This slighly grates from Ms. Rowling

She has now used her position at Gingerbread to rail against the “particularly offensive” language of “skivers vs strivers”, saying “such rhetoric drains confidence and self-esteem from those who desperately want, as I did, to get back into the job market”.

Rowling, who separated from her daughter’s father 20 years ago, said her belief that she would immediately find paid work was a “much bigger delusion” than believing she could write a children’s novel.

She later “ended up working a few hours a week at a local church”, where she was deliberately paid the maximum of £15 so she did not lose benefits.

Yes, that’s true. However, there’s a bit before that which gets rather less attention. She and her husband (I think they were married, not sure) were living in Cascais. And after the split she and the child were taken in by friends: please note, not state benefits. I know people who were around there at the time.

The benefits part came when she moved back to England.

I’m afraid that it wearies me somewhat all the talk about how wonderful the state benefit system was to her, how glorious it is that we have such a system. For there is more to it than baby/split/then benefits. Private charity had a part in it as well.

26 comments on “This slighly grates from Ms. Rowling

  1. “baby/split/then benefits” is responsible for half of our problems.

    She’s a billionaire. She could give away £995 million to feed the poor and still be wealthy enough to get by.

  2. It is not just the lack of recognition of private help she got, it is also the fact that she broke up with the father of her daughter.

    What she does not say is that benefits allowed her to cruise the (semi-)Third World for a bit of local Rough and when that did not work out, go back to Britain, with the child, and leech off the rest of us. Had she stayed with the father of her child, she would not have been on benefits at all. Had she not had the option of benefits if things did not work out she might have considered more than whether he looked good in a tight pair of pants. You know, like whether he was going to provide for her child or not.

    Instead she cheats her ex-husband of his daughter, her daughter of her father and the rest of us, for some time anyway, of lots of money. Why should we be paying for her irresponsibility and selfishness?

    Tim adds: That’s not quite fair. I think she taught at one of the local English language schools, so wasn’t taking benefits. And the ex- turned out to be a copper bottomed shit if the stories are true.

    And yes, this is what benefits are for: to get you back on your feet after disaster or misshap. Attack those who use them for life, the skivers, but not those who are using them for the reason of their existence. A safety net is a highly desirable thing. It’s what form it takes which is what I think is worth debating, not whether there should be one at all.

  3. Tim adds: That’s not quite fair. I think she taught at one of the local English language schools, so wasn’t taking benefits. And the ex- turned out to be a copper bottomed shit if the stories are true.

    What is not quite fair about it? That she had the benefits to fall back on means exactly what I said, surely? She did cruise the quasi-Third World looking for a piece of Rough, or at least she found one. I did not want to imply that she was on benefits at the time. But she might not have been doing any of it if she did not know that she had the rest of us to fall back on.

    And of course he was a copper-bottomed sh!t. What is the point of cruising the quasi-Third World to look for a nice guy? She can have one of those at home. No, she wanted a right bastard because he was a right bastard – and because she knew you and I would pay for her mistakes, not her.

    And yes, this is what benefits are for: to get you back on your feet after disaster or misshap. Attack those who use them for life, the skivers, but not those who are using them for the reason of their existence. A safety net is a highly desirable thing. It’s what form it takes which is what I think is worth debating, not whether there should be one at all.

    I do not mind, in general, a safety net. But the sheer and utter improbability of Ms Rowling’s story means that we can ignore the fact that she did use it briefly. So few girls who go to the Third World and get knocked up go on to become Billionaire authors. A lot of them remain on benefits for a long long time if not life.

    We should not be paying for a system that encourages this sort of irresponsibility. Everyone is worse off – especially the daughter. At least as a first step we can do what the Dutch used to do – they did not pay single teenage mothers. They paid the nearest responsible adult. That usually meant the mother of the teenage girl. Benefits are a lot less attractive if you don’t get cash in hand.

    And in fact the system has got so bad, and distorted behaviour so much that I think it is worth discussing whether we should have one at all. So, it seems, does the new Dutch King. Which is certainly a surprise.

  4. “While there she met Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in a bar, after sharing a mutual interest in Jane Austen”

    Hmm, doesn’t sound like your classic “quasi-Third World bit of local rough”.

    Of course this is what’s been written in public, filtered by Wikipedia, so who knows how true it is.

    SMFS is right that there are a lot of perverse incentives in the system, but she doesn’t seem to be quite such a classic example of it.

    Pity, because she was a bit Gordon Brown supporter so I was quite prepared to believe the worst of her.

  5. Do think SMfS has a very strong point there. I’ve certainly met enough people in my particular part of the quasi Third World who were actually living off UK benefits here. (Until the rules changed, I gather.) And there’s a general assumption in certain quarters; do the fun in the sun & if it doesn’t work out it’s not the rigours of the Spanish safety net (which is mostly holes & very little net) but a toddle up to that misty isle off the coast of France & sign on the gravy train.
    As SMfS implies, the presence of that safety net is a great modifier of behaviour. Expat Brits make very different choices to their Spanish counterparts because they’re much less likely to suffer the consequences of unwise ones.

  6. The tax and benefits system is crap. The replacement benefits system is crap. The answer is not to get rid of welfare but to improve the system. We can argue about how much and who gets it and how long for, but surely there is common ground that it shouldn’t disincentivise people from working etc. I mean, if you wanted to design a system that disincentivised people from working you would design something like what we have now or Universal Credit. Madness.

    Don’t fall for the narrative that all of welfare is spent on the workshy and if only they were punished we would all be better off. That’s what the government wants you to think – you know, the government in charge of improving the system, which it is singularly failing to do. The changes are for political expedience – convincing Tory supporters / Daily Mail readers that things are being made better – nothing more than that.

  7. @UKL

    ‘The tax and benefits system is crap. The replacement benefits system is crap. The answer is not to get rid of welfare but to improve the system.’

    Almost all systems run by governments are ‘crap’ and attempts to improve upon them usually cost a vast amount of money and later require re-improving. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.

    ‘Don’t fall for the narrative that all of welfare is spent on the workshy and if only they were punished we would all be better off.’

    I have never heard anyone use this ‘narrative’ not even pub bores.

    Literally nobody thinks that everyone on welfare is workshy, but most people who live in the real world know that there is a continuum leading from desperate to find work to desperate to avoid finding work.

    How we identify and deal with those on the latter end is the question.

    I think it’s very hard, and that the only real way is to make work pay better – cut red tape, cut tax etc.

    ‘That’s what the government wants you to think – you know, the government in charge of improving the system, which it is singularly failing to do. The changes are for political expedience – convincing Tory supporters / Daily Mail readers that things are being made better – nothing more than that.’

    One day, UKL, you may realise that change for change’s sake/political expediency is all that governments can really do.

    The idea that a central government – any central government in a decent-sized country – can run stuff efficiently has been tested beyond destruction, and will one day be seen as the greatest folly of the democratic age.

  8. Interested said:
    “How we identify and deal with those [desperate to avoid finding work] … it’s very hard, and that the only real way is to make work pay better – cut red tape, cut tax etc.”

    I agree we need to do that, but don’t we also need to tackle the other side of it, by making claiming benefit more like work?

    So for a start, why not make claimants turn up 9-5? Even if they just have to sit in a big room full of job adverts all day it’ll still weed out the worst.

  9. The idea that a central government – any central government in a decent-sized country – can run stuff efficiently has been tested beyond destruction, and will one day be seen as the greatest folly of the democratic age.

    I would only suggest it could be more efficient, not totally efficient.

    E.g. not spending hundreds of millions over a year and a half without having “a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work”.

  10. ‘I would only suggest it could be more efficient, not totally efficient.’

    We all know it could be more efficient. The only way it could be so is by spending and doing less, which you and your ilk are against.

    Bureaucracies do not cull themselves. Politicians do not downsize parliaments. Bad government does not get competed to death.

    If they only trusted people – who, after all, have managed to come out of the caves, trek across continents and survive war, famine and pestilence on their way to roughly* our current state without the aid of Milliband or Cameron and their forebears – we could organise things better ourselves.

    But then there’s no point to Miliband, Cameron, the BBC, the Guardian, 90% of the civil service and so on.

    It’s almost like government not being efficient isn’t really a problem to these guys!

    *Let’s have no nionsense about all the stuff government does that ordinary people couldn’t do themselves. I’ll give you law and order, but those benefits are slightly outweighed by all the wars politicians start.

  11. The only way it could be so is by spending and doing less, which you and your ilk are against.

    Please stop pretending to know who I agree with and what I am against, it’s evident you have no idea.

  12. @ ukliberty
    We often disagree but I support 90% of your second post on this thread We all want insurance to protect us from disasters and compulsory state-run insurance should be more effective/efficient. In a good year year Lloyd’s gross premiums are getting on for twice the cost of claims: the rest is wasted in commissions and costs. However the incredible incompetence of the state-run sector (e.g. your experience in Birmingham) pushes people to choose private sector insurance
    Universal Credit is a serious attempt to clean up or reduce the perverse incentives in the current benefits system that was blocked by Gordon Brown when it was proposed during Blair’s premiership.
    Brown’s policy of making a majority of voters recipients of state largesse was a benefit to the Labour Party but not to the workers (particularly not to non-unionised workers)

  13. It was Unity who worked with benefits in Brum, ukliberty might have. But has said so to my knowledge.

  14. Is it efficient to chase the workshy tail? They will always be there and their lives easier (and number greater) under a welfare system. There has to come a point where it’s cheaper to accept that as a cost of having the system at all than employ even more bureaucrats to separate them from the genuinely unfortunate.

    It should be obvious that moving from benefits into work should not result in a drop in income or increase in insecurity. That the system we have does both means it needs reform, yes, even by an expensive and inefficient government.

  15. JamesV asked “Is it efficient to chase the workshy tail?”

    Hence my point about making them come in for 9am every morning. Crudely but easily identifies the ones who aren’t really prepared to work. One man with a clipboard can check hundreds of them.

  16. ukliberty – “The tax and benefits system is crap.”

    That is certainly true.

    “The answer is not to get rid of welfare but to improve the system.”

    Actually in the end the only answer is to get rid of welfare. It is the God of the Copy Book Headings innit? We can fight reality only for so long. After welfare has utterly ruined the, if you will forgive the expression, moral fibre of the nation, and turned us all into work-shy beggars, there will be no one left to pay the taxes and we will either slide into penury or we will have to rebuild the values of the Victorians the hard way.

    “We can argue about how much and who gets it and how long for, but surely there is common ground that it shouldn’t disincentivise people from working etc.”

    But the problem with J. K. Rowling is not the disincentive to work. It is the change of moral character. Rowling had the choice to be a sensible middle class girl and get married, have 2.2 children and retire to a comfortable suburban home. Instead she chose the underclass route of f**king a bit of Rough and then stealing his child from him. You see how the basic moral foundations of British society were undermined there? We need people who do the right thing. The present system rewards people who do the wrong thing and punishes people who do the right thing. Thus we will get a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter.

    We need a system that not only does not deincentivise work, but also does not discourage people, especially young girls, from doing the right thing. And that would be hard to structure indeed.

    So in the end we will leave them to starve in the street.

  17. JamesV – “Is it efficient to chase the workshy tail? They will always be there and their lives easier (and number greater) under a welfare system. There has to come a point where it’s cheaper to accept that as a cost of having the system at all than employ even more bureaucrats to separate them from the genuinely unfortunate.”

    It doesn’t matter if it is or not. The point is to validate the moral choices of those who work. Those are are marginal, who waver between working and fecklessness have to be nudged into choosing work. So when they make the rather large sacrifice of doing the right thing, we need to make it clear that they did the right thing and we value them for doing the right thing. By making the life of those who did not miserable for instance. By expressing contempt for those on benefits. And so on.

    No amount of pressure on the tail is a waste of money. Not if we assigned a bureaucrat individually to each out of work feckless skivver. This is not a matter of economics.

  18. john77, the NAO said the government didn’t have a “blueprint” or “detailed view” for how Universal Credit should work for a long time. The project has suffered all too typical causes of project failure. And apparently there will still be disincentives to work inherent in the system when it arrives three years late in 2017. So it’s arguable whether it’s a “serious attempt”. Certainly not serious enough to have a plan and not piss away a couple of hundred million quid.

    Richard, unfortunately for you the government instead intends to reduce the numbers attended JobCentres. They are trying to get people to claim online and complete their job search and application diaries online.

  19. @ ukliberty
    The NAO said that the DWP (meaning the civil servants therein) *not* the government didn’t know what UC should do.
    “The spending watchdog found that the Department took some action at the end of 2012 to resolve problems, but was unable to address the underlying issues effectively. The source of many problems has been the absence of a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work. In addition, poor control and decision-making undermined confidence in the programme and contributed to a lack of progress. The Department has particularly lacked IT expertise and senior leadership, with frequent changes in senior management.”
    The government does know – or at least Lord Freud does and I have no reason to doubt that he has explained it to IDS. I heard him give a thorough and lucid explanation three years ago followed by answering the audience’s questions and a couple of my supplementaries after the meeting officially closed.
    Universal Credit is a massive step in the right direction. The effective tax rate is still too high because we cannot get straight to a decent system from the one left behind by New Labour without either spending more money than we can raise from taxation or imposing swingeing cuts. IDS has squeezed a few £billion out of the Treasury for transitional costs but even that is an achievement when Osborne has to reduce the deficit by around 10% of GDP.
    UC aims to “make work pay”. What we had under New Labour was strivers finding themselves worse off from working more and feeling compelled to do less work because they couldn’t afford to work longer hours.
    PS £34 million is a lot but is *not* a couple of hundred million.

  20. So *part* does not know, not the whole.
    And I thought that was a really, really damning criticism of the civil service. Government (with a big G) announces policy, having a complete blueprint that was previously approved by Tony Blair and vetoed by Gordon Brown, so you don’t bother to find out what in involves before commissioning a computer system without the aid of a cadre of IT professionals. You then cover up your mistakes until an utterly ungeeky IDS notices that the reports he’s getting diverge from reality (which means that there are so far from it that you do not need to be a geek to spot the chasm) and a year later the NAO blows your cover.

  21. So *part* does not know, not the whole.

    Sigh. The *part* of the government (that *part* of the DWP if you want to carry on point-scoring) that was supposed to have a “blueprint” or “detailed view”.did not have a “blueprint” or “detailed view”, something “raised repeatedly in 2012 by internal audit, the Major Projects Authority and a supplier-led review”.

  22. @ uk liberty
    Which is far worse than J P Morgan’s negligence for which it got fined $920 million. So if they had been supervised by the FSA (as it was then) the team leaders and departmental chiefs would have got a ban from operating in the financial sector. How many heads have rolled in the civil service over this?

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