Dear Richard Littlejohn,
I’ve read your trash non-journalism ‘comment’ piece about me in the Daily Mail this morning – not because it is a newspaper I read, but because a friend forwarded it to me.
Firstly, I have to commend you for managing to get so many facts completely wrong in a comparatively short article. But that’s your style isn’t it – never let the truth get in the way of a good smear campaign, or something like that.
So just in case you wanted to attempt to polish that turd of an article with something that resembles the truth, here’s some of them addressed:
1. I’m not single, I’m getting married in the Spring.
2. When I returned to work after maternity leave, I found it impossible to cover the irregular night shifts thirty miles from home with any form of childcare. Childminders just don’t work all night. My son’s father DID and DOES look after him, but at the time it was impossible to match our work shifts up with friends, family and childcare to cover my working hours. Because he works too. But don’t let that ruin your image of a very good man – as a feckless waster. I applied for flexible hours under the Fire Service flexible working policy, I applied for a job share post, I applied for day work roles, other jobs in the Fire Service closer to home, and was turned down on all counts.
So, 3. I didn’t sail out of the door for a life on benefits, I left to find a job closer to home, with better hours more suited to bringing up a young child alone. It took 18 months for me to find that job, and hundreds of applications, but I did it. And that’s what sticks in your craw, isn’t it? Because in order to satisfy the stereotype that you peddle day in day out in the rag currently lining my ferret cage, I should have stayed feckless and unemployed, and not tried to feed myself and my son decent nutritious meals, nor had the audacity to write about it.
4. I’m sure married men can raise families on £27k. There’s a few thousand in the fire service. I wouldn’t have had to give up my job if I’d had a wife to look after my child on night shifts either, so your point is null and void. What was I meant to do, take my son to work? (I actually asked…)
5. I’m a “hard pressed British taxpayer” too. You know that £27k salary I just mentioned? Well I paid tax into the big welfare pot from that salary. The difference between us is that I am glad I live in a country that seeks to look after its citizens with a safety net, imperfect as it is, it’s surely better than no support at all.
6. Claiming benefits wasn’t a lifestyle choice. See above.
7. It wasn’t a laptop, I blogged from my mobile phone. And before everyone starts bitching and bickering about the fact I had a mobile phone, it wasn’t a fancy smartphone – i’d sold that to pay the rent – it was a Nokia that could send emails, and I emailed the posts in. Now I have a full time job, I have a little notebook computer and a nice phone again, and I make no apology for that.
8. My food column is for anyone, funnily enough you don’t need to fill out a Gov.uk benefits assessment before being allowed to read it. My readership is varied and consists of young working families, people struggling to make ends meet, and also Paul Heaton, Nigel Slater and Tom Parker Bowles. I also eat baked beans, but kale was such an easy target for you, as you seem to have ideas about what people can eat based on their employment status.
9. I don’t have a 52″ plasma tv. I had a 17″ one that my parents bought me a few christmases ago but I sold it to pay the rent in August 2012.
10. “No one makes any money out of blogging”. Yes they do. Adverts on high-traffic blogs, guest posts, sponsored posts, product endorsement – there are many ways to make money out of blogging. I don’t go in for product endorsement posts, or guest or sponsored posts, but I do have adverts on my blog, which don’t pay much but they do “make money”. Even £1 is money, don’t you know? But that’s beside the point, you and I both know that I didn’t set that blog up to make a career out of it. There are 40million live blogs on the internet – the chances of mine leading to this when I started it, considering it was initially about Southend council meetings, are slimmer than the odds of winning the lottery.
11. I don’t ‘rely on some sort of income support from the state’. I still receive child benefit, like all parents that earn less than £50,000 a year, single, married or otherwise, but I stopped claiming ALL other benefits when I started working full time. I’m grateful that the welfare safety net is there, but I no longer need it because I have a full time job and earn just enough to look after myself and my son.
12. “They think they are entitled to benefits on their own terms.” Don’t tell me what I think… If “on my own terms” means “on time and not suspended without warning leaving me in rent arrears” then absolutely, yes.
13. Ah, the tattoos. An easy distraction from the real issues. Read this slowly and absorb: I got my first tattoo when I was 18 (no baby, in work) and continued spending my wages on my tattoos until I didn’t have WAGES to spend on them any more. I did not spend my “benefit money” on tattoos. End of. I do still have them, because tattoos are permanent, so even when you’re freezing and starving you can’t sell them for a bit of cash.
14. “Her arms look like your average professional footballer”. But thinner, non?
15. ‘Jack’s bill for body art’ (paid for when she was WORKING) is cheaper than you’d think, being done mostly by friends and apprentices. Not that it’s any of your business, what I spend my WAGES on.
16. “Want the gravy without having to work for it”. Ah, this old chestnut. See above. Left job to find new job. Now have a new job.
I think that’s everything.
Thankyou in advance for the amusement I will get reading the comments section of the Daily Mail today, and for the extra followers on Twitter and the messages of support. Yesterday’s smear campaign was a mild irritation, but my blog got lots of hits as people googled that feckless waster that dared to talk about a political issue, which in turn means that the income I receive from the little advert on the side bar will be significantly higher than usual. Cheers for that.
Oh, and if you really wanted your readers to foam at the mouth about me, I can’t understand why you omitted the detail that I’m a LESBIAN. Number 19 on this years Pink List lesbian, to be precise.
With my very best wishes,
I’ve screen-shot his article below, for those interested that don’t want to visit the website…
(Now go and wash your eyes).
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @msjackmonroe