I’ve heard quite a few people say that Fathers Day is a bit of a ‘Commercial racket’, intended as a money-making scheme but with no real meaning behind it, unlike Mothers Day, which has greater ‘meaning’. That may be so – and I do know that Fathers Day was ”invented’ in USA mainly because there wasn’t one, but with the intention of recognising that Dads did have a part to play in the lives of their children and were thus deserving of some ‘recognition’. Taking the ‘commercial’ angle first – I’ve no problem with an an idea that creates a few jobs, contributes to the economy, generates some good feeling and does nobody any harm. In terms of parents actually becoming parents in the first place, the role of the father is transient whilst that of the mother is laborious. Even during the process of growing up, and despite the fact that most mothers are working mothers to a greater or lesser degree, it is her influence that is likely to have the most effect on a developing child? In the case of my own children, I in the main had the ‘nice’ jobs to do. I introduced my son to a dozen or so sports and regularly took him to watch cricket, football etc. I played tennis with both of them, swam with them, took them out on their bikes -sometimes so that mum could have a rest or get on with the housework -but I never complained. I did many of the school runs and attended school events -often to their embarrassment! My own father was a pretty tough man – anyone with wimpish tendencies was not going to get much sympathy! I remember one occasion when it snowed -my brothers and I were taken into the garden and made to throw a rugby ball around -without gloves! I think it fair to say that, although we respected the ‘Old Man’, life was a lot easier when he was at work, at his allotment, running miles in Richmond Park regardless of the weather , stewarding at The Royal Festival Hall to earn a few pennies (but he loved classical music) etc. Our Mum was easy to get on with -but would we have been happier if he’d walked out ? I don’t think so! Did we send him cards on Fathers Day -yes! Am I pleased to have received cards from my son and daughter -even though I was, apparently, ‘a chip of the old block’? Of course I was!
What next? Is this the thin edge of the wedge? Although I am past the official retirement age, (yes -I know that is hard to believe), I cannot watch as much cricket as I’d like since I’m very tied up in the affairs of Surrey County Council. In addition, like approximately one third of the retired between the ages of 65 and 74, I am a volunteer. In addition to being a member of Rotary, a very successful public service organisation, I serve several other charities as a volunteer. In addition to those retired folk who give their time willingly, a further million or so act as carers. How much money do these people save the ‘State’ by giving their time free of charge, and often incurring travel and other costs which they cannot or decide not to claim? Among these millions of retired volunteers are some higher rate taxpayers who Ed Balls has decided to target by withdrawing their winter fuel allowance. As a Chartered Accountant I am flabbergasted that he is even willing to contemplate such an idea, given that it will be a bureaucratic nightmare for HMR&C. I suppose it will create a few jobs -perhaps that is what is motivating Ed – I cannot see it raising much money for the Exchequer. To me it is one of the worst examples of ‘gesture politics’ -ie a Labour Politician being seen to target the ‘rich’ in order to win a few votes. Last week at Lords I had the pleasure of sitting beside a gentleman in his eighties who, I imagine, is possibly a Higher Rate Taxpayer. Having ‘retired’ some years ago. this man saw the need for a particular service in his part of the country. In the major towns and cities we take this particular service for granted. Without it lives would be lost. In the country area areas where this gentleman lives the service did not exist -so he used his skill, his charm, his contacts etc and he raised the millions of pounds necessary for the service to be provided. He is now the unpaid Chairman of the organisation. The contribution this gentleman has voluntarily made to society is immeasurable; without it several people living today would not have survived if the service which he founded and he chairs had not existed. We all know that there are many ‘rich’ individuals who have repaid society in their retirement -yet Ed Balls wants to punish them by withdrawing their winter fuel allowance because they are ‘rich’. Would you blame a ‘rich’ retired person for deciding not to offer his time, skills, experience , money etc. to the charitable sector? What a way to disincentive potential volunteer for the sake of a few pounds -just to score a political point!