Why let the facts get in the way of demonising the poor?

December 17, 2012 9:12 am

Yesterday the online cheerleaders of the Tory Party were rejoicing, as Grant Shapps gave the poor a good old fashioned kicking.

The reason for celebration was an online campaign/data collection exercise launched by CCHQ designed to put the squeeze on Labour over opposition to real terms benefit cuts. It was launched in response to the campaign which we exclusively covered on LabourList last week (“The price of Tory failure”) that Labour rolled out across the country late last week, and the on the doorstep over the weekend.

On the face of it, the Shapps campaign is a smart one, driving a wedge between different groups of potential Labour voters. Except – shockingly – Internet-guru Michael Green hasn’t let the facts get in the way of a good argument. In fact, Shapps has achieved the remarkable feat of trying to divide the poor into the deserving and undeserving, the in-work and the unemployed, and then take from both.

You might say that’s the perfect encapsulation of the Tory approach to the poor. And you’d be right.

Whilst the Tory attack machine would like to pretend that Osborne’s raid on the poor is a matter of backing those in work and bashing those out of work, that’s simply not true. The majority of those hit by Osborne’s real terms cut to benefits and tax credits are in work. These aren’t “work-shy scroungers”, these are the low-paid, already struggling on a minimum wage (or marginally more) that is really poverty pay, whilst inflation makes them poorer in real terms each year. Currently we have the disgraceful farce of government subsidising employers to pay crap wages. Now Osborne wants to cut the subsidy. Merry Christmas.

And that’s those lucky enough to be in work.

What of the real scroungers? The feckless unemployed? Those with curtains closed, as Osborne might put it?

They will be hit too, of course. But this deliberate attempt to vilify them is as dishonest cruel. Because there aren’t enough jobs for the huge number of unemployed people in Britain today. Research last year suggested that the average number of applicants per job is 23. There is no pool of jobs for these people to go into. So the government hits this section of the poor with a triple whammy – lack of jobs, benefit cuts and finally, demonisation. The cherry on the unemployment cake. If they’re really lucky the government might force them to work unpaid on a scheme that actively reduces their chances of getting a job (having scrapped a youth unemployment scheme that clearly did work).

It’s enough to make you wonder if the Tories hate the unemployed. It’s certainly an impression they’re doing their best to portray.

Some will no doubt credit new Tory Chairman Grant Shapps with this latest slice class war, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this comes just weeks after David Cameron and Lynton Crosby – the men behind the 2005 Tory campaign – were reunited. Cameron wrote the manifesto that Crosby went out to sell with “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”. It went down in British campaigning history as one of the most negative General Election campaigns in modern memory.

Brace yourselves – because 2015 is going to be much, much worse.

  • billbat

    Remember that Crosby was the Mastermind who encouraged David Cameron to promise that he would publish the Tax details of his Cabinet to embarrass Ken Livingstone. It is about time that this rebounded on Cameron. Or am I the only person who remembers Honest Dave’s Pledge?

  • Michael Green

    Thanks for the heads up last week, gave me a clear run.

  • AlanGiles

    The one thing that is constant amongst all those politicians who seek to demoize the poor, especially those on unemployment and disablement benefits, is that they are – to a man and a woman – all guilty of dishonesty with their expenses and declarations on the register of members interests. Shapps is somebody else who has been found out recently.

    That old expression about stones and glass houses comes to mind.

    This rather limp campaign though should not deflect the Labour party from doing what is right and decent.

    • AlanGiles

      I meant to post this link, from the Daily Telegraph, which tells you something of the probity of Schapps alter ego “Michael Green”:-

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9588509/Company-founded-by-Grant-Shapps-to-be-investigated-by-Advertising-Standards-Agency.html

    • aracataca

      I’m not sure this is accurate-not all demonisers of the poor have been found guilty of dishonesty with regard to their parliamentary expenses.I write as someone who is wholeheartedly opposed by attempts at demonisation of this kind.

      • AlanGiles

        Well, I won’t name names again, because I have given them in the past. They cover all parties, and my feeling is that if I had done something of which I were ashamed – be that making false claims, which after all is as much theft as any other sort of taking what doesn’t belong to you, or dishonesty over intellectual property rights, I would not be comfortable talking about “benefit cheats” or the “undeserving” poor, and “casting the first stone”

        Lets just take Schapps – he seems to think there is nothing questionable about

        using a false name for business purposes. If he were claiming benefits of any sort, and he made an application under a different name, he would lay himself open to a charge of fraud.

        If you are going to make moral judgements as a politician, be it like Duncan-Smith pretending to employ his wife (when her “work” was actually done by his secretary) or Bob Blackamn, a Conservative MP who has spoken about the “sanctity of marriage” at the same time as conducting an extra-marital affair – you have to be 100% clean yourself.

        That is my view and I am afraid I will never change that principle

        • aracataca

          Yes but my point is that not every single last one of the politicians who demonise the poor has been culpable of expenses offences.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • AlanGiles

            The great majority of the “high profile” ones on both sides of the HoC certainly have – certainly the ministers. Without wishing to stir up old wounds, you have to remember that only THREE of the last governments cabinet were shown to be innocent in the expenses scandal, and three of the most high profile benefit bashers in that cabinet were guilty of the most flagrant expenses fiddling. Schapps, like Smith and Grayling are in absolutely no position to denigrate anybody.

          • aracataca

            You’ve made the move from ‘all’ to ‘The great majority’ -that’s progress.

  • NT86

    It’s times like this that even Warsi didn’t seem so bad as chairman. Shapps/Green is just a mouth breathing reactionary cut from the same venal cloth as those Tory populists and alarmists who claim to love the working poor. Not sure if the working poor reciprocate that love.

  • ToryOAP

    The trouble with you lefties is you do not know when you are on the wrong side of an argument. Brown massively excpanded welfare to build a labour-voting client state – he almost succeeded but he forgot that most welfare junkies are to thick or lazy to vote so labour lost in 2010. The conservatives are attempting to redress the balance and should be applauded for what they are doing. Shapps is showing why he was a good replacement for the piss-poor Warsi and may yet help get a Tory government elected in 2015 with a working majority – God knows if the nasty party labtard stick with Balls and Milliband it is hard to see how they can win, current polls notwithstanding.

  • aracataca

    ‘currently we have the disgraceful farce of government subsidising employers to pay crap wages. Now Osborne wants to cut the subsidy.’

    You’re completely behind the curve on this Mark. This has already happened. Many people like myself have already had their tax credits drastically reduced or stopped altogether. First priority of an incoming Labour government must be to reverse as much of this stuff as possible starting with the repeal of the catastrophic upcoming cap on Housing Benefit which will see many more families in B&B and is therefore likely to be hideously expensive as well as cruel.

  • http://twitter.com/DamianBuckley1 Damian Buckley

    Yes, the Tories hate the unemployed. It’s the main reason I could never be a Tory. In truth, there is lots of common ground between them and Labour on many other issues, but when it comes to employment, they just don’t get it. This is generally because they have never had to wrestle with serious unemployment themselves. Sure, Iain Duncan Smith has spent some time on the dole, but he was living in London and had an impressive CV behind him. It was easy for him to find another good job.

    I do not see the point of even discussing whether the unemployed are lazy until there are enough jobs to go round. When there are vacancies going unfilled we can have that conversation, but until then the only thing up for debate is how to create new jobs. With 10-20 job seekers for every vacancy, the issue of their motivation is an irrelevance.

  • kb32904

    It’s quite refreshing to see that the campaign is getting a kicking over at ConservativeHome.

  • robertcp

    The Tories might be making a very bad mistake by trying to demonise the unemployed. Millions of British people must have been unemployed at some time in their life and many of them will resent being described as skivers.

    • Dave Postles

      Remember the 80s: YOP, CP, etc. Many young people started their employed lives late because of the unemployment then. Many people of more mature years had their careers interrupted by redundancy. These people will not only have experienced unemployment, but will still be suffering the consequences trying to accumulate enough years of employed status before retirement.

    • AlanGiles

      The final 49 Comet stores close today. Many will therefore be unemployed at Xmas – I understand an investigation is to carried out into the behaviour of the company who bought it for £2 and “saved” it a year ago

      • robertcp

        I agree.

  • IAS2011

    The challenge for politicians is what are they doing to improve the social mobility of those who are disadvantaged and/or vulnerable – who cannot afford to be failed again.

    The DWP/Job centre Plus policies and processes are doing more to hinder, stagnate and stifle progress in the lives of those most vulnerable. It is clear that the Work Programme is not working, and the fact that our PM is in denial about these failings means that those desperately seeking employment have been failed again.

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