Cheap-work conservatives don’t like human rights: for the principle of human rights, universal and indivisible, stands against the cheap-work conservative need to exploit, use, and abuse everyone less wealthy than they are or than they aspire to be.
It shouldn’t surprise us that so many cheap-work conservative MPs – of all parties – made greedy use of the MP expenses system, and regarded transparency and control of the system as a new tyranny.
Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it “tyranny” if government does something for you – using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites.
We live in a country where unemployment is at 7.7% after the Department of Work and Pensions has massaged the figures to exclude unemployed people on mandatory government training schemes, and anyone sanctioned of their benefits. Foodbanks across the UK saw a surge in need during the school holidays, as families struggled to feed their children without the benefit of a free school lunch. Even by the DWP’s massaged figures, there are 2.39 millon people out of work.
A universal welfare state is the essential bedrock of a civilised country. A civilised country ensures that no one goes without healthcare because they can’t afford it, no one is treated as if worthless because they cannot work, and that anyone who loses their job needn’t fear destitution for themselves or for their family if they don’t find another job instantly. A civilised country ensures that no one needs to work when they are too young or too old or too disabled or too ill. This is not a system that can be replaced by random acts of charity: to become civilised, we pay taxes and national insurance and we all benefit.
Iain Duncan Smith became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in May 2010 – a role he has held ever since, despite efforts by David Cameron to unseat him in the 2012 reshuffle. He has virtually no further-education qualifications and spent several months on the dole after leaving the Scots Guards in the recession of 1981. But the next year he married a very wealthy woman, the daughter of a very wealthy man, and he and his wife and four children still live in a house rented from his father-in-law on his wife’s father’s estate: he became an MP in 1992, inheriting Norman Tebbit’s safe constituency of Chingford. Whatever Iain Duncan Smith’s experience of unemployment thirty-two years ago, it’s safe to say that in thirty years he hasn’t had money worries – except when he became Leader of the Opposition and it was discovered he’d given his wife one of those plum “assistant” jobs which used to be a bonus for the spouse or child of an MP.
If you’re a Conservative/LibDem supporter, this must be like watching Titanic, except that Nick Clegg and David Cameron and Ed Miliband aren’t even as appealling as DiCaprio, Winslet, and Zane. The iceberg has hit, the ship is peeling apart and sinking, and yet you know the end of the movie is ages away and already seems to have been going on for far too long.
For the rest of us, though, things as much worse than simply enduring a long, long movie in the cinema as being on the Titanic was worse than taking part in the movie.
Paul Goodman, executive editor of ConservativeHome, offers four reasons why he does not believe the Tories can win a majority in 2015.
There is really just one reason, but it’s a shattering iceberg:
Austerity: The proclaimed conviction that if only enough people are unemployed or in work but struggling on a low income, plus essential services cut to the bone and cut again, then the economy will improve.
The belief that the economy must be destroyed in order to save it is essential to Tory thinking and was adopted by the LibDems with hardly a gulp. Labour can only lose if they adopt it too.
Today, people who are sick or disabled become eligible for mandatory workfare placements.
Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, says that forcing people to work for no pay is “a very good way to increase someone’s confidence” and claimed that
“People on sickness benefits who do all they can to improve their chances of moving back into a job have nothing to worry about.
“They will get their benefits and we will do all we can to help. But in the small number of cases where people refuse to stick to their part of the bargain, it’s only right there are consequences.”
The consequences are an open-ended sanction – benefits-cut – for someone who, from the perspective of the Work Programme, has been declared fit for work but refuses to do a “work placement”. The open-ended period during which a “fit for work” client must do without benefits will end when “the claimant meets the requirements” – agrees to go work for their benefits, but the open-ended sanction is followed by “a short fixed period of 1, 2 or 4 weeks”.
So for the first week (or first four weeks) of the unpaid and indefinite work placement, the client will still have their benefits cut. After they’ve worked for a week or more for no money, they can get their benefits back – assuming they’re still alive.
Unnamed DWP spokesman:
“ESA for people who could be expected to get back into work was never intended to be a long term benefit.
“The time limit of one year strikes the best balance between recognising that some people need extra help to enter the workplace and that the taxpayer cannot afford to support people indefinitely who could return to employment.”
Marilyn Blakeman was initially told she was now permanently on incapacity benefit. But Iain Duncan Smith, proud of his ability to change people’s lives and get them off benefits, has indeed changed her life and will soon get her off benefits. Of course that would mean she’s living on nothing, but that would certainly be a life-changing experience, wouldn’t it?
Leigh Wright, of Jobcentre Plus wrote:
“You must attend and take part in work-focused interviews if you are asked to do so, to qualify for your benefit. You may also have to carry out work related activities that your adviser thinks will help you be able to return to work in the future.” If not: “Your payment can be reduced by £14.07 a week, rising to £28.15 a week after four weeks, until you comply. We call this a sanction.”
Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, Conservative MP for Fareham, announces in the Daily Telegraph that from Monday 21st October “there will be clear and escalating levels of penalties” for being poor:
For failing to do something required by a Jobcentre Plus adviser, the claimant will lose their benefits for four weeks. Every time it happens subsequently, they will lose their benefits for three months.
For the most serious rule-breaking, such as refusing to accept a reasonable job offer, or walking out of a job without good reason, they will lose their benefits for three months. If they do it a second time, they will lose their benefits for six months.
A third failure, at this level, is simply not acceptable and we will impose a three year penalty.
In 2008, fifteen Shadow ministers who are in the Cabinet today voted to cut the right to choose abortion to 22 weeks. (David Cameron: also Chris Grayling, William Hague, Philip Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Andrew Lansley, Oliver Letwin, Francis Maude, Theresa May, Patrick McLoughlin, David Mundell, Owen Paterson, and Eric Pickles.)
David Davies, Liam Fox, Damian Green, Patrick McLoughlin, Owen Paterson – in all twenty front bench Conservative MPs, including Jeremy Hunt – had earlier voted in favour of cutting the right to choose abortion to 12 weeks.
In October 2010, Jeremy Hunt was happy to “elaborate” on the role of Tory cuts in denying people on a low income support for large familes:
“The number of children that you have is a choice and what we’re saying is that if people are living on benefits, then they make choices but they also have to have responsibility for those choices,” Hunt said on Wednesday’s Newsnight. “It’s not going to be the role of the state to finance those choices.”