Belfast Telegraph

If Rachel wants to lecture students on the mathematics of cost cutting, perhaps she should leave Harrods out of equation

By Lindy McDowell

Should penny-pinching be a degree subject? The debate about student fees - keep, cut or entirely abolish? - has been back in the headlines ever since old Jezza rashly intimated he might scrap them altogether.

Student debt, he said, I will deal with it. How he would, he did not go on to elucidate. Estimates (Conservative obviously) put the cost of wiping student debt at around £60bn.

That is a helluva lot of money, but in terms of reeling in the student vote is possibly seen by Team Corbyn as a bit of a bargain.

Who cares where the money will come from if it helps get you elected?

Over to you, then Theresa...

Like Labour, the Tories are now eagerly promoting their own student offers - a bit like those nightclub promotional people making free with their flyers outside student unions during Freshers' Week.

Mrs May is certainly a whole lot less grandiose - she's only talking in terms of a fees cap.

So, in the interim, anyway, it's as you were on the student financial front.

Which raises that question posed above...should students get lessons in frugality?

One person who thinks so is commentator Rachel Johnson, whose brother (not Boris; the other, lesser known one) believes that students should save, work for money or borrow from their parents.

Writing in a national newspaper, Rachel very much agrees.

She does sound like a nice person, and certainly there is merit in her argument that occasionally we all have to learn to rein it in a bit.

But thrift, like wealth, is also relative and her description of her own frugality did make me smile.

She recalls only having been taken shopping for new clothes twice by her mother. Once to Debenhams. Once to Harrods for school uniform.

You see, already there, Rachel, you are bringing a green-eyed glint to those of us who knew only Eastwoods of Maghera and whose school uniform came from a much more modest outlet than Harrods of Knightsbridge.

Far be it from me to do one-up-blazership on the frugality front, but the new one which my ma bought to engulf me in first form was still in service (and I had almost grown big enough to fit it) four years later.

I'm digressing a bit here. It's just that mention of Harrods in an article proffering belt-tightening advice to impoverished youth does suggest a certain lack of understanding of just how very hard it can be for those who don't actually have anything to save, who need every penny they manage to earn and have no Bank of Mum and Dad to fall back on.

For the simple reason Mum and Dad are themselves only just scraping by.

Hand-me-downs, cutting corners, making do and recycling. Coming from Rachel's privileged background, these things are truly not so difficult, so very awful.

An indication might be her illustration of her own thrift in the fridge department. Parmesan rinds, she says, she saves for soup.

Well, don't we all, darling?

Any time we have Tiny Tim around for a bowl of that weak gruel he favours, I find he always enjoys it enhanced with some frugally conserved Parmesan rinds.

As I say, I don't think Rachel is a bad person. But, like so very, very many of the people who shape opinion these days, or are in the party that runs the country or even dominate the one that is supposed to be a socialist party of the working class, she appears to be several dinner parties removed from the reality of life at the lower end of the Parmesan rind index.

Working-class students could do without lectures from the posh on cost-cutting.

Students fees, student debt, all this is getting seriously out of hand.

As, in many cases, are the greedy universities and the courses they run, which are of dubious value, given the vast and enduring price to pay.

The poor, as the man said, are indeed with us always.

A bit like your Parmesan rind, Rachel.

Did Irish lottery do a number on players?

What sort of weirdness was involved with the Irish lotto machine ball that very definitely appeared to have two numbers?

Numbers 38 and 33 on the same ball.

Or did it? Organisers say no. It was only a trick of the light.

An odd trick, but possible, I suppose. And I'm not sure how, if it was a fix, what the point of this 'fix' could be.

Still, I imagine if you were waiting for 33 to come up, you might have good reason to feel badly done by.

I feel exactly that way about not winning the recent record jackpot on the Euro lottery.

Idle MLAs collecting pay is just plane wrong

For over 10 months now we have been without an Assembly, and in that time our idle MLAs have been pocketing their pay as they sit on their hands.

The country motors on like a plane on auto-pilot, gliding aimlessly forward with all hands no longer caring where. Except... if you are one of the workers from stricken Bombardier, for example, I suspect you don't feel quite so apathetic about this pathetic state of affairs.

Shame on the lot of our politicians. When is one of them going to have the guts, the integrity and the decency to resign and forego that unearned pay?

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