I stood next to Katie Price (AKA Jordan) once.
I think it was at Heathrow about April 2004. My mother and I were flying in from South Africa, Katie and her mother were flying out en route to elsewhere. An airport official was explaining something about passenger transfers to me, a flustered blonde woman was talking about "going back through departures to avoid the press" to him. Next to the flustered blonde stood a very short girl with dyed blonde hair. I'm six foot four and I honestly recall it seemed she only came up to my hip.
That was Katie Price and at the time her son Harvey was two, born the same year I was diagnosed with Aspergers. The moment passed quickly. Airport Official told Flustered Blonde (Miss Price's mother) she could not go back. Twice. Katie said nothing. I went my own way and that was that. Any suggestion we were ships passing in the night would be vainglorious, inaccurate and ridiculous.
It turned out that Harvey had several health issues (blindness, ADHD, Prader-Willi syndrome) and is also on the autistic spectrum. Separately and many years later I found myself wondering why a paid journalist like Katie Hopkins talks and prints such ill-thought-out rabble-rousing rot without at least slowing down for one half-second and thinking first before writing in haste (she's no fool - she graduated from Sandhurst); and now the two Katies are feuding on Celebrity Big Brother re the costs incurred by the local authority of transporting Harvey to school. Katie H. thinks Katie P. should foot the bill herself. Katie P. responded that said bill would be "up to a grand a day."
So here are some thoughts on the matter from someone else on the autistic spectrum, and I stress I've thought them out as well as I can:
- Education law is the law of the land and (at least in theory) equally applicable to all. The scales of justice must indeed be blind and any cries of "she should pay, she's got money!" are based on irrational emotionalism and jealous spite. Not only that, in practice it's almost impossible to make exceptions to the rule. If I recall correctly, Alan Sugar once virtually begged the Department of Work and Pensions not to send him the Winter Fuel Payment. They insisted he keep it.
- Katie Price pays tax, and although she no doubt has a very good accountant, probably pays a lot of tax. It's not like this money is just being snatched away from other people. Her accountant (if he wished to do so, of course) could probably make a very convincing argument that, on the basis Miss Price is partly freed from worry regarding her son and therefore more able to earn, she is (albeit indirectly) at least partially and possibly fully recompensing UK taxpayers for their outgoings.
- The rich (and by this I do not mean the super-rich - the Koch brothers are worth at least $80 billion and Alan Sugar ca. £770 million) do not actually have endless money. Katie Price appears to be worth about £40 million. That is more than most of us will ever see, but it's less than a twelfth of Lord Sugar's wealth and given the cost of living in some of Britain's neighbourhoods she might actually be classed as relatively poor if she stayed in Belgravia! Miss Price nevertheless has a large house in Sussex and five children to support, as well as two ex-husbands with whom to contend.
- It is also extremely likely (and I say this with respect and understanding) that Harvey will require lifelong and very expensive full-time care. The more Miss Price can earn, save and pay in tax today, the more she may reduce later cost to the State; but strip her of help now on a blinkered emotional basis and the more it might cost us all in the future.
- There are also fringe benefits. There's an old saying in industry that "you'd better be nice to people on the way up, because you'll meet them all on the way down again." The world is not fair, nor is it often very nice; but if a celebrity is demonized now, the day may come when he or she is desperately courted by public or charity to act as figurehead or ambassador and help others.
And there's only a heartbeat's pause between the words YES and NO.
So be charitable now, and in future I believe Katie will be all the more willing to pay the Price on behalf of an autism charity or two.
And just this once...
Katie Hopkins, I've striven to make this article (if not inarguable) as even-handed and well thought out as possible.
Consider yourself taken to school!
James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.