Thursday, 12 September 2013

A dose of our own medicine

How dare she? What right has a foreigner, a Brazilian woman, to come and comment adversely on our government's policies? As The Daily Mail headlines said, "Tory fury at 'loopy Brazilian leftie' United Nations official who launched 'political' attack on government welfare reforms
  • • Raquel Rolnik was sent to assess impact of changes to housing benefit
  • • She said that so-called 'Bedroom Tax' is a breach of human rights
  • • Furious Tory party chairman Grant Shapps slams 'outrageous' attack
  • • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged to launch an urgent inquiry". It is outrageous, isn't it - that we should be on the receiving end of what's our prerogative: pontificating on how others should run their countries?

If Ms Rolnik, the UN's special rapporteur on housing, has done nothing else with her considered initial comments on the effects the "spare room subsidy" she has at least given us a taste of our own medicine. As a nation we have an ingrained habit of condemning others, for example, for their "undemocratic" political systems or their human rights abuses. What we fail to do is to consider the way our interfering opinions are received emotionally. Maybe that's the reason why we're so often ignored - because of our "outrageous attacks" on them.  

In fact, should you care to read what Ms Rolnik really said and thought, look at her interview in the Guardian here. It's clear she's neither loopy nor out on a limb.
Photo from Martin Hunter/Guardian

"Rolnik, a former urban planning minister in Brazil, said Britain's previously good record on housing was being eroded by a failure to provide sufficient quantities of affordable social housing, and more recently by the impact of welfare reform.

"After speaking to dozens of council house tenants in Britain during her visit over the past fortnight, Rolnik said she was particularly concerned by the impact of bedroom tax, officially known as the new spare room subsidy. The policy was introduced by the government in April, and is designed to charge tenants extra for under-occupying homes that are supposedly too large for them.

"Rolnik said she was disturbed by the extent of unhappiness caused by the bedroom tax and struck by how heavily this policy was affecting 'the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life'."
Maybe we should be less hasty in sorting out other people's business - if we are so slow to accept the criticism of others. And wouldn't it be nice if we - and our politicians - led the way in good manners?


  1. Politicians...good manners!!
    I sometimes think they must be trained by the manufacturers of Teflon. How to listen to matters and let them all slip off straight away. We used to call Tony Blair 'Teflon Tony' Over the years when we have written to an MP, you always receive a reply, on posh Commons notepaper, but written in totally plastic language.
    Maybe the Brazilian lady has seen the suffering of her own people 'up close and personal' and has learned to genuinely care. Pope Francis is repeatedly quoted as saying that he wants " a poor Church for the poor" and continues to put his money where his mouth is. There is an excellent article in this week's copy of The Tablet entitled "Was there ever such a crime against the poor as the bedroom tax" I cannot copy it here for copyright reasons . it says how much Archbishop Derek Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard did in the 1980's aided by Michael Heseltine the then "Minister for Merseyside" It says their intervention to stave off Liverpool's fate was a remarkable example of " A preferential option for the poor" special care for those at the bottom of the heap.
    When I was a girl guide, half a million years ago! we used to sing this
    "Jesus bids us shine with a pure clear light, like a little candle shining in the night. With a light that's perfect Jesus bids us shine. You in your small corner and I in mine". So hopefully our frequently sputtering candle light will be of help to others?

    1. I was an admirer (inter al) of David Sheppard, not only for his batting but also for his "Bias to the Poor", as one of his books was called. He was before his time in battling for the marginalised in society, incurring initially the wrath of politicians like Norman Tebbit.