July 15, 2010

My last week in London felt like end of school term, bittersweet. I was glad to be flying off to the sun, but sad to leave good friends and very good times behind. Mind you, the last night following the Speccie summer party descended into farce when my Low Life colleague and I were photographed at 5 a.m. having a spirited discussion about the human condition. Jeremy wrote about it last week but he chose to forget certain details. Both he and I had been boozing for at least ten hours, but thankfully had not started until after we were presented to a very gracious and friendly Prime Minister. When a driver pitched up to pick me up for the airport I was in a bad way. Tim Hoare, whose house Jeremy, Charlie Glass, Andrei Navrosov and I had invaded, offered his driver to take Clarke to a hotel. “Where do you want him to take you, Claridge’s, the Savoy..?” “Er, actually the YMCA at King’s Cross,” stammered Jeremy, “they usually give me a bed there.”  “In that case I think you better stay here,” said Tim, a very generous host. Thus Jeremy was found by Hoare’s butler a few hours later walking around semi-naked trying to boil an egg. 

My problem was getting through security drunk. That’s where my darling daughter came in. Lolly is smart as a whip and very pretty to boot. She explained to the staff that her father suffers from dementia, gave them a killer smile, and led me through with no one the wiser. Three hours later I was on board my boat and sleeping soundly after a few choice remarks from the mother of my children, something to do with shame and age, but nothing particularly interesting or original.

But let’s get one thing straight. If anyone should feel ashamed it is the deputy editor of the Spectator, who not only cut her hair, but also forgot to show up for our wedding following the summer party. As did Georgie Wells, who missed the dinner following the wedding that never was, and who disappeared in deepest Badminton leaving me a double cuckold. Oh well, no one’s perfect, except Kara Walker, who actually made my London stay worthwhile, and not the way any of you with dirty minds might think.

“Poverty, according to Smith, is more than the absence of money. Labour chose to ignore the problem by simply throwing money at it, making it a lot worse by trapping people in worklessness and dependency over several generations.”

Kara is very beautiful but towards the end of dinner she informed me and my buddies that she had just got engaged. Groans all around but I didn’t mind. The reason for my nonchalance is that Kara works for the Centre for Social Justice, which in my not so humble opinion is the most important think tank in Britain. Although this space is usually reserved for jokes and high jinks, I ask you to take what follows seriously because it has to do with the future of the country. Here is the bad news: The UK scored lowest for child well-being out of all OECD countries for which data was available. The Social breakdown costs society £102 billion a year. Britain had the highest divorce rate and highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. Britain also has one of the highest, if not the highest rates of benefit dependence.

Earlier in the day I had been at the Telegraph offices which the chief executive of the media group and the editor of the paper had around 12 of us for lunch. The main speaker was Iain Duncan Smith, minister for work and pensions. He explained what the Centre for Social Justice stands for and how important it is. Rarely have I heard a man explain Britain’s problems in a clearer and more articulate manner. IDS knows his stuff like no other politician I have ever encountered. Poverty, according to him, is more than the absence of money. Labour chose to ignore the problem by simply throwing money at it, making it a lot worse by trapping people in worklessness and dependency over several generations. The CSJ has studied the problem and has come up with the only solution possible. Earning money through gainful employment is the only way out of the trap. With more than 2.5 million Britons soon to be officially unemployed, the need to reform the benefit system is more pressing than ever. Past policiesy have made it pointless to return to work, hence incentives are all important.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Britain is partly broken and the benefits trap is mostly responsible. I was very impressed how IDS described the hopelessness and near impossibility of getting out of a sink estate and into normal society. When Tony Blair left office he went all out to make money. When IDS stood down from the Tory leadership he decided to devote his life reversing the social breakdown and established CSJ. No comment needed. The CSJ is non-partisan and a not for profit think tank. It relies entirely on donations, but with a difference. Every penny you give goes to helping the problems which blight the poorest. In an intelligent and original way. What I’ve decided to do is not only help in a modest way, but try and find sponsors for this most important of tasks, how to save a once great country that socialist policies have brought to the brink. Throwing moolah at it is not the answer. That’s what LBJ did in America and killed off the black family.

Despite being left at the altar, despite being betrayed by Lord John Somerset, and despite Kara Walker’s engagement, I remain in a very happy mood because of my discovery of the Centre for Social Justice. I hope all of you look into it.


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