As some wax lyrical about the "rescue" of Shannon Matthews and the media congratulate the police, those of us who know the lower reaches of British society wait, smilingly, to hear the truth. I confidently predict the only crime involved will be wasting police time.
There is little as complicated as the family life of Britain's "economically inactive."
Karen Matthews, Shannon’s mother, has seven children by five fathers. Shannon was thought locally to have a twin brother who lived with their natural father. It emerged this week that the two children were born a year apart. Their mother called them twins merely because they had the same father. When a female relative was giving interviews about the missing child on the day after Shannon disappeared, her husband loudly reminded her to charge “a fiver for a feel”, then roared with laughter at his own wit.
As I write, Shannon's utterly dysfunctional "family" are to be seen on TV slinking back into their home. They don't look jubilant or even relieved. In fact (despite a night in an hotel at taxpayers' expense and despite the obligatory "over the moon" press release) they look quite fed up. I wonder why? Time will tell.
While we wait to find out, here's another report from the front line of public expenditure. Mrs Paine is replacing the doors on our house in England. The contractor told her he gets much of his work from local government contracts; fixing up the houses of those living on benefits. One morning this week, he took a call from a colleague who was late for such an appointment. He laughed. "Don't worry" he said. "They never get up before 2pm. They will send you packing when you get there anyway."
Apparently, his men regularly turn up in the morning to houses where the "economically inactive" inhabitants promptly tell them to "**** off" Of course, the government still pays. Of course, the chavs who can't be bothered to get up in the morning, even to obtain services the rest of us pay thousands for, still get their work done. The contractors keep going back (being abused and leaving) until the time proves convenient.
Meanwhile, back on TV in Dewsbury, the local mayor is "jubilated" and says "I am praising to the police." Good for him.
PS: Inspector Gadget's views on the subject are here. He restrains his cynicism admirably, in my view.