Saturday, 5 April 2014

The testament of IDS, and the Tory agenda

You probably know that Iain Duncan Smith is on the Marr programme tomorrow (BBC1, 9.00).  Lots of people have been contacting Marr and the show's producers asking for a real interview, lies challenged and all that, but we don't have any real hope.  There's a piece written by Smith on the Telegraph website today which amounts to his testament.  Ludicrous, delusional, stomach-turning - but that's the line he will take, and the increasingly toadying BBC will let him spout it and thank him for gracing them with his presence.

It was Stanley Baldwin, Conservative Prime Minister in the 20s and 30s, who said that the press had "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages".  It seems to me to apply to individuals who write for particular papers, giving support to the likes of Duncan Smith without any glimmer of knowledge of the subject.  Take a piece by Simon Heffer in today's Mail online.  I suspect it was the subs who wrote the disgusting headline - Let's get the feckless to buy food - not fags and booze.  But that's Heffer's thesis.  Yes, the push is there again to determine what the poor are allowed to spend their pittance on by giving them swipe cards to ensure that they don't buy any luxuries.
Who is Simon Heffer, you may ask, and what qualifies him to pronounce on this subject?  Well, he was educated at King Edward VI's School, Chelmsford, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he read English and subsequently took a PhD in modern history.  He wrote biographies before joining The Daily Telegraph as a leader writer in 1986 and later held the posts of chief leader writer, political correspondent, parliamentary sketchwriter, comment editor and deputy editor.  He has since rejoined the Daily Mail and edits a new online comment section, called RightMinds.  That CV, I suppose, makes him an expert on the subject of welfare reform.
What he's advocating is familiar, but I want to pick out one sentence.  "Retailers would be invited to sign up as part of an approved merchant scheme and would  benefit by having guaranteed custom in return."  Think about that for a moment.  And then turn to an article in an American online newspaper,  In the US the poorest get food stamps, which haven't been actual stamps for a long time.  It's all electronic now, and it's the system which Heffer wants to see here.  The major supermarkets reap huge profits from the system, because people are forced to buy their food there; and the biggest beneficiary is Walmart, which owns Asda over here.  The figures are not disclosed, because of that old get-out clause "commercial confidentiality", but when the numbers on food stamps go down, so do the profits of the supermarkets.
Now, call me suspicious, but could it be that behind the cant about saving the poor from their fecklessness and saving the taxpayer from exploitation, there's another agenda?  Could it just be that there's a massive profit opportunity here?


  1. Cards that control what and where you spend?.....MP's should be issued with them,sauce for the Goose?

  2. I suspect Heffer may be rolling the pitch here. In addition to the report by the execrable Demos (which increasingly looks like an authoritarian right think tank rather than a cross-party or left one, although that's perhaps unsurprising given its New Labour connections), DWP have been looking into 'scrounger cards' for some time, and indeed, an announcement was anticipated at the last Tory conference. The barriers (from DWP's perspective, not mine) are primarily to do with the technology and cost - as it would have to be at least introduced as a voluntary scheme, the cost per participant would be astronomical - not that trivialities like that seem to overly worry IDS.

  3. you bet there's profit in it. 21% of the adult population in the US (the richest country in the world) are on food stamps. it all started under Clinton and was floated briefly over here by that arch traitor of working people: Blair.

    it's not uncommon for serving soldiers to be seen paying for food using food stamps in the US, so even the working poor are restricted in what they are allowed to buy.

  4. I saw the odious Smith interviewed by Andrew Marr on his show today. As ever, it was a light touch affair with Marr asking questions about disability assessments and Smith being his usual undecipherable self. Marr asked about ATOS' decision to terminate their WCA contracts early. Smith insisted it was HE and the DWP that got shot of ATOS.

    The only saving grace was Polly Toynbee, also a guest on the show doing the paper reviews along with the assistant editor of the Spectator.

    It was the last 90 seconds or so that allowed Toynbee to attack Smith on the poor performance of the WP saying that "five times as many people on the WP had been sanctioned as opposed to those finding work" Smith retorted that "22,000 people with disabilities had found work (ignoring able bodied jobseekers)". When Toynbee said the WP was worse that doing nothing, Smith again rejected this and claimed the WP was at long last helping those who'd been ignored under the old system. I rather think the man ought to talk to former and current WP 'clients' who've been parked for months on end and effectively written off. Toynbee did more in 60 seconds than Marr did (or was allowed to) in nearly 10 minutes.

    As for pre-paid benefit cards...the mind boggles at the stupid simplicity of such a solution. The Mail headline is a joke and quite an offensive one at that. Firstly, why a picture of Shameless' Frank Gallagher? A lazy stereotype if ever there was one. Unless the Mail thinks comedies like Shameless and Rab C. Nesbit are actually documentaries.

    "Though Leftists cynically exploit the existence of food banks as proof that a Tory-led government has inflicted terrible hardship on the poor, there is a WIDESPREAD BELIEIF (my caps) that some people use them because they have chosen to spend their money, instead, on drink, tobacco, slot machines, tattoos or pornography. This leaves little cash to buy food."

    This comment takes the biscuit, as well as the cookie and cracker! Misleading journalism at its best. Or rather worst. Notice the phase WIDESPREAD BELIEF. I may well believe Bigfoot, Yeti and Nessie exist and are living it large in the Pacific United States and Canada, the Himalayas and Loch Ness respectively. However, my belief does not necessarily make this so. So in effect, the Mail and Heffer are basing this article not on fact, but assumptions. And wrong ones at that. They choose to lazily do this rather than find out where such misinformation is coming from.

    Most informed persons know that:

    Claimants cannot roll up to a food bank and use it like their local Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi or Waitrose. They HAVE to be referred by your GP, a health worker or a JCP adviser.

    Claimants cannot use their food banks every day. Indeed most are restricted to just a few time a year.

    Claimants only receive enough food for four days or so.

    The debate surround pre-payment cards reminds me of a BBC radio phone in when a newsagent ranted on about how people on benefits bought alcohol and cigarettes in his shop, neglecting to buy food for their kids. Had. I been allowed on I'd have suggested he stop selling these offending items if people purchasing them were acting in such a way that was so contrary to his moral code.

    In the US, there is evidence that millions of Americans with no other income are having to sell their food stamps for cash on the black market (no doubt for considerably less than their actual worth) in order to survive the recession. If pre-payment cards / food stamps do not cover items other than food, then what are people going to do when they need ready cash for clothing for example.

  5. Don't forget that IDS and his fellow travellers live in a world where belief is supreme, and evidence, analysis and argument are not even in the race.

    As an aside, while I'm reluctant to dignify Heffer's poisonous nonsense with any kind of detailed response, is he being serious in suggesting that benefit claimants are blowing their money on porn? I'm sure that for much of the rest of the week the Mail was running stories about the widespread availability of free porn doing untold harm to children's minds. It may be a bit much to ask for, but some consistency would be nice.

  6. I don't understand how Food Stamps would work because the unemployed spend their meagre £72.40 week on a range of products and services - not just food. How would they pay for travel expenses, for example?

    The Tories would also have to overcome the moral and legal problem, if Workfare is introduced, of, in effect, paying the unemployed in kind and forcing them to shop at certain 'approved stores'. I believe this is illegal.

    They would also have to gain Liberal support and I am not convinced it would be forthcoming.

    We have heard these stories before in the right-wing Tory press and most of it posturing. They attack the unemployed to divert the publics attention from the real problems, namely the lack of real jobs and growing National Debt.

  7. IDS originally planned to announce his latest scam on the It wasn't intended to be just a chummy update on progress with welfare "reform" - he chickened out on the advice of his PR team.

    His original intention was to launch his new "crack-down on benefits fraud" (harsh new penalties etc) but decided today wasn't the right time after all.

    Nothing to do, of course, with Maria Miller's expenses fiddling.


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