Saturday, 8 February 2014

Fear and loathing

Many people have asked how it can be that Iain Duncan Smith keeps his job.  Perhaps the answer lies here, in a survey of how Tory party members rate the cabinet.  As you see, IDS is top.  Overwhelmingly, Tories approve of Smith and what he is doing.  So he can mess up one project after another and it doesn't matter.  He can be astonishingly rude to the select committee (to which only Labour members bothered to turn up) and it doesn't matter.  The right-wing love him, because he's engaging with the enemy, poor people, and trouncing them.
But why does the right hate the poor so much?  I've come to the conclusion that what lies behind it is fear.  Consider the case of Jack Monroe.  On paper she ticks all the boxes to attract the contempt of the comfortable.  She's young, didn't do all that well at school, became a single mother, is a lesbian and was unemployed.  How's that for a stereotype?  But Jack set up a blog about food; basically, how she fed her child on £10 a week.  Not only does she give wise advice on how to eat very cheaply; she talks eloquently about her poverty and the system which trapped her in it.  The blog became hugely popular, and Jack committed the cardinal sin; she emerged as an individual.  The media took her up.  Sainsbury's employed her in a marketing campaign.  (She has made it clear that she takes only the living wage from this work and the rest goes to various projects.)  When Channel 5 planned the wretched "debate" following Benefits Street, they invited Jack Monroe onto the panel.  And there she met the stark hatred of the right in the shape of Edwina Currie.  Jack's response can be read in this open letter, published in the Mirror.  The other spouter of vitriol was Katie Hopkins.  Both of them were reacting to an individual who challenges the stereotype.  Between them, Currie and Hopkins did the right no favours, but they showed the true face of hatred - fear.
From the late eighteenth century in Britain the elites feared the Mob.  (It generally had a capital letter because it assumed the shape, in their minds, of a single monstrous creature.)  The poor could be suppressed, but when they combined their sheer numbers made them terrifying.  Riots happened frequently, and the Mob could unleash violence and destruction which was ruthlessly put down.  Remember what happened in 2011.  Rioting broke out in a few places in Britain.  The elites reacted with courts handing down brutal sentences way in excess of what the actual offences warranted.  The position hadn't changed - the Mob must be dealt with severely before it can challenge the established order.
The right cannot deal with poor people as individuals in any way like themselves, so it demonises them.  And then it fears what that demon could do.


  1. As if to prove my point, I get this anonymous comment:
    "You really are a paranoid self righteous individual, I think you need a hobby or a partner. I assume you have neither because you have so much time to make judgements on others. I'm not sure about your upbringing but I lived somewhere very similar to the place on benefit street and people really do dodge work and the current benefit system allows them too. Leave IDS to do his job. A job not many could do!"

    1. A job not even he can do.

      Aside from his appalling attittude, he has screwed up everything he has se out to do:

      Work Programme achieves a dismall succes rate, worse than if it didn't exist.
      Universal Credit, not on time and not in budget and very likely to cause untold chaos given how it sets out sanctions for people even in work.
      DWPtarges which are constantly denied yet all but an open secret.
      The Bedroom Tax which is costing a lot more than it will save - and not just in terms of money.

      Nothing this awful man has started has worked and yet they love him!

    2. I think you missed a few points there, Ghost Whistler:

      IDS dodges straight questions time after time from people who question him.

      Going by popular belief, he lies on his CV (to bolster his character, I assume).

      EVERYTHING that goes wrong in his department is NEVER his fault. The man loves to pass the blame onto others.

      I may have missed one or two, but these have been posted on this blog in the past. There is evidence-a-plenty that IDS can be held accountable for. He is a PUBLIC SERVANT afterall. Remember, two wrongs don't make a right; there may be many idle people out there claiming goverment money rather than earning a wage in a job, but it doesn't mean that a member of parliament can act so rudely and bullyish as IDS does. Maybe that anonymous poster should consider that before being so quick to defend someone like IDS. We don't hate him just because he works for the government.

  2. According to Aunty Beeb, IDS & Co have worked out a whole new way of threatening people who have the temerity to be ill, it seems:

    No doubt the Tory right-wingers will lurve this new idea, too.

  3. I looked at the same poll last month, and as the Conhome post points out, IDS has actually climbed a place. I can't think of many notable DWP successes in that time, so I'm inclined to think that the constant othering and denigration of people in receipt of social security is still continuing to work its malign magic.

    On the subject of the Mob, I came across an interesting paper recently on the use of language (among other things) - it's quite good:

    Incidentally, I heard Charlie Elphicke MP on the radio earlier. Talking all sorts of nonsense, not least that Universal Credit will 'make work play'. Presumably he either incorrectly believes this, or is not being entirely frank. This really needs to be challenged. Whilst there are some positive aspects to UC (as well as a boat load of negative ones), the idea that it will make work pay in the sense that it will have a significant positive impact for every working claimant compared to the current regime is simply not true.

  4. I cannot add anything other than "I believe" no facts,no numbers just his erratic thoughts...WTF.....would that work at the JCP?

  5. Whilst this is all very depressing, who amongst us can say they're in any way surprised?

    Smith's popularity is not at all surprising as he uses certain sections of the media to spread his own brand of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Deception) into the public conscience. And not surprisingly much of the public laps this up without challenging the facts.

    Smith is an utter failure of course. He has the reverse Midas touch. Every thin he touches turns to faecal matter. Take this from Ch4 News a couple of days ago:

    11,000 jobs on UJM are believed to be bogus. This constitutes 1 out of every 50 vacancies or 2% of all UJM vacancies. However, in some locations, ONE THIRD of all vacancies on UJM could be bogus.

    Now some may say 2% is nothing. However, I suspect the same people would not be so silent if benefit fraud was 2% rather than the actual figure of 0.7%.

    Once again, it appears someone is making money out of such scamming. As Ch4 News reports:

    "The Channel 4 News investigation found that nine apparently unconnected recruitment websites, advertising thousands of positions across the UK, are all controlled by one man in Coventry -Mark Coward, a businessman and Baptist deacon who has posted thousands of jobs.

    In recent months, Coward has received thousands of pounds for marketing job products at applicants. Jobseekers who answered any one of thousands of ads posted by Coward were encouraged to visit a legitimate recruitment business, CV-Library, using links that showed Coward had recommended them.

    He then received £1 for every CV successfully submitted to CV library. Coward later told Channel 4 News that most of the original applications submitted to him for the jobs he posted were then simply deleted."

    Whilst such spivs are beneath contempt for the most part, I aim my fire squarely at Smith. The DWP, and subsequently JCP are HIS responsibilities. UJM is his 'brain'child.

    Therefore, anyone who, as a result of being mandated via their JCP adviser to use UJM as their security compromised, loses out financially or has their ID stolen should be able to take legal action against Smith, McVey, the DWP and JCP.

    Of course it'll never happen....

    1. Here is the thing about UJM, they use it to determine whether or not you've done enough jobsearch by comparing the amount of jobs on there for whatever the client is searching for, and then subtracting what said client has applied for.

      I've seen the same job advertised 6 times on UJM in my area which send you to different sites such as monster or indeed to apply. I rack that up as 1 job... but the JC see that and penalise you because you haven't applied for all 6.

      It's silly. UJM isn't fit for purpose as the jobs aren't screened by the JC first to see if said jobs even exist.

  6. Former A4e Client11 February 2014 at 02:55

    "Rioting broke out in a few places. The elites reacted with courts handing down brutal sentences way in excess of what the actual offences warranted."

    I usually agree with your sentiments, Historian, but downplaying the very real mayhem and murder of the 2011 riots is simply wrong. Thousands of people rioted, there were countless injuries and people died. The rioters were no friend of the ordinary worker or the unemployed citizen, and people were murdered and robbed indiscriminately for simply trying to protect their homes and business.

    The rioters are scum who preyed on the weak and vulnerable as well as what they perceived as the establishment and should not be portrayed otherwise.

    1. My point was not to downplay the 2011 riots, it was to draw historical parallels. When mobs riot, the mayhem has little directly to do with the grievances of the poor. It's just a chance to wreak havoc, and death and destruction will always ensue. I don't use the word "scum" about anybody. Many of the rioters were simply opportunists. And the majority of those who were caught and punished got severe sentences for relatively trivial offences.

  7. " But why does the right hate the poor so much? I've come to the conclusion that what lies behind it is fear."

    It is also down to a dog eat dog, stuff you, "I'm all right Jack" mentality. Just consider this post from a thread on

    "So, who deserves to live and who would you select to die? What would your criteria be? Would you accept the odd ´mistake´ as a risk you would be willing to take?

    I despair of my fellow humans sometimes, I really do. Willing to let someone starve to death on the premise that they wont work again? Really?"

    "No, I would let someone starve to death because they choose to do so.

    So you are saying it is fine for those who choose not to work, who choose not to seek work, who choose not to do anything to provide for themselves to continue to receive a living from others? Didn't think so."

    The latter answer is telling. He / she is so blinded by their relative comfort that they cannot empathise with anyone else. One only can hope that they are not so hollow hearted and empty headed to be like this in reality. They'll learn only when THEY lose their jobs and end up in the same boat as those they currently despise.

    (Thread here if interested:

    But it could also be hatred. But hatred of themselves as much or even more than those they see as below them. Many people like the poster above blame jobseekers not only for the current state of affairs but also for their own predicaments. They complain about having to get up early, travel long distances and work long hours to support 'scroungers'. And they do this without realising they've explained why they probably hate their jobs. And maybe even themselves. So in turn look for a convenient scapegoat.

    Arguing with such people is to use an old expression "like wrestling with a pig. Both you and the pig get filthy but the pig rather enjoys it!"

  8. Well said iMatt,
    I must confess that Capitalism has many dark attributes, like self-grandisement at the expense of others- it brings out the bad side of people whom in other circumstances would probably hold out a helping hand (consider, as an example, the spirit of citizenship seen by those affected by the floods recently for instance).
    The whole point of all this denigration of the unemployed misses two main facts about unemployment in the UK (one of the richest countries - percapita - on the planet):
    Firstly, everyone of working age in the UK pays taxes and is therefore covered by NI for periods when they cannot work - for whatever reason - so they have an inherent unemployment (benefit) or disablement entitlement - this should be essentially UNCONDITIONAL I argue (also in line with EU membership).
    I agree that some limited requirement is needed - e.g. availability to work or training maybe but nowhere near the panacea of conditionality at the moment which is both unfair and expensive in its implementation - actively damaging the economy too.
    Secondly unemployment is not a social illness its an economic condition, say like homeowners v. tenancies, car owners v. non-car owners etc. I am a tenant I don't own a car I am not stigmatized for that, so why am I scorned for being unemployed.
    As for cost of out-of-work benefits its nowhere near the cost of in-work subsidies (in form of tax credits) to those low-paid scrounger employees whom live in luxury on £6.31ph or have the audacity to have children for whom I have to subsidise!
    I put the hatred campaign down to Cameron's Nudge Unit pseudo-psychological class warfare:
    see the Telegraph article-
    Inside the Coalition's controversial 'Nudge Unit'

    1. The current discourse about and obsession with people who really should (at the risk of sounding patronising) be pitied or at least empathised with rather than envied and resented gives license to the sort of sociopath iMatt refers to above.

      It's ridiculous really. We live in a country where costs and incomes have been decoupled for years, where regional inequality is extreme, where general inequality is astronomic and heading in the wrong direction. A post-industrial economy without anything to do or even anything it's particularly good at, at least as far as employment goes. A country where being born in the wrong place or not being a member of the priestly caste of professions can condemn an individual, no matter how hard working (or is it now 'hardworking'?) to a lifetime of precarious and financially and socially marginal existence.

      Social mobility has collapsed. Reasonably paid, high status jobs that the unskilled can work towards have largely gone, replaced by lean management, hub and spoke staffing, agency work and a casualised labour force where previously employed workers have no choice but to become self-employed and then get misused as a statistic to support the reassuring myth of some sort of entrepreneurial renaissance.

      One could look at the case of Rover as a microcosm of the economy over the last 40 years. Well-paid, skilled jobs lost following years of mismanagement, underinvestment, incompetence, borderline fraud and indifference from a government ideologically opposed to strategic thinking and with the habit of picking plausible shysters rather than winners - the wealth extractors (or wealth creators, if you're of neoliberal inclination) at work again.

      From memory, I recall a longitudinal study from a few years ago that found that the overwhelming majority of ex-Rover workers had found jobs, but they were generally lower paid, losing around a third of their former income.

      There are things that we could try - switching from supply side to demand side interventions, generally becoming a bit more like Germany (although I despair of politicians and economists who advocate that whilst disregarding the Everest-style obstacles and the problems that Germany itself has). But the reality is that full employment has gone, and isn't coming back, barring some absolutely unforeseeable development.

      We need to fundamentally rethink the relationship between the state, capital and the individual. One option I suppose really could be regular culls of the unemployed, the sick and inconvenient people - it has some precedents. Alternatively, we could recognise that whatever individuals try to do, some of them won't 'get on' no matter how hard they work (pace Katie Hopkins and her simple-minded worldview). If we accept or at least acknowledge that, I suspect our sense of where obligations lie might change somewhat.

      I was going to add something about how forum posts like the one above serve as an example of how the way the British flatter themselves with notions of fair play and compassion look increasingly ridiculous and out dated, and how cliches of how the left and right regard one another no longer apply, but I suspect I've banged on enough for one comment.

    2. Why not a universal living payment for everyone? with no conditions? oh they will tell you IMPOSSIBLE, but it could done tommorow.

    3. 'Regular culls for the unemployed ..' I like that Badger you should be in the Nudge Unit, maybe not so blatant though, how about this headline: ' An idea originating from discussion forums on unemployment suggest those with no work prospects should maybe consider active euthenasia as an option, this could be paid for by out of work benefits. This will become a mandatory option before claimants can receive any benefits...'
      However I think most readers will be lost in the satirical nature of this suggestion, no... maybe better stop there before the idea really plops into someone's head in the DWPs policy unit. Tom

    4. I'm reminded of Swift's satirical "Modest Proposal" of 1729 in which "Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies" (to quote Wikipedia).

  9. This is a blogger post about my experiences of dealing with A4e. Cheers:


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