I'm neither in the habit or position, nor have I the disposition, to employ anyone. However, when eleven years ago a fellow leftie found herself even more skint than me, one way to help her out was to offer £20 per week for a four-hour cleaning session at my scruffy flat each week. This represented a large chunk of my dosh but, as she was a single mother facing possible eviction, I thought an emergency redistribution of resources was called for. This was better than a loan or gift as it maintained her sense of pride.
She'd come up with the cleaning idea herself and initially offered to do it for less — I think it was a tenner in those pre-minimum wage days — but that would have changed the relationship to one of exploitation, which was out of the question. As it was, suddenly finding myself in the role of "employer" sat uncomfortably with me, but she insisted she needed the dosh. And so we settled into a tidy home for me and a bit of help for her. In mitigation of the situation, much of these sessions over the next few months was spent talking politics over tea and lunch. And although I couldn't really afford it, I was paying a fiver an hour when the low pay minimum was something like £3.80.
So it's with a wry smile that I learn that Labour peer Baroness Scotland's cleaner, Loloahi Tapui, now imprisoned for overstaying her student visa by four years, was paid a miserly £6 per hour. That's just insulting. I cannot imagine having Pat's income (her real name is the far less lofty Patricia Mawhinney) and paying someone so little.
Although Tapui was yesterday gaoled for a severe eight months, she did at least make £75K off the media through Max Clifford, so perhaps that makes up for being lowballed for her labour by a rich woman.
I was pleased to see that the Baroness who, as Attorney General, was the architect of some draconian anti-immigrant laws, fell foul of her own legislation. Pat was fined £5,000 for neglecting to take copies of Tapui's papers, but I think she should have been fined that sum again for being so bloody mean.
And talking about the people who make our laws, Pat has starred in the Parliamentary expenses scandal, wrongly claiming some £170,000 since 2004. Only ministers with a primary residence outside the capital are entitled to this. Pat has a £2 million house in Chiswick which — last time I checked — was in London.
As the song goes, it's the rich what gets the pleasure, it's the poor what gets the blame. And the gaol term. But at least sometimes they have the savvy to get Max Clifford on board.
EDIT: An hour later, I've been thinking about how the injustice in this case operates on so many levels. I think it blows out of the water the notion that just sticking a woman of colour, whatever her character, into a position of power, somehow rectifies any social imbalance. This was an instance of one non-white woman exploiting another. If I am being ripped off, it makes no odds whether the Fat Cat in question is black, brown, white, yellow or purple. (Like the Chinese communists who said — albeit in an altogether different context — it didn't matter what colour a cat is, as long as it catches mice.) Although some might argue that it adds insult to injury. I suspect this was a cynical box-ticking exercise by Labour, making a mockery of attempts to create a more equitable system. There are high-calibre women of colour out there who are neither Blairite drones, Tory entrepreneurs nor simple careerists: women who know how to make a moral decision. Those who send their children to private schools while preaching left, or who remain cheerleaders for the Iraq war, do NOT count.
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