You know, at this very special time of year our thoughts are drawn to those less fortunate than ourselves. Amongst these are the destitute and the hungry; the homeless and the dispossessed and the refugees. But it is not just the physical and financial worlds where poverty can cause great anguish to our fellow men. There is also the poverty of the troubled mind and the anguished soul: the depressed and the lonely; the mentally ill and the ignorant; the delusional; the paranoid and the violently, incurably and criminally insane; and those who willingly seek employment.
Most seriously damaged by the hurly-burly of the ever-greater changes and challenges that we meet in our modern existence is one group that rarely reaches the headlines, and one for whose benefit one rarely (if ever) attends a charitable concert or even a jumble sale. And yet their suffering is as deeply felt, Iâm sure, and those from the more widely known victim groups, and it is on their behalf that Iâm appealing to you today. I am referring, of course, to law abiding taxpayers.
Christmas is an especially cruel and painful time for these unfortunate people. It is not easy for them to join in with the rest of us and embrace all the jollity and excitement of this, the greatest commercial festival of the trading year. Law abiding taxpayers who find themselves standing in line in the Post Office, queuing to buy stamps or perhaps to send a neatly-wrapped parcel or two, rapidly begin shaking and soon turn apoplectic at the sight of Kimberley-Rhiannon blithely pocketing fistfuls of their money via child-related entitlements in the Welfare State and which she will never, ever, use to properly feed or clothe the diversely-surnamed glistening-nosed little scamps who are even now variously whining to leave, or screaming and fighting amongst themselves and running into and around the pensioners. Pensioners who wait patiently for the latest payment of the rewards for their own lifetimes of honest work – or at least for imaginatively concocted Incapacity Benefit claims.
Whereas many an ordinary Briton can happily get through his busy day discussing his sex life and organizing his social schedule on a gunmetal grey mobile phone that matches both his facial piercings and the steering wheel upon which his other hand so lightly rests, law abiding taxpayers are compelled to obey the speed limit and the offside rule on motorways and âAâ Roads alike. It does not usually fall to a taxpayerâs unhappy lot to share his simple love of popular music with anyone and everyone in his own neighbourhood or with all the strangers in the neighbourhoods through which his car passes thanks to the remarkable advances that this young century has already seen in music amplification technology for home and hatchback alike.
So when you see them on the streets of this countryâs villages, towns and cities, as they walk; pitifully erect and tragically purposeful towards some dreary and uncool paid employment or as they wait; leather-shod and docile to actually pay for goods that they intend to consume or take home to their families, have some pity. Think a moment of these most miserable of souls: freshly washed and clean of shirt as they are: their breath innocent of the comforting perfume of super-strength cider; their blood and dreams unwarmed by either smack or crack; their skins unadorned by the smallest depiction of violence or brutish sexuality or both; nor even by the most modest of obscene slogans. Not for them are the simple pleasures that the rest of us take from the enjoyment of other peopleâs property or from operatically discussing a bedmateâs moral and carnal imperfections after the pubs close at 3 AM. Still less do they possess the ability or the inclination to rejoice in the wisdom and rationality of Britainâs merciful criminal courts and the gentle good sense of PACE and the Human Rights Acts.
No law abiding taxpayer can ever lead a truly normal life in todayâs Britainâ¦but you can still help. For just a few syringesâ worth of cash you can bring weak, hopeful little smiles to their freshly-shaven faces; even as they struggle through life with with comp-li-cated clothes fastenings such as buttons, shoelaces, and belt buckles. All it takes (just like every other problem in life) is money.
# Just Â£4.80 will buy four hoursâ parking at the unattended car park nearest to some fortress-like police station where a taxpayer can make his statement about what happened on the day in question, and where he can later spend some time; forehead pressed firmly against their steering wheels, wondering how on earth it has come to this.
# A mere Â£6.99 this will buy him a quite acceptable bottle of supermarket festive ruby Port, which is fair enough given what the Chancellor allows him to keep at the end of the day. And letâs face it, Christmas is just once a year and itâs back to the office or shop for the poor sap early next week or on Monday the 4th January – which is three whole fun-filled days for you before the Thursday when you have to sign on again if you can be arsed. Thatâs only Â£6.99, and what could you spend Â£6.99 on: a bunch of plastic-wrapped convenience store carnations, perhaps, to strew across the pavement with all the others in front of the police sign asking for witnesses?
# Around Â£30 will buy an elderly taxpayer a sturdy, rubber-ferruled walking stick which he or she can wave weakly around if you and seven of your mates decide to have a bit of a laugh. Such an item might later be tagged. bagged, tested for your blood and his DNA and dusted for fingerprints. Much later on it might be used as Exhibit A in the taxpayerâs trial if the kindly police and the decent Crown Prosecution Service decide that heâs violated your human rights by using unreasonable force. Or The Filth might just lose track of it altogether; in which case itâll become an ordinary eight-against-one witness case and he might just walk. But at least you know where he lives.
# The price of one weekâs Housing Benefit at the generous new Local Housing Allowance rate for a typical mother and her four children by three previous partners can purchase for a taxpayer half the cost of some panel beating; replacement windscreen, wipers, windows and trim, and some basic re-spraying at a local garage after her kids have played a jolly Christmas game of Envy Hopscotch down a row of parked cars in a neighbouring posh area.
So please, as you settle down in front of the wide screen on Christmas Day; full of Stella Artois and Turkey Nuggets and being constantly supplied with fresh drink and roll-ups by your new bird, and when you look fondly on as her children open the many smart and brightly-wrapped parcels that you brought home for them only the previous night whilst the taxpayers were at the pub or in church and you wait eagerly to see what each one might contain, spare a thought for those less fortunate than yourself – not least the despairing people from whom those brightly wrapped presents originally came. Spare a thought and maybe a little cash. After all, itâs not your money anyway, is it?