The new year is set to get vicious before major welfare changes in April, with plenty more to follow. The propaganda will be intense. The slurs on the vulnerable up to now were only groundwork. This piece addresses some false-holds and red herrings we’ll encounter in our stand for human dignity
Slogans and ideas have been tested for many months, using an array of special advisers and focus groups from the general public. These groups are steered by companies who could well donate and/or have close links to the Tory party. Much is run by specialists in “opinion forming” – a euphemism for mental and emotional manipulation. It’s all paid for by tax while government lectures about tax being wasted.
The cold, calculated, simplistic arguments will often be heard, word-for-word, from the mouths of everyday folk. Opposition has to be simple and emotionally appealing as well, repeated mantra-like with little deviation. Victory will be in additional rationality and humanity. Heavy economics may be best avoided if it much risks being misunderstood. If solid knowledge of economics was common we wouldn’t be in this mess, still less would our “leaders” believe half the nonsense they do.
Our audience is not the converted, or the 15 to 20-ish percent who cheer on the hate-fest (they could be a vocal opponent). It’s the large section of the public that are unsure, relative neutrals. Without direct input like ours they risk being swayed by media that’s often biased, or lazily based on “talking point” press releases from government press offices. Such pre-set agendas dominate news, phone-ins, newspaper columns, social media etc.
Whatever circumstances the lies get trotted out, we need the facts ready to deliver calmly. Such arguments are very like chess – we’ve a very good chance if we can predict moves, know responses and generally stick to our goals.
There’s probably no better “always return to” point on this issue than hungry children (Happy to be contradicted though). I’ll keep repeating it here and think we generally should.
There’s an underlying case, never put directly or even realised, that it’s “fair” and “necessary” in a leading 21st century economy for, among other things, more children to go hungry. It’s not put directly as there’s denial of the reality and it’s incongruous to anyone rational and humane.
Is the government deliberately making significant numbers of children hungry? Does it matter to the hungry child? What matters is the result of policy and that policy being deemed necessary: So it is assumed necessary for more children to go hungry.
The evidence on this suffering is easy to find, long before April: A large rise in the number of food banks; Teachers and their unions reporting that pupils are having to be fed by staff when they come in hungry; Reports from police authorities about rises in shoplifting, especially by mothers feeding their families.
It’s an emotive argument overall, but it’s true. Tory spin is only aimed at nastier emotions. Emotive is not exploitative when standing up for children.
When people don’t speak up it doesn’t mean they don’t want to, or that they don’t want others to. Talking politics is still a bit taboo to many in the UK. It’s basically a conservative (small “c”) and deferential attitude. Fear is also a big factor keeping lips buttoned, a major tool of the bully and cause of allowing horrendous things to pass.
You’d probably in a minority (though not a small one) in strongly opposing the government. You’ll be in a smaller minority when able to express it well, so there’s a need for you to do it.
Some basic facts:
- Housing Benefit (HB) will be a key battle-ground for now (a total benefit cap later will, by government reckoning, see 50,000 households lose an average of £93 a week)
- The large majority of people getting HB are in work. Government says it doesn’t have exact stats, but well over 80% of new claimants are in work and there’s detail here
This is rarely if ever mentioned. People are thus led, by general slurs on claimants, to think that most are out of work. Why might those supporting the government not know such basics? (ask them directly). Answer: Not least because Tories can’t be caught out saying they want to help those in work while hammering them. So they’d rather point the finger at those who don’t deserve it – it’s highly dishonourable.
- Those deemed to have a “spare room” (which includes many dubious definitions) will get 14% less in benefit (25% for 2 rooms)
- The Benefit goes straight to the Landlord, it doesn’t make a claimant better off (In the next couple of years it’s set to go to the claimant, but they will likely be worse off and certainly not better). Shortfall will have to come from existing benefits, which will rise less than inflation.
- Income fall effects the poor more in proportional terms (losing £20 from £100 is twice as bad proportionally than from £200)
- Food prices are rising ahead of inflation. Poor people spend a higher proportion of income on food. Cheaper foods, like basic ranges, rise by a higher % because they are less able to absorb a rise in price of grain or whatever at the farm gate.
- People on benefits will also have to pay some council tax out of existing benefits from April (% will vary, but other than pensioners close to 20% either side is in the right ballpark)
- Overall, April alone will see many individuals £20+ a week worse off (possibly more) and families worse off still.
- Poor people spend a higher proportion of their money, usually all of it, and often locally. The effect on local shops and local economy could be severe, causing more unemployment, claimants and limiting food access.Bolstered by slanted articles and sound-bites, Tory dupes may become instant self appointed experts in the field of housing. The “spare rooms” issue will be high-lighted by extreme cases with no relation to the typical instance of 1 or 2 rooms.
Did people with a “spare room” cause the economy to collapse? Will squeezing them save it?
How many affordable 1 bed flats actually exist for single people (answer: not many)
Lodgers? It may be fine for some people to take in often random lodgers, but women? Families with children?
Couples where one is ill and needs to sleep alone? – tough cheese for them. There’s many other anomalies. These people destroyed the economy too?
“We all have to do our bit though.” Vodafone? Starbucks? People with tax accountants? Iain Duncan Smith, who sponged nearly £100k off us one year on top of salary? The richest have got wealthier since the 2008 crash. It’s not all of us paying, why say it is?
“Well what would you do?” – Classic goal-post shifting, essentially a concession that we’re right while not admitting it. Perhaps address broader economics briefly, but not without clarification that government think it’s unavoidable that more children go hungry, and it’s unacceptable in 21st Century Britain. No if’s or buts required.
Attempts to blame the parents? The cuts aren’t their decision. It’s strange to act like they’re doing something we know government is doing. So why do it?
Blaming the last government? They failed in deliberately aping finance regulation philosophies of the tories, in many ways they were even laxer just to prove a point. No need to dwell on it though, we’re two and a half years into this lot now. Return to their risible stance on child hunger. Variations on “we had it too good for too long” and other blames don’t excuse that either.
If and when it sinks in that more hungry children isn’t actually “fair” and shouldn’t be necessary, don’t let a drone take the initiative. Ask how they reached a point where they argued for this policy and consequences that are as unacceptable as they are predictable. Ideally, they can come to realise they were misled and get angry enough to cause some ripples themselves.
Quite a good question at such times can be “Hang on…Do you trust the government and media?” A fake puzzled look can help. In the unlikely event that someone confesses such silliness, trust of the media is a push-over: Spying on a murdered child is a good starting point.
It’s not hard to find gross cases of government dishonesty either. Most notable for me is when Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas was caught on film (Sunday Times early last year) soliciting huge bribes to the party (£100k to 250k) in exchange for “feeding into policy” (which can easily mean “writing”). Being caught looked bad, so he stepped down. What else happened? – (Perhaps prompt a dupe to recall) – No political or criminal investigation into him, or which laws have been constructed through such misdeeds. They’re not only corrupt, they don’t do anything to stop it when they’re caught. It’s a combination of (i) Thinking there’s nothing wrong with corruption if they’re doing it, because they’re so special or just don’t care (ii) They know they’ll get away so it doesn’t matter. (ii) is very well founded to be fair, which might serve to bolster (i)
A concession of distrust in government / press may elicit a fall back to invoking personal anecdote, supposition or conjecture about folk they know of, or pretend to know of, who do nothing all day every day. The sickening, arrogant and way-out-of-depth Osborne used this cliche at party conference. Tory posters in marginal constituencies talk about those who “won’t work”. Doubtless such people do exist, but are actually pretty few. Even children know group punishment isn’t fair. What motives are there for any implication that the majority are as bad as a minority?
Are all those Housing Benefit claimants who have jobs lying on the sofa with blinds down at the same time as being at work? Is it a quantum physics thing that only Tories understand?
The 100,000s laid off in recent years: Did they go from hard-working backbone of Britain to appalling wastrels overnight?
“Better off on benefits” – Large, profiting, tax dodging companies can’t afford to pay enough to live on, so the state has to subsidise them? Or is the only option…well…we’re back to the hungry child again.
So much mention of child hunger risks a (likely ill-informed) lecture on nutrition and household budgeting. Access to fresh cheap fruit and veg is a major issue for many poor people of course. It’s worsened by vast supermarkets that can often only be got to by car. But the issue’s still basically a diversion. People struggling to get by already will be worse off by 10s of pounds a week – that matters much more when there’s not many tenners to start with. No one can be expected to get by better materially with less. It’s a maths thing.
“Leaders” making such household budget points might include Duncan-Smith. He’s invoiced us more for a single breakfast on expenses than many people spend in a week on food.
The government and their ideology are making a complete mess of budgeting at the macro level, and they’re the chuffin’ government! They’ve no place preaching on household economics.
“Sense of entitlement” / “spongers” – Osborne had a deep sense of entitlement when he flipped his home expenses, having us pay loads towards it (and a horse paddock, quite possibly fraudulently). Then he flogged it at huge personal gain (about £1/2m I think, certainly a bit more than £20 a week).
Duncan Smith’s vast expenses, including to pay his very wealthy wife to be “Diary Secretary”: Sense of entitlement.
2 wrongs don’t make a right, but most people out of work want work. We can’t act like we know they don’t. But we know that Osborne and Duncan Smith have a sense of entitlement. Why defend the accuser, known to be guilty themselves, against the accused who isn’t?
“Dependency culture” – The dependency of Tesco’s et al. on topped up low wages or workfare schemes that tackle unemployment by creating it? Dependency of banks on bailouts and Quantitative Easing? The dependency of a baby on food? Which is more costly, which the more necessary?
The more I try to understand minds in government the harder it is to avoid thinking they lack qualities often assumed to be central to humanity. More forgivingly, many Tories really have little or no experience of anything approaching poverty, though they may not bother to think about it much.
Yet their mouthpiece at our workplace, schoolgate or pub has more cause to be annoyed. The working poor and middle class are being screwed too. There’s more to screwed out of them and they lack tax accountants and expense claims. It’s common to think someone “beneath” them should also suffer. But it shouldn’t sink to arguing that more children have to be hungry. It’s more justified and sensible to think of the guy at the top who has run off with a huge amount of money.
Circumstances depend, but it’s often better not to treat such folk like Satan’s spawn, or even as if they believe what they’re saying. Those beneath the upper tiers who fall for “Divide & Rule” are being made fools of, better to sensitively draw their attention to it.
The shit is hitting the fan, but it’s very possible to discredit the warped ideology and bogus “facts”. I’ll be posting more background, contacts, groups and ideas on welfare “reform” soon. Lets get our act sorted and stand up to the bullies together!
Thanks for reading.