Janice Atkinson for The Daily Mail
20th February 2012
My friend, former Tory MP Edwina Currie, left a struggling mother in tears live on the radio by saying she was in debt because she had ‘lived a very good life indeed’.
This has caused a furore about the rights and wrongs of living within one’s means. But Edwina is absolutely right, this woman should be living within her means.
The phone-in on Radio 5 Live came after research showed that more than 70 per cent of families are now financially ‘on the edge’.
Before the financial crisis a few of us involved in politics (I was a Conservative Parliamentary candidate) were warning that not only was the country in deep debt but that we had the highest consumer debt in the Western world. No one listened.
Blair and Brown carried on spending taxpayers’ money with gay abandonment and the UK’s credit industry made the US’s Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac look like benevolent charities. We were all wooed with tens of thousands of pounds of ready credit and our mortgage companies invited us to lend more. Credit was cheap and easy to get.
People were gorging on the good life, living way beyond their means with two to three holidays per year and a new car every couple of years.
School fees were paid on draw-down loans on the mortgage (this is a tiny minority I grant you but I know people that did), new kitchens were bought as were wardrobes of new clothes, the newest flat screen TV and other electronic toys; the children were indulged with the latest gadgets and £100 trainers while credit cards were maxed out.
Then one partner may have lost their job or had to give up work because of pregnancy and they found they couldn’t pay their bills.
Add to that the huge rise in petrol, utility costs – £120 extra in green taxes alone – the rising cost of food and having to pay off the credit cards. Credit then became hard to access and overdrafts restricted, hence the household credit crunch.
Campaign/pressure group Netmums has waded into the argument with its founder Sally Russell saying: ‘It’s shocking that seven in 10 families in the UK today are living on the edge of existence – but it’s a crisis that needs exposing. Mums shouldn’t be missing meals to feed their children or turning to loan sharks in modern Britain’.
Yes, it’s shocking Sally, but what are you exposing, other than gaining media airtime for yourself? I’m sure some families have turned to loan sharks because they have not lived within their means and their continuing access to credit lines have been cut off. And that is a tragedy.
But you dig beneath the surface of the headline grabbing and you will find that these families have for years been living the high life that most of us can only dream of.