9 Apr 2016

Caitlin Moran: class, feminism and dufflecoats

From Saturday Morning, 10:05 am on 9 April 2016

"Everyone has an idea - however tiny - that would make the world a better place. And if we don't have a political or a social system in place that allows every great idea to be fully impressed and benefit others, we're letting ourselves down as a species."

Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran. Photo: supplied

The very fast and very funny British writer Caitlin Moran is a columnist for The Times, has won all sorts of awards, and has had five books published.

In her new collection of columns Moranifesto, the author of How to be a Woman writes of the importance of welfare benefits and what they do for those unable to support themselves.

Ms Moran told Saturday Morning that most Britons received some sort of monetary assistance from the state.

"In the UK, 60 percent of people ... are on some kind of benefit - either outright support from unemployment or disability or some kind of income support and tax breaks.

"But those who rule the country and formulate policy do not come from those kind of backgrounds."

She said private schools were over-represented in government: "We have more people in our Cabinet who went to a single school - Eton - than we do have women."

That meant the majority of her fellow Britons did not see themselves represented in the arts, journalism, culture or politics.

The eldest of eight children, Ms Moran grew up in a three-bedroom council house in Wolverhampton and was grateful for the support she received from the state.

But she didn't believe generations of people should be condemned to be beneficiaries.

"This whole idea that the sins of the father will be visited on the children, and that if you are the child of someone who is poor and is brought up on benefits that that is the life that you are condemned to and mustn't be helped, is biblical.

"It doesn't fit in modern society, it doesn't fit us at all; it's not a noble way to conduct ourselves."

The presumption was that people on benefits were draining the system, but she and her seven siblings had been able to get jobs and pay back every penny in tax used to support her family.

Ms Moran also said writing off people who relied on benefits meant the UK lost out on many brilliant people.

"I have no doubt there are people out there now who are being raised on benefits who won't get the education they deserve because we're cutting down on benefits and education now - who could have the key to curing cancer, who could come up with a new economic system.

"Simply because of the way that we're structured, and because those kind of people don't get the top jobs, we become stupider as a society and stupider as a country, and that does us all a terrible disservice."