another word, democide. And for most claimants, Universal Credit does not result in death, of course, but it certainly does result in permanent stress. 

Most of us do not deserve this stress, Mr Elphicke, but you most certainly do. Oh, and if you're still looking for a job, you could always try picking fruit at a nearby farm.