The DWP Press Office has been infamous for a long time. It's staffed by civil servants who are supposed to adhere to the Civil Service Code, which says that they should have "integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality". But perhaps they're working under the direction of the DWP's Director of Communications, Richard Caseby, who appears to have no such scruples (he's a former managing editor of the Sun). Back in January the Press Office put out a press release referring to "welfare hand-outs", a term the Daily Mail obligingly repeated. Then last week came this:
There was no pretence that this was anything other than straight-forward propaganda. Objective and impartial it was most certainly not. But I bet the intern (unpaid?) who gets to do the graphics has fun.
Today they attempted a rather different Twitter campaign, one which the Press Office didn't invent but which has decidedly sinister overtones. It's called "Proud to Work", and it seems to be the creation of the ERSA, the work programme providers' trade body - but clearly they are all working together with this. The DWP re-tweeted the highly dubious statement that the "Work Programme will deliver £18bn to economy". Immediately afterwards came re-tweets of stuff from Interserve, A4e and Working Links (not on this screen capture).
What I find most disturbing about this is the "proud to work" tag. It's subtle. It suggests that those who are not working are not proud, have no pride. It suggests that unemployment is voluntary, the result of lack of self-respect. Perhaps it suggests other things to you.
Is there anything that can be done about the DWP Press Office? Not at this stage in the parliament, I think. There doesn't seem to be any mechanism for opposition MPs to complain about it effectively. What it proves, however, very clearly, is that this government, and Iain Duncan Smith in particular, work closely with the right-wing press to spread lies and damaging propaganda. If they win in 2015, it will only get worse.