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


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.

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