Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The battleground

Issues of welfare and low pay are set to become the battleground in the 2015 election.  Opening shots have been fired this week, and, as always, factual reports quickly get countered by ideological nonsense.

The stories about zero hours contracts started a little while ago.  The numbers of people estimated to be trapped on these contracts rapidly rose, while noises from government about what they were prepared to do about it petered out.  Then came a report that a relatively sensible Tory strategist has said that his party won't make any headway in poorer areas of the country unless it is prepared to raise the minimum wage and work towards the living wage.  A detailed story in the Independent shows how nervous the Tories are about this.  Naturally their paymasters don't want to pay higher wages; they would much prefer to be subsidised by the taxpayer (which is all of us).  While Labour and the Lib Dems have more or less committed to this, the Conservatives remain ideologically bound to the concept of an untrammelled free market in wages.  Today the BBC news website published some interesting figures from the Resolution Foundation, showing that 20% of all workers earn less than the living wage.

But any attempt to have a sensible discussion on such issues is derailed by far-right pressure groups like the odious Taxpayers' Alliance, which often puts out press releases like a brattish child demanding attention.  As the BBC site headlined it, "Force claimants to work for benefits, government urged".  It displays the TPA's usual ignorance of the current system, but it got the publicity they wanted, not least from the Express.  In a typically hate-filled and untruthful report, the paper repeats the TPA's made-up figures of a saving of £3.5bn a year.  It accompanies this with a photograph, apparently authentically taken outside a jobcentre of the most unprepossessing youths they could find.  The Express also has a piece, complete with maps, to show where the highest numbers of households without work are.  Again, with criminal disregard for truth, all of these households (which include disabled people and their carers, for example) are labelled "work-shy".  And the areas where most people are out of work are called unproductive, as if they could be thrown away.

So, while we need a genuine debate on welfare and wages, we need to base it on truth.  And that will probably be impossible.

Finally, I couldn't resist this from an American website.  Iain Duncan Smith is giving a lecture later this month to a right-wing organisation on "21st Century Welfare Reform".  "He explains how transforming the country's welfare system goes hand in hand with transforming people's life chances - continuing a historic mission that Conservatives from William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury and Abraham Lincoln have always had to help people improve the quality of their lives."  What?????  I don't know much about Lincoln but I know a great deal about Wilberforce and Shafesbury.  IDS, you are no Wilberforce and you are no Shaftesbury.


  1. IDS is no Lincoln. Lincoln freed the slaves; IDS wants to create more.

  2. Sick of the Work Programme4 September 2013 at 09:40

    Ridiculous. So he has time to attend that, but can't fit in an appearance at the Work and Pensions Select Committee, at which he was supposed to have been appearing today to explain his misrepresentation of welfare statistics:

    1. It was postponed because the main purpose of the meeting was to examine the DWP's annual report, and that wasn't going to be ready in time.

  3. 'A relatively sensible Tory strategist has said that his party won't make any headway in poorer areas of the country unless it is prepared to raise the minimum wage and work towards the living wage.'

    The Tories opposed the introduction of the minimum wage arguing that it would destroy jobs, so, as you say, it would be impossible for them to increase it.

  4. The 3.5billion figure must be made up, that'd be well over half the ''Dole'' budget, would it not? I fail to see how workfare would get half of people of benefits.

  5. I must of missed something??? According to JCP/DWP in order to claim,I will be required to attend training or find a work placement,while I wait for this to start I will have to attend day courses,such as intensive job search ect,I have no problem with this,but what exactly was/is the purpose of the WP,were they not suppose to provide this? I remember Emma Harrison justifying her huge dividend by saying they were risking it all,by investing their own money and taking a chance on the unemployed...Not,they grabbed what they could and then cried for more.Ironically I do not attend JCP for this intensive training,rather a "different" agency in the same building as the WP provider! I smell a rat!

  6. I am sure everybody saw IDS being taken to task over UC on the news this morning,what struck me was that every question asked was answered with "I believe""He believes" "We believe" no hard figures or facts,the conclusion that "I believe" are similar to the WP/Sanction data,the figures are so bad that IDS is in serious denial and needs to seek help!

  7. I cannot think of a more incompetent gov't in my lifetime (born 1971). Just in the last few days they have been attacked over the following: Syria (were DC should have resigned, if he had any understanding of 'personal responsibility', to quote those who condemn the unemployed), the standard of living (decline in wages), benefits (failures of UC) and today we learn the teachers are to go on strike!!!

  8. Regarding UC, BBC News's website states that Liam Byrne is set to quiz Mr Duncan Smith on the NAO report in the Commons at 10.30 BST, said the timetable set out by the minister will be impossible to meet and his officials have told auditors they are reconsidering it.

  9. Re above post: 'Duncan Smith told the house that he took "full responsibility for the delivery of this [UC]. I will not shirk that,"'. Then resign. It was your 'big idea'. You drafted it, you implemented it. You would have taken FULL credit had it been successful. Instead you blame others for its impending failure and that of the WP.

    Like Cameron (see above post) you blame the unemployed and the underemployed for not taking responsibility of their actions and lives, yet here you are blaming others for your own failures.

    Like your party you are a fraud.

  10. In a debate on Jeremy Vine's R2 show he qouted that the UC system would have to cope with over 3 million possible applications and at the moment is dealing with about 1,000.


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