Our flat In Camden has increased in value by 800% since my wife and I bought it in 1995. Admittedly we have done a great deal of work on it but that is largely an increase in our wealth that has been created by circumstance. The irony in this is that, having spent much of my life working in the voluntary sector and married to someone who has done something similar before becoming a teacher for not particularly high wages, we have now created a capital asset worth 32 years of the average wage. Something we’re unlikely to have done in other circumstances and, largely, because of the location of our property. Thankfully so as it represents our pension when we eventually retire.
Now neither Gaynor or I are afraid of hard work; it’s what we were brought up to do. The nature of our work gave us self respect and a sense of purpose; unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly well paid. Hence the importance of the value of the flat.
So when I read reports of the enormous intellect that is Jeremy Hunt pontificating recently on self respect, I take note. What I find interesting is his idea that we British need to have the self respect that the Chinese and Americans have. These qualities, evidently, are reflected in the fact that we should value work, not for the money it brings, but for the dignity, purpose and self reliance it provides. Hence, it appears, removing tax credits will make people work harder by increasing these, latter, qualities. What I find particularly interesting, from a member of a political party that espouses patriotism, is that they value all things British except, of course, the people themselves. If only they were the government of China or America; something I would wish for as fervently as they seem to.
So, where am I going with this? Well to an interesting personal anecdote from some years ago. A friend of mine went to work in Germany on a building site. After a while he found himself supervising others and was asked if he could get friends to come over to work. It seems that the boss thought that the British worked harder than their German equivalents. I rest my case.