Harry Potter and the Vanishing Safety Net


I haven't read any of her Dumbeldore and Voldemort stories, but not for the pretentious reasons enumerated by critics like Harold Bloom ("Rowling's mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing."). No, it's just that I maintain a pile of Led Zeppelin records to fulfill the wizard and dwarf quota. And if a block of time reveals itself, allowing me to read fiction for pleasure, why on earth choose a doorstop children's book about witchcraft?

So I know little about J.K. Rowling, the multi-millionaire author of the Harry Potter series, but I do periodically come across her occasional spasms of political philosophizing, like this attack on the Tories in today's London Times. One shouldn't vote for those poor people-hating Etonians, she says, because if the tops-and-tails toffs and Bullingdon alums had their way, there would be no welfare state and, therefore, no Harry Potter. Or something. It's hard to navigate through the thicket of straw men erected and flailed at by Rowling, but this parting shot at those "greedy" non-dom millionaires, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, is pretty straight forward:

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain's; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major's Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft's idea of being a mug.

Most of the Times piece is a clunky and confused attack on Tories and journalists, who apparently hate single mothers: "I had become a single mother when my first marriage split up in 1993. In one devastating stroke, I became a hate figure to a certain section of the press, and a bogeyman to the Tory Government." Rowling uses this line of attack frequently, as when she wrote this hagiographic portrait of Gordon Brown for Time magazine in 2009:

Back in the mid-1990s, when he was new Labour's brooding, intellectual heavyweight, I was a lone parent struggling to get by. He said he was not interested in stigmatizing the poor but in finding solutions for their predicament. I was tired of hearing government ministers lambaste the likes of me as irresponsible scroungers. I wanted Gordon Brown in charge.

Rowling, who has donated over a million pounds to the Labour Party, also praised Brown for advocating "global financial regulations" and taking the "lead among European leaders in setting a course for economic recovery," whatever that means.

The Wall Street Journal rounds up British celebrity endorsements here. And rest easy Tory toffs, the WSJ notes that former Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley is throwing his lot in with the nasty party. Because we know this much is true: he hates single mothers.