Oxford educated cabinet members (10 out of 23) have developed a philosophy of poverty which George Osborne outlined in his ‘Shirkers and Strivers’ speech*. The claim is that poor people are poor because they lack aspirations and worse, are addicted to welfare. To end poverty, governments should delete benefits thereby incentivising the poor to have aspirations. Osborne’s philosophy is also aimed at the ‘work-shy,’ which means anyone who’s jobless (this includes the disabled)**. Obviously the multi-millionaire aristocrat Osborne hasn’t had the opportunity to prove his own stellar abilities in defeating poverty. Indeed the only meaningful test of his character came at university. So how well did he do?
Rich young men at university have many temptations distracting them from the job-in-hand. University is a test of character. Osborne glided from a very expensive private school into Britain’s premier university exactly as the script dictates. Once there, he became a shirker. Partying was just so much more fun than grafting and like all the other shirkers he got Oxford’s default degree (circa 70% of all undergraduates): a second-class honours. Osborne, like other shirkers, has flexible morals. He was caught cheating on his train fare in October 2012 when he travelled first class with a second-class ticket***. A multi-millionaire cheating on his rail fare! Osborne knew he could buy a way out of his own petty cheating and so wasn’t hauled off to court. Osborne has the moral fibre of a classic shirker: he failed at university and he continues to fail. As a politician he specialises in moralising hypocrisy, for which he is eminently well qualified. Osborne’s ‘shirker’ qualities are shared with some cabinet colleagues, which is revealing, as they are all contemptuous of evidence based policy. They are:
Michael Gove (Justice) Oxford 2nd
Chris Grayling (Leader: Commons) Cambridge 2nd
Theresa May (Home Secretary) Oxford 2nd
(NB Osborne, Gove and Grayling enhanced their shirker reputations by being heavily implicated in the MPs expenses scandal.)
Does it matter how well people do at university? Men like Osborne lead gilded lives protected from their own folly by wealth and privilege. If they had the slightest self awareness they’d understand that youthful folly is just that: youthful folly. The London riots of August 2011 led to a man, Nicolas Robinson (23), being jailed for stealing a £3.50 bottle of water****. This man had no criminal record and has now had his future employment opportunities severely restricted. His aspirations have been severely restricted. Osborne, let us remind ourselves, bought his way out of a petty ticket fraud and continues as a principal member of a government preaching high moral values.
Osborne has a shirker outlook on life. That is, a profound sense of entitlement. Shirkers are shirkers because they fail to achieve what their ability suggests they should achieve. They avoid hard work and are morally reprehensible. They also have a tendency to have flexible attitudes towards legality. Osborne is an aristocratic version of the work-shy, benefit-addicted poor. His pronouncements on poverty, aspirations and benefits are the purest hypocrisy.
*Guardian 11th October 2012 Osborne’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference
** The Victorian philosopher-of-aspiration Samuel Smiles wrote the hugely influential Self-Help (1859), which failed to inspire the poor. Likewise the gulag workhouse system (1834-1914) also failed to end the ‘addiction’ to benefits of the poor. Perhaps Jesus was right- ‘the poor are always with you’?
***Guardian 19th October 2012
****Daily Telegraph 11th August 2011