Friday, 30 August 2013

Hatred and the Express

I'm increasingly baffled by the Daily Express and its editor Hugh Whittow.  He appears to have three main preoccupations: 1) the death of Princess Diana  2) exaggerated weather forecasts and  3) hatred of all benefits claimants.  If he could get all three into one story he would no doubt be delighted.
That hatred of people who claim benefits - and "hatred" really is not too strong a word - is now descending into lies calculated to make targets out of the sick, the disabled and the unemployed.  There are writers (I won't call them journalists) on the paper who are happy to cobble stories which are becoming increasingly bizarre.
Take Alison Little and Jan Disley.  They produced a piece yesterday which conflates two bits of "news", with no justification whatever.  One was about a fraudster who faces jail for claiming around £94k that she wasn't entitled to.  Quite right too.  Nobody, least of all genuine claimants, would ever defend her behaviour.  But how's this for a headline: "Benefits Britain shame: Welfare cheat swindles £94k while 3.5m homes have NO ONE working".  Not only does the one have nothing to do with the other.  The Express has cited what was actually claimed as good news for the government by everyone else.  And in its first three sentences the writers manage to imply that the workless household figures are getting worse, "out of control", when in fact they're improving.  The Indus Delta site has a neat summary, taken from the ONS figures.  There's a sort of acknowledgement of this by the Express: "Although the number of families dependent on welfare was very slightly down from last year's 3.7m, opponents of Britain's benefits culture said the official figures were still extremely worrying."  And those opponents include, unsurprisingly, the the boss of the odious and misnamed Taxpayers' Alliance.  So, whatever it takes to stoke the hatred is permissible.
But that's not enough.  Today a writer called Giles Sheldrick produced another bizarre piece: "scarcely-believable excuses of benefit cheats revealed".  (Note that "scarcely-believable".  Not brave enough to say outright that they were lying.)  The piece is scattered with the familiar hate phrases; "generous handouts" and "lifelong layabouts" are just two.  They talk about "some of Britain's most deceitful individuals hellbent on conning the welfare state out of £1.2bn", without any explanation of where that figure comes from.  They issue "a fresh call to hard-working and honest families to 'shop' those who view welfare as a limitless cash machine", linking dishonesty and unemployment.  And, despicably, they say that IDS's reforms come from "frustration that a generation of lifelong layabouts trapped on benefits creates an annual £208bn welfare bill - £1 of every £3 raise in tax revenue".  Note the carelessness of the verb "trapped" when that's not what he means.  But, more importantly, note the way in which the benefits bill, which includes pensions and working tax credits, is said to be spent entirely on layabouts.
We heard this week that attacks, verbal and physical, on disabled people are increasing as morons, stirred up by this sort of vicious and dishonest writing, accuse them of being scroungers and worse.  That's the tip of the iceberg.  Hatred begets hate crimes.  Why Whittow is doing this I can't imagine.  Maybe it's down to his paper's owner, Richard Desmond.  But the freedom of the press doesn't cover the freedom to spread this sort of vicious dishonesty.


  1. I also love these "Headlines" 100K over 2 years,luxury holidays and so on,every 2 weeks I have to justify claiming £71 which I understand,but I am always asked"do you have a proper address yet"
    and the answer is the same..No,"do you feel this is hampering your efforts to find employment?" Yes,can you help?"Well actually no" Where do I sign up for the Luxury benefits that apparently available just for the asking?????? I am sure that their is fraud on a small scale,unlike the MP's expense scandal,but the civil servants or contracted staff that oversee this should be held to account as well.

  2. I have always been taught that the one who cries loudest probably committed the crime,A4E,Serco,G4S and the list goes on,what have they accomplished? I am not talking the figures that are published,good? Bad! still unreliable and suspect,talk to the majority that scrape by on poverty,their was an article yesterday that said"people on UK benefits are well taken care of compared to 3rd world countries" to a point true,but we are not a 3rd world country!...Or are we becoming one?

  3. Who made the Taxpayers Alliance the mouthpiece for Tommy Atkins? Little wonder then they are seen as little more than an extreme right wing cheerleader for Tory policies.

    Especially when they can attack benefit claimants and totally ignore the monumental failure that is the the Work Program. A failure costing the taxpayer they claim to be so concerned out £BILLIONS!!!

    As for the Express. Are they trying to replace the Daily Mail as the most ridiculous and cliché ridden newspaper in Britain?

    As Historian rightly states, the story is hate filled. And full of loaded language to boot. However, under the photo of the archetypal chavvy, unemployed, lager swilling, hoodie wearing layabout is this caption:

    "Benefits cheats cost Britain more than £1billion-a-year (Pic posed by model)"

    So in order to further denigrate jobseekers even more, the Express sees fit to deliberately manufacture an image using a model to pose as a young unemployed man. Disgusting does not even come close. Little wonder many have stopped believing what they read in newspapers and have (including myself) have stopped buying them.

    Rather than genuine news, organs like the Express are simply semi-literate, innuendo filled, biased gossip rags.

    1. Thankfully many people are turning against newspapers, and reading unbiased infomation of the internet.

  4. Sick of the Work Programme31 August 2013 at 03:51

    The amount claimed by benefit fraudsters probably pales into insignificance in comparison with the millions of pounds of public money which has been thrown at the Work Programme providers, who in return have done very little to help people get into work.

    1. Sorry, I could not face reading the articles so maybe my comment will not be published. I would like to work but feel the "goal posts" are not in my favour. I do not "qualify" for ESA - I probably would have under Labour's version - and do not want to claim JSA and endure up to 2 years on the WP. I survive on 74 pounds a week DLA and qualify for HB too. I have worked as a volunteer too and had 13 weeks paid work as a direct result of doing this. Thanks for reading my rant, see ya'

  5. Richard Desmond is slime - sorry if that's defamatory - and his "newspapers" aren't even worthy of the description.

    If such disgusting, inaccurate stories were written about any other social or ethnic group in our country the newspapers concerned would be prosecuted for producing hate speech, and for inciting discrimination against such groups.

  6. 'But, more importantly, note the way in which the benefits bill, which includes pensions and working tax credits, is said to be spent entirely on layabouts.'

    That is the point. The Tories and their cohorts in the right-wing media are using unemployment to discredit the ENTIRE benefit system including the state pension. Don't forget the Tories have already attacked the principle of working tax credit by increasing the hours at which you can claim from 16 to 30. This hit thousands of WORKING families and was not widely reported because it was introduced IN THE CONTEXT of the attack on the unemployed. The state pension will be next.

    'If such disgusting, inaccurate stories were written about any other social or ethnic group in our country the newspapers concerned would be prosecuted for producing hate speech, and for inciting discrimination against such groups.'


  7. It was clear in 2010 that the government's strategy was to turn those with very little against those with nothing - a peculiar inversion of the politics of envy. Thinking of their readership demographics, the Mail and the Express are crucial players, as is Channel 4 and (arguably to a lesser extent) the BBC.

    Depressing state of affairs, particularly with regard to the BBC (you'd expect this from most of the tabloid press), who appear to be so terrified by the threat by the Conservatives to their continued existence that they've become a government mouthpiece in some contentious policy areas, not least 'welfare reform' and the dismantling of the NHS.

  8. Historian I would love to hear your insights on Kelly Jane Stone, a recruiter for Amazon and Argos who has been suspended following a series of tweets in which she boasted of her ability to suspend the benefits of jobseekers who failed to turn up to appointments- and her apparent glee at doing so.

    It appears her company, Transline, had links to the Work Programme. Sort of throws the whole 'only the DWP can issue sanctions' line under the bus. Remember, this woman is not employed or regulated by the DWP in any fashion whatsoever. Some of her biggest hits:

    “If people don’t turn up to an appointment, I stop their benefits for 13 weeks... suckers"

    "If I offer them a job and they don’t turn up – benefits stopped forever until a job is found. Gutted'

    Not a big fan of the mirror but here is one of the many articles:

    1. I did read this when it first came out. The fact is that it IS only the DWP which issues sanctions, but it does so on the report of people like this that someone hasn't turned up. This has always been the case.

    2. So is she drawing JSA now? Most people are only a pay packet away from becoming "the great unwashed"

  9. Sorry to veer off topic. It seems the the odious Taxpayers Alliance (aka the Tory Party front) is making silly remarks saying people on JSA must work 30 hrs. for their benefits, in areas such as community service (I thought that was for minor offenders), charities (I thought charity work was VOLUNTARY) and training (many on the WP asking for training are being refused due to lack of funding).

    Also, the Taxpayers Alliance has in fell swoop shown itself to be ignorant of government policy. If jobseekers are working 30 hrs. for their JSA, how can they find the time to satisfy their jobseekers agreement which often mandates them to spend up to 30 hrs. seeking employment?

    The Taxpayers Alliance is spouting such nonsense to keep themselves relevant I suppose. The sad thing is that the Taxpayers Alliance purports to speak up for Mr and Mrs Jack and Jane Average which in turn becomes food for politicians and ministers who in turn claim they are in tune with 'public opinion.

    1. The TPA is funded by wealthy Tories, so their relevance is that they are putting forward the views of their backers. Their argument is ridiculous on several counts, but let's not discuss it here. I may well post about it later.


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