Sunday, 23 June 2013

"An incendiary idea" - or vicious and stupid?

You have to hand it to the Daily Mail; when you think it can't get any worse, it does.  Today's gem is an article by Mark Littlewood headlined "Why Osborne must publish the names of every benefits claimant - and how much we pay them; An incendiary idea to save on our £500m A DAY welfare bill".
You might already have spotted the first clue to the flaws in his argument from this headline; the use of the words "we" and "our".  He develops this, summarised in three quotations from article:

  • "The amount we now spend on welfare is jaw-dropping.  The average household is taxed to the tune of £8,000 every year to finance the State's programme of handouts."
  • "Taxpayers have a right to know exactly who is claiming what and how much they are getting."
  • "Many people now have a third of their wages - or even more - confiscated at source by Revenue & Customs.  The biggest item this cash is then spent on is welfare.  You have a right to know who is receiving it."
It's the language of "us and them".  Personally, I don't know which category Littlewood would put me into.  I am retired and receive a state pension.  (He includes pensioners in his scheme; is my state pension a "handout"?)  I'm also a taxpayer.  But then, the majority of benefits claimants have been taxpayers, and will be again.  Most of us are both claimants and taxpayers at some points in our lives.  That's what a welfare system is for; you pay in when you can and draw out when you can't.  But the Mail has been tireless in helping successive governments to draw a line round all benefits claimants and separate them from the "hard-working families" beloved by politicians.  For someone like Littlewood, it seems to make sense.  After Oxford he worked for various organisations including the Liberal Democrats, and is now Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank which is very secretive about its sources of funding.  He can't see himself as ever being in the position of having to claim benefits.  Like all his class, he considers himself far superior to all of us scroungers.
What about his central thesis; that there should be a publicly accessible database of what benefits everyone gets?  No problems with that, surely?  It's not naming and shaming, is it?  Two more quotations:

  • "Anyone ashamed to claim money from the State shouldn't be claiming it."
  • "Surely no one needs to worry about violent retribution against claimants.  The British are far too reasonable to start taking up pitchforks and burning torches and assaulting imagined benefits cheats.  We are generous and fair-minded people."  (Surely this is tongue-in-cheek!)
Leave aside the fact that there are many, many elderly people who are not claiming the benefits to which they are entitled because they are ashamed.  That's not important compared to the fun we could all have looking up the incomes of our neighbours.
It isn't going to happen, and I suspect that Littlewood and the Mail know that.  The point of the article is to further demonise anyone who is dependent on the welfare system.


  1. According to Mr Littlewood it isn't about "naming and shaming" people, but it does certainly have the potential to expose people to abuse and even assault. Disability hate crime is a growing problem, and this mad idea would only make it worse.

    Thankfully, I can't see it happening. But then again, with the current public attitude towards claimants - whipped up by the divisive rhetoric used by politicians in and out of government - you can never be sure.

  2. I have 2 things to point out in response to this blog entry, so here goes:

    I've read a few times over the years that people should be named if they are the recipient of something. The thing is, I don't know who slaughters the pigs for the sausages I eat and to be honest, I don't really want to know. Do those people need to know who buys the sausages that their pigs make? Again, no. There really isn't a need for either of us to know each other.

    Secondly, a lot of people, including myself, now pay some of their benefits towards their council tax. So even though we're out of work and claiming benefits, are we not contributing to the "system" [as it were]?

    1. Slightly flawed logic here, Chris. You now get less than the whole of your council tax paid as CT benefit. I know it amounts to the same thing. As for your other illustration - it's not one I would have chosen.

    2. I know, my bad; I couldn't think of anything else for the first thing.

      I still think the new council tax benefit system is a bit silly. Why give people money in the form of benefits and then tell them to pay some towards something that used to be paid for in full by the DWP? It might not be exactly the same thing as employed people paying out of their wages, but it's not far off.

  3. I've said it before and it's worth repeating. The demise of the News of the World troubled me not one jot. Should the likes of the Mail follow suit, then so be it as far as I'm concerned! I'll not shed a tear!

    Now on to the crass, stupid and ill thought out comments by Littlewood. He has probably been given a last minute by his editor deadline to cobble together anything about the benefits system as long as it's reactionary. One can only come to this conclusion because to call this logic half baked it being far, far too generous.

    Firstly, has he considered the sheer cost of such a database? It'd need constantly updating daily at least due to people entering and leaving the benefits system.

    Secondly, just who'd compile such data? No doubt some private concern ready to make a fast buck!

    Thirdly, would this include ALL benefits? Such as tax credits and child benefit available to those IN WORK? Pensions? Would this include DLA, available to and indeed claimed by millionaires David and Samantha Cameron for their late son, Ivan? Would the Mail have named and shamed THEM as well?

    Fourthly, perhaps the Mail and Littlewood have never heard of a well known piece of legislation called the Data Protection Act?

    This bit is telling though;

    "In many areas of British life, we are already comfortable with this principle. Criminal trials are held openly and the name of the defendant is often widely publicised even if they turn out to be innocent. Rightly so."

    So there we have it. The Mail is equating claiming benefits with criminal behaviour. Well done. Bravo! (slow handclaps all round).

    1. If that screed in the Daily Mail is the level of political discourse and the standard of "ideas" we can look forward to, we may as well all give up.

      Will the last person to leave Britain please turn off the lights? (Provided there's any money left in the metre of course...).

  4. It will never happen for the simple reason that most people don't get very much money really. The reality that most young people only get £51pw would completely undermine the Daily Mail's own myth that everyone who signs on lives the "benefits high-life" of cigs, beer, gambling, foreign hols, and multiple flat-screen and i-pad deliveries (so many it keeps the neighbours awake).

    I think such a site would shine a light which would expose the reality and lay bare the arithmetic.

  5. Mark Littlewood works for the Institute of Economic Affairs,a Charity that is quite secretive about their finances(Bloody scary actually) what is his/their agenda? I do not have a clue,who funds them? Mostly from books and donations such as American Friends of the IEA..I use to work in Central America(El Salvador,Honduras,Nicaragua) and their was an Airline called Evergreen Air Ways,also quite bland(Air America) but also quite scary..Beware of Wolfs in Sheep's clothing

  6. At this point there is no civil respose that is warranted here.

    We need to send people like Mark Littlewood a message that him and his venal politics are not welcome in our society.

    No more joking around. No more quips. This is war, plain and simple. Fight back and fight hard.

  7. I am a great believer in the power of satire in exposing the sheer stupidity of some points of view. But this information stumps me. How is it possible to make this reality more risible than it already is?
    It's beyond me.
    I give up.

  8. I have just read the article by Mark Littlewood - Why Osborne must publish the names of each benefit claimant and how much we pay them.

    There are several obvious points to make. Littlewood makes a comparison between the publicity and transparency required of large corporations such as Starbucks who are required to declare how much profit they make, and how much tax they pay and those who claim state benefits.

    Obviously, there is a world of difference between a business which operates in the commercial world and a private individual who does not. For example, a film actress was recently revealed to have attended a private clinic for treatment of her long term manic depression.

    A film actress, no matter how well remunerated, is merely an entertainer and there is no public interest in knowing how much money she may or may not have or the details of her state of health.

    However, the income and mental health of the CEO of a major corporation is a matter of public interest because his judgement and how it might be affected by personal financial interests may effect the lives of tens of thousands of ordinary people.

    Those who claim state benefits are not public figures, nor do the decisions they make effect the lives of others (apart from their immediate friends and family). So there is no justification in making their financial details a matter of public record.

    Littlewoods, comments that the British public is too sensible to resort to lynching benefit claimants amounts to little more than wishful thinking. Charities involved in disability have reported a 74 per cent increase in disability hate crimes since the current government came to power.

    Also, it is the case that the media hostility being directed against recipients of state benefits will cause less intelligent elements of the population to take extreme action. One only has to recall how the media's demands that the names of child abusers become public knowledge led to a series of violent mob attacks against private citizens who had absolutely no involvement with any criminal activity at all.

    The worst example of this was when a doctor who specialised in child health had to flee her house, via the back door, in the middle of the night as a mob stormed her home; the reason being that they had been told she was a paediatrician, and did not understand the difference between the words paediatrician and paedophile.

    In any event, British data protection laws would prevent this type of personal information being released to the public, as would the the Human Rights Act provisions in relation to a citizens right to a private and family life.

    The Editors Code of Practice, enforced by the Press Complaints Commission states in paragraph 3 that: i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications and ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

    Mark Littlewoods links his payments of £12 a month to an African child to the payment of benefits to British Citizens. There is no comparison between these two situations because the citizen is required to pay taxation regardless of his particular feelings in the matter.

    For example, during the 1980s many individuals withheld a percentage of their tax as a protest against monies being paid to maintain and enhance the UKs nuclear weapons capability, also in the early 1990s many individuals chose to refuse to pay the poll tax in response to its perceived unfairness. The response of the government was clear - enforcement measures were taken to compel those citizens to pay the tax that was owed.

  9. They bang on about this welfare bill, but how much of it is actually spent on useless and insidious organisations like A4e? Stop paying money to these inept idiots and they'll make savings without damaging the lives of people who can't fight back.

    And as somebody who claims beneifts I find these comments offensive to say the least. I am ashamed to claim benefits, but what choice do I have? It's not a choice. That's the point. I apply for upto 50 jobs a month. Go to every pointless and ridiculous appointment A4e force me to, do voluntary work, courses, you name it, and I still can't get a job. Do I have the right to know the names of everybody my TV licence money goes to? Or council tax? Rent? I have worked for the past 20 years before I was made redundant from the civil service - the money I claim NOW is money I paid in THEN. It's mine and I have a right to it.

    Craig Jenkins

  10. I thought the unemployed paid tax, we pay tax on the food we eat, our clothing everything. That tax while its a little less than those who pay in work, its still tax still goes to the state. The unemployed those on benefits have to spend the money on items which goes to pay the wages of the people who sell stuff, who pay taxes.

    This is one of the many reasons why I dont read the Mail, I cannot see this will ever happen there are so many problems and dangers. The fact that I could see what my neighbours are getting, and they can do the same for me. If the computer system coming for Universal credit it is in danger because of the amount of upto date information thats needed the system cant cope, let alone the benefits of ALL, child benefits, Childcare benefits, child tax credits,tax credits, housing benefits and more ALL go to working people as well. Will they be monitored as well?

    1. Well, every household claims some sort of benefits, I get seventy four pounds DLA a week, no rent to pay as it is my propetry and a twenty five percent Council Tax discount. I also have to pay for my prescription charges too. So, just another few million to be named then...

  11. Well the pro WP are pulling out all stops,just "Googled" the "Work Programme" and begging bowl is well and truly out,if we only had more money we could help the hardest to reach,If we only had more time as we are still in the early stages the results would be better. I must admit I am really curious to see the DWP/WP results,unlike last time when Emma Harrison made a right fool of herself and A4E all seems quiet from the Primes.

    1. Sick of the Work Programme24 June 2013 at 07:15

      After reading your comment, I also decided to do a Google and found these, which Historian might be interested in:

      It is sickening (though not surprising) to see Ed Holmes defending the Work Programme in advance of the release of the latest statistics on Thursday- btw Ed Holmes is the one who is arguing for WP 'providers' to receive more money. I am also appalled (though again not surprised) to see the comments made by Nick Hurd (Minister for Civil Society) defending the Work Programme- one that really irritated me was him saying that he 'does not necessarily recognise that mistakes have been made.'

  12. The worrying aspect of this story is that people with views like Littlewood are in these high position jobs and clearly think they have the power to influence our politicians.

  13. On the Indus Delta Website,their is a rather amusing article(also a download) unless I am mistaken and I might be,this is a prelude to the measures that the W2W/ERSA and associated companies are willing to go to explain the failure of the WP.

    The DWP paid A4E upwards of £600k to advise them how to set up the WP, now it seems that the DWP cannot measure how the WP performance should be measured according to the way the W2W would measure it.(I know it does not make a lot of sense) Are they starting to try to shift the blame? or will they turn on each other?

    1. They are trying to move the goalposts half way through the match.

  14. My feeling is that "job outcomes" of any length will be the yardsick by which any success of the WP is measured, regardless of how long the programme has been established.

  15. WP Results? Either way I am screwed! If it is a success, why have I not found a Job? If it fails? I have just spent 2 years of my life propping up some Politicians Ego It is a No win situation,frustrated? Disappointed? or just Bloody depressed? I must admit I really do not Know? A4E? Well not a single peep,Why? Unsure,they are either just trying to maintain a low profile or scared sh1tless about doing a repeat of the last results.

    1. I need cheering up. Can we have Emma back on C4 for another grilling?

    2. Anon (25 June 2013 09:18)

      There is a third reason. IT'S YOUR FAULT OF COURSE!!!!

      Do you not realise by now that the WP improves peoples lives and works for those who want the help in the first place???!!!

  16. Off topic (sorry)
    The JCP seem to think that they can force people to give them access to UJM accounts. Letter here:

    They are out of control.

    1. That's incredibly interesting...they CAN mandate that you sign up to UJM, the CANNOT mandate that you let them have access to it. I suggest you quote the DWP's own words as below:


      Actively Seeking Employment:

      82. We cannot specify to a JSA claimant how they provide us with records of their jobsearch activity and Universal Jobmatch will not change this.

    2. I agree though the letter attempting to force access isn't mine.
      I believe the whole issue is going to be the subject of a judicial review.
      Meanwhile it would appear that IDS thinks he is above the law - and unfortunately he may be right.

    3. I state I will only sign up if I have a written direction, then I will upload a cv with no personal information on it, no phone number no email address. I will not allow an adviser to see my Account. I have doubts about online security, and I object to being forced to sign up for the site, but will if I am directed but under protest.

  17. Hate speech aimed at a specific group of people,

  18. After reading various articles/blogs about the WP,the underlying theme does not seem to be about helping the unemployed or disabled,but more about the providers ability to remain in profit,regardless of how bad they perform.

    The other aspect seems to be about Ego's mostly that of Politicians,but also the huge pay packets that the heads of these companies are getting,the head of ATOS just received a raise and now pulls down about £2.8 Million annually,getting up to Emma's league now,in most articles they mention training,I have looked on almost all of the Providers websites and they do mention training,but when I have E-mailed them for details none have been forth coming,just very sketchy outlines that everyone will have to be evaluated on an one to one basis.

    Has anybody had any luck with Training with their Provider? other than rewriting a CV.

  19. We're getting well and truly side-tracked here. Try to stick to the point of the post.

  20. When speaking about unemployment did anyone else hear George Osborne say the following in his spending review statement.

    ''We need a hard headed assessment of underperforming programmes''

    Could this be an early warning that the Work Programme is to be scrapped?


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