Saturday, 25 January 2014

Round-up, 25 Jan 2014

I've been avoiding it.  All that publicity for IDS's speech made me want to head for the hills.  He compared himself to Wilberforce and Shaftesbury.  Well, not quite, but close enough that the journalists made that the story.  And we can be sure that he actually believes it.
I've pinched this brilliant bit of photoshopping from Twitter - Iain Duncan Smith as William Wilberforce.  Let's be clear what Wilberforce really did.  He was an MP who became the parliamentary voice for the movement to abolish the slave trade, and he succeeded in getting that through into law in 1807.  The abolition of slavery itself didn't come until 1833.  As for Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper 7th Earl of Shaftesbury); he was the driving force behind reforms to the laws which allowed child labour and appalling working conditions, and he was involved with many other reforms benefiting the working class.  Both men were evangelical Christians, believing that you couldn't save men's souls until they had decent lives.  IDS really does see himself in that tradition.  (The full text of his speech is here.)  Whenever people bring up evidence that, in so many cases, he is causing huge distress, he and his party literally don't want to know.  They never answer specifics, just repeat the generalities, because specific cases would destroy the picture they have of themselves.
Enough of IDS.  One piece of encouraging news did emerge this week.  Labour has said that it will axe the Work Programme if it gets elected.  (See the Northern Echo story.)  But only when the contracts come to an end.  It would cost far too much to terminate the contracts.  Labour plans to channel the money through local councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships - something I've advocated for a long time.  This will scare the likes of A4e, and will no doubt generate a great deal of lobbying.
And finally, the fall-out from Benefits Street goes on.  A number of people who have featured in the "show" have been arrested on charges of possessing drugs.  I can't, and shouldn't, comment on particular cases.  Anyone who is dealing drugs deserves all they get.  But I have many a time argued with people who bring up the supposedly luxurious lifestyles of those on benefits that anyone who can afford huge TVs, smartphones and foreign holidays must be either up to their eyes in debt or involved in criminality.  Sadly, this doesn't help to vindicate the vast majority of claimants.  I don't think we've heard the end of this noxious production.


  1. Sick of the Work Programme25 January 2014 at 14:20

    I don't object to Labour enabling the creation of jobs through local councils and other organisations, as long as those jobs are properly paid- this would of course mean people being paid at least the minimum wage to do the jobs, rather than them being expected to work full time for their benefits or on an apprenticeship paying just £100 a week. I have a family member who was employed on an apprenticeship for the local council maintaining roads for just £90 a week- he did this for a year, and was very disheartened to discover that there was no job for him at the end of it.

  2. Of course getting people back to work should fall to local government- it's the only sensible and humane way to do it without essentially turning the poor into a commodity to be bought, sold and traded like cattle at the market.

    Great post Historian as always- and great find with the photoshop. Funny stuff.

  3. ha, ha, ha - love the photo

  4. Ex A4e conscript25 January 2014 at 15:24

    What a grandiose view Iain Duncan Smith has of himself. A man that has lied throughout his life, from his CV, to employing his wife in a non-job and all of his dodgy statistics. It would be laughable if he wasn't in such a position of power. Has he claimed for any new Y-fronts on his expenses lately?

  5. One of the most bizarre, muddled and hubristic speeches I've ever heard. Putting aside the obvious irony of a man responsible for forcing people to work for large private companies for nothing at pain of utter destitution comparing his work to slavery abolitionists, the potential implications of making such an allusion bother me.

    Alongside the obvious possibility that he's finally gone completely mad, the most benign interpretation is that this could be no more than a plea to keep his job and for his 'mission' to continue to be supported. I suspect government (and by that, I largely mean the Treasury) has given up on DWP and IDS as a bit of a dead loss, and IDS is inviting us to imagine a world in which Wilberforce was squashed by a desiccated and misguided Chancellor.

    A less optimistic interpretation is that by casting himself in a heroic light, he is planning to do 'heroic' things - a poor quality Work Programme and an implementation of Universal Credit beset by technical problems, mismanagement and (in fairness to IDS) hobbled by the Treasury to the extent it'll fail to 'make work pay' for large tranches of the population may not seem like that much of a legacy. The references to Benefits Street (which he has now made several times), drugs and alcohol cause me particular concern.

    A final aside about Benefits Street. Interesting blog looking at census data for James Turner Street: Turning to historian's comments about luxurious lifestyles, what amazes me is that one of the few things Benefits Street does arguably show accurately is the appalling and joyless lives experienced by a small number of the long-term unemployed (and in some cases, the unemployable).

    These are the people we're supposed to feel jealous of and resentful towards? I don't get it.

  6. IF and its a BIG IF. Labour does this and promises with an IRON clad guarentee.. then I may be persuaded to vote labour.. However I worry about the other side Rachel Reeves saying and promised to be even tougher on people on benefits..

  7. To give Labour the benefit of the doubt (no pun intended) it'd be difficult to campaign any other way. Whilst I'd be delighted if Labour challenged the lies and smears head on, the reality is they can't do so and hope to be elected - Osborne has already done a pretty good job of laying social security bear traps for them. Labour have also been a little naive, getting their pants pulled down over 'concessions' like the sanctions review.

    Moving employment support to LAs and LEPs has a lot to commend it, although I fear the end result may be more of the same, but delivered by different people (or by the same people, for different employers). There also appear to be serious problems with the compulsory job guarantee - firstly that calling it 'compulsory' plays to the Tory narrative, and secondly, that it'll probably just result in paying private firms to reallocate jobs from one group of people to another, rather than the bolder sort of public works and job creation that we would all benefit from.

    In reality, Labour appear to me to be the least bad option, but I'd only give them a couple of cheers at the moment.

  8. I don't favour any party but Labour are just as bad. I have not forgot being sat in a room all day reading newspapers for 13 weeks on New Deal at A4e.

  9. To be honest, right now, I'd prefer being back on A4E than the mess the Jobcentre have saddled me with. Says a lot really, A4E might be useless but at least they don't forget you're doing what they ask you to do.

    Went in for a meeting with my JC advisor today... but apparently I hadn't gone to a sign on last week. Well I was never given a date and time last week to sign on (I had one for next week instead) and I had a 2 week mandated course to attend which took me away from home all day. JC forced me on a pointless 'CV' building course, which I pretty much slept through and still passed because it wasn't needed..

    So they ring me up to change sign on dates and times, and can't get through.

    It's my fault of course I can't afford a mobile phone, or be in two places at once to be at their beck and call. I swear, the JC really do exist to sanction you.

    1. Just goes to show the lengths that the DWP will go to to noble someone from the official unemployed register. I believe (I know) that over 400 thousand of people registered on JSA this year (from Jun 2013) have been sanctioned- how do I know that?
      If its 1.25 million sanctions last year its definitely more this year (JSA claimants) not including WRAGs and ESAs which just add to the misery.
      I know that this is old stuff - but what is the purpose of sanctioning you (and possibly most). To punish you- naughty claimant, to ensure you comply maybe! NO, NO, NO.. they will waste your time and tax-payers money on creative sanctioning to force people signing off JSA and appear to be getting work.
      I hope you will appeal ALWAYS APPEAL ANY+ALL SANCTION decisions; first through reconsideration mechanism (which will inevitably fail) and finally through Appeals procedure, irrelevant of its apparent reason.

  10. I am still appealing a sanction (illegal???) from July 2012 regarding non-attendance of MWA (A4E).

    I was not given the statutory MWA 05 notice during referral by the Job Centre, and only had half a day's working notice to attend the MWA by A4e.

    Currently in correspondence with the ICE (Independent Case Examiner).


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".