Category Archives: Poverty

Coalition: Arbeit macht frei and the Deserving Poor


It is sometimes necessary to shock to reveal an underlying truth. The title of this post is a well-known slogan above the entrance to the Auschwwitz concentration camp which in English means ‘labour makes you free’. In England next week the Coalition government is to give us, in the form of changes to the welfare system, an English version of an underlying truth. To draw the parallel closer I should really use the slogan about the Buchenwald concentration camp: Jadem das Seine( idomatically, everyone gets what they deserve).

Next week several hundreds of the poorest and most vulnerable families in England are to be faced with reductions in their welfare benefits. The Labour Party (admittedly a partisan source) has calculated that these families will lose some £800 over a year. At the same time anumber of members of the Cioalition Government will receice tax cuts worth £100,OOO a year.I am reliably infromed that these unknown members of our government deserve every penny of their tax cut. No dodgers there then.

It is sometimes supposed that the use of the term ‘deserving poor’ was invented in Germany. Not so, it was invented here and brought into law by several Poor Laws in Elizabethan times. I have had the opportunity to study the implementation of these Acts in Colchester, Essex (now represented by a Lib Dem MP.) The poor laws were administered by the local parish churches. Abandoned children and the unemployed on the street corners were brought under the direction of the Parish. Here they were expected to work and at 14 aid ceased although some Parishes provided apprenticeships (ring any bells now?). In some of these parishes the beneficiaries were made to carry a large red letter P on their outer garments to denote that they were recipients of care. Naturally like the Jews in Berlin in the 1930’s with their yellow labels these children were fair game for any spare abuse going on at the time. A sort of badge of shame.

It is said to us by the Coalition that only the deserving poor are worth helping and that there are a lot of scroungers, the undeserving poor, who don’t deserve to receive any benefits whatsoever. For them it is Jadem das Seine or idiomatically, ‘get a job you lousy scrounger). I wonder does the Coalition have any ideas for the introduction of a badge. Let me know dear readers if you know something.

Now of course there are many recipients of welfare who are working but they too are thought undeserving. They will continue to suffer a cut in their wages in real terms because of high inflation and many millions of people are not being paid a living wage but in some mysterious way they remain undeserving. Tough luck, I hear you say plenty of good jobs in the City of London and anyway some of them are Romanian immigrants taking advantage of our low wages.

If you think I am exagerating? I suggest you direct your letter of protest to George Osborne or Nick Clegg. But if as I suspect you are a member of the undeserving poor be careful in the language you use. These public school boys know how to defend each other.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Benefits, Cabinet, Cameron, Child poverty, Coalition Government, Disabled, Germany, Ian Duncan Smith, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Politics, Poverty, Social justice, Unemployment

The Universal Benefits Sham


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today in such vast numbers. This is a big stadium but not big enough to accommodate the numbers clambering to come in. I want everyone to come in, to join in a scheme to get people into the world of work. To get you into work, no less. Some will say slaving away in a soul-destroying  job for a miserable wage is no way to live a life. I profoundly disagree. I am not the first person to say this: but never mind the slavery of it,  work will save you and advance the best and true interests of you and your family.

Some will say, ‘I should talk. Born with a silver spoon and a comfortable home life.’ I have to tell you that my life has not been a bowl of cherries. Far from it. My parents insisted I do my homework every night before the computer games. There was voluntary work in the Army Cadet Force and the Boy Scouts and an anxious period of seven days before uncle Jack gave me my first job.

Here I am going to say something difficult for you all. There is not enough money to go round. People like me are tired of having to support you all through the payment of high  taxes, You must do more to help yourselves. The way to do this is to get a job. Vast numbers of you have given up on work. Pull yourself together. There are jobs out there  waiting for you. You may not wish to do them BUT you must. There is no more money to keep you in fags and beer.

Now I am here to help. Before I came into this stadium I persuaded some corporate friends of mine to create some jobs. There are 167 of these jobs. As you came into the stadium you received a numbered ticket. These tickets are to be chosen at random and 167 of you will be offered a job. I cannot say where or what these jobs are. You may have to move home, retrain, go back to school to take advantage of them BUT they are jobs. No don’t thank me. It’s the least I can do.

I know some of you, despite government payouts, are hungry. Don’t despair. There are 21 exits to this stadium. At each of these will be an official with a basket containing loaves, fish and chocolate, They will give you something as you go out. It may seem to you that this is not much given your circumstances. But is not a portion of bread, a small fish and a tomato better than nothing at all? I believe in miracles. I think you will find that the food is enough for you all. And good luck with the job lottery. You deserve a little luck. Go quietly now and in an orderly manner. Britain is not North Africa and will never be so while  I am at the helm of the ship of state. (Cheers and some boos. It starts to rain.) Well that turned out well.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Disabled, Eton, George Osborne, Guardian, Housing Benefit, Ian Duncan Smith, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Nick Clegg, Politics, Poverty, Schools, Treasury, Universal benefits

A Very English Revolution


In England we do not do Revolutions. They are for foreign countries denied freedom of expression and parliamentary government. Is that right? It seems so but the belief in social cohesion and solidarity of purpose is about to be tested. Our beliefs may turn out to be illusory. In 2011/2 real incomes are likely to fall at a faster pace than at any time since the 1920’s a decade followed by slow growth and high unemployment. At that time we took it all very meekly. Then, as now, some thirty percent of the population was doing very nicely. They were in employment and enjoying steady increases in real wages. Unemployment and poverty was concentrated in foreign places: Scotland, Wales and the frozen North. Of course, the unemployed protested, but in a orderly fashion: hunger marches, dole queues and long lines of working people not at all like us. Men, and families, to be pitied, consciences to be stirred,  but largely to be forgotten on golf courses and at bridge parties.

Over the last two years citizens, you know the ordinary folk who pay the wages of the political elites, have wondered whether ‘that lot’ at Westminster are really representing us at all. While hardly anyone wishes to resurrect class war, many people must wonder whether these Old Etonians with their posh accents and monied interests really ‘get us’ the people. Do we wish to pass back to a Victorian condition of poor public sevices and a Samuel Smiles concept of self help and charity to all (sorry some, the deserving poor). 

Well, what can we do about it? Those who object We could start by admitting to ourselves that we are responsible. We allowed this lot to gang up against us, cobble together an agreement that no one voted for, and are busy changing the rules so that it is extremely difficult to get rid of a government in the short term.

I can hear some of my readers objections at this point. Come on now, they say, this is a parody of the truth. Every citizen knows that the huge public deficit must be reduced and the sooner the better. Personally I agree: drastic problems require drastic remedies. But just suppose that the economic strategy being imposed upon us is wrong. It doesn’t work. What if we are destroying a valued social structure and welfare state for nothing? What then? Why, you say, in all reasonableness . if we are proceeding for the rocks we can change course Can we? Boy George and our Dave say. ‘Not on your Nellie’, or words to that effect, Like the Blessed Margaret before them these Old Etonians warming themselves in the last rays of an   August sunset across their playing fields are not for turning.

Well Boys, then we must get rid of you by the means at our disposal. They know it, you can see it in their faces. and the panic measures they advance. Can we the people do it? Can we the people save ourselves? I don’t know. But I do pose the question

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Coalition Government, Commons, Conservative Home, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband, Eton, George Osborne, Guardian, House of Lords, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics, Poverty, Public schools, Revolution, Take Back Parliament, Treasury, Unemployment, Vince Cable

The Use and Abuse of Statistics


There are maxims worth following whenever a politician makes use of statistics. In particular, in whose interest are the statistics prepared and published and are they being interpreted acurately and fairly. Let us consider the thorny issue of the effect on families in Greater London of ceilings and cuts in Housing Benefit. According to Government statistics,  and let us say they are right, there are 17,500 families and some 82,000 people. The London Boroughs speaking collectively are preparing plans for what to do if all these people could not pay higher rents, could not make other provision and were therefore forced to move.

Ask some questions:

1. Would all these tenants be forced to move? No, but no one has bothered to find out. Come on Government,  survey them first and give us the answer. 2. What proportion of these tenants are short stay anyway with agreements running up to 3 years.? Up to 40 percent of landlords, according to the Landlords Association but they would say this wouldn’t they. 3. Up to 30 percent of landlords according to the Landlord’s Association  They don’t tell us by how much. There are other estimates ranging fr0m 30-50 percent some of which come from Tory Councils. They would say this wouldn’t they. 3. Some of these tenants might be given social housing by their Councils. Source Tory Westminster Council. What is the current waiting list? Not given. It must be lengthy, say up to ten years. No chance. 5. Not to worry anyway the Government has put aside £130 million to mitigate hardship. Sounds a lot. Let’s say every family affected was a hardship case. If this was true 17,500 familes  would each get £742 pounds. Enough to pay 2 weeks rent. Whacko.  Lets be fair. Reduce the number forced to move by 20 percent as a result of lower rents that they could afford, and a further 20 percent for their own ingenuity, and ten percent for short term rentals and a willingness to move on. (Statistical point. These percentages are not additive) and we might say that 50 percent of families, 8,750,   will have to leave their homes  and most will go into boarding accommodation on the South Coast. 5.. At what cost? Not known.  Leaving this aside the Government could give the families concerned and the Councils bearing the cost £130 miillion towards the cost of this, that is £1,484. How long would this last? Are there jobs for them in places like Hastings with very high rates of unemployment? I have not seen any figures. Come on you Council’s, tell us.

You might say that the Coalition Government, in the interest of transparent administration should tell us. If Labour MPs were smart enough they could ask the Parliamentary questions that would give us all the answers. Come on you Labour MPs and Labour C0uncillors. Do your job.

2

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Disability Allownce, Economics, George Osborne, Guardian, Housin in London, Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem MPs, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics, Poverty, Spending Review, Statistics, Treasury, Unemployment

English Gulags


In giving you the contents of a forthcoming Ministerial speech I shall start with a Jewish joke. A man is seeking a new suit and a friend recommends a bespoke tailor. Good morning, sir, he was greeted, welcome. As you can see we specialise in grey suits. I want a blue suit was the  customer response. No problem, sir, just one minute while I change the bulb. The moral being one size (colour)  does  fit all.

I am hurt by the suggestion that the Coalition Government’s Benefit proposals will lead to the creation of areas of the country that will be dubbed Gulags. As you know, we have suggested a single  Universal  Benefit,  including a range of separate Benefits at present, and in particular Housing Benefit,  and its capping at no more than the average wage. It has been said that in areas with high rents, for example Greater London but many other areas as well,   rents are so high that families on Benefit will not be able to live the area at all. (Someone mutters from the audience, The Law of Unintended Consequences).

Perhaps this will happen. I am not saying nay or yea. But if it does will this be a bad thing? Do you think the posh people of Kensington wish to have a substantial number of poor people in their streets. Be reasonable, would you like it? If these people move to an area with others of their kind, will they not be happier. Of course they will. In these areas there will be plenty of Council Houses and we shall help the local authorities to build new low cost homes so that other poor people can move in. You cannot say that this policy will be partisan because although the high cost areas will continue to elect Tories there is a good chance that these new Gulags we are creating will elect Socialists. This construction activity will create jobs. With a bit of luck we can attract charitable funds.

What I wish to convey to you is that when considered in the round the scheme will save huge sums of public money. And we shall not be mean about this. Families migrating to a Gulag will travel in special trains. We shall provide the name tags and the lunch boxes. People will be very, very happy. Why shouldn’t they be?

You may think this post of mine  a nonsense. Hold on. Think a bit. Ken Clarke’s prison reforms will create a new class of voluntary labour. If you live in a Gulag  without a prison let me know. We can get one shifted to your town  and your community will benefit.

Do you get the message? With a little ‘here’s your uncle’ one size can suit all the poor deserving or otherwise. Cut the deficit, we are all in this together, hurrah for the Big Society.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Gulags, Housing Benefit, Ken Clarke, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Politics, Poverty, Prisons

Austerity Without Impoverishment?


The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Few doubt the sincerity of Lib Dem members of the Government: they do genuinely wish to be fair and to reduce  poverty, especially among children but outcomes depend on the implementation of the right policies not Conference resolutions. These thoughts are prompted by a report of the Institute For Fiscal Studies (IFS) which concludes that as a result of fiscal measures take by the Coalition todate the poorest families will lose five times as much as richer childless families, as a percentage of their annual income,  over the next four years.

The debate about this  will need to address a central dilemma, The question is:  when real incomes fall, as they will over the next four years, can you protect the poor and vulnerable? No, you can’t. The popular ditty is right: ‘the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.’ But you can alleviate the impact of fiscal constriction. The burden of cuts cannot all be borne by the public sector for poor people are more dependant on them and the incidence of tax increases must not fall unfairly on the poor. The case against the VAT increase, despite the increasingly sophisticated reasoning in its favour, is a case in point.

The Lib Dems cannot prevent unfairness by talking the talk. The truth is that they have sold out. They are committed to support Tory policies to eliminate the budget deficit in four years and mainly by swinging cuts in public services. You can’t help the poor by contracting the economy, reducing their chances of a job, and  slowing the growth of national income. Chickens will come home to roost. If you are patient and wait a short time you will see them return.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alan Budd, BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Child poverty, Coalition Government, Financial Times, Guardian, IFS, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Parliament, Politics, Poverty, Social justice, Statistics, Treasury

Con Perestroika!


I am informed, reliably or not, that the Con leadership held an emergency session in Padstow early this evening without the presence of George Osborne who was busy speechifying in London. This is what our Dave is alleged to have said.

I have become concerned over recent days that the concept of the Big Society has become difficult to sell to the electorate. It has been suggested that I think of a rebranding, not abandoning the idea you know,  but giving it a new dimension. Cleggie, who is fertile in these marketing matters, has suggested what I think to be a powerful  new dimension which could be added to our message. As you know, he is hot on historical  matters and, in particular,  modern Russian history. He has suggested that we use a new slogan, that we should rename our message – wait for it and don’t smirk at the back- the British Perestroika. He is quite right on the similarities: the old Communist brand of socialism had come to an end in 1989, the people wished to cast aside  the centrally directed and collective dictatorship of an overbearing state, there was a need to end corrupt government and reform the electoral system, there were popular demands to  end  a ruinouus Afghan war, the economy had collapsed, inflation was out of control,  whole areas and regions of the State sought independance from Moscow . Ring any bells. Oh yes, and the maintenance of a large army, an independent nuclear arsenal of weapons,  and attempts to boss large parts of the world needed to be abandoned.  (By the way before I forget it I have suggested that Liam think twice before sacking any Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals at the moment. We don’t wish to encourage military unrest at this time, if you get my drift.I have always loved boats.)  And remember, Perestroika, the demand to reorganise a whole political system, did succeed in the end. Admittedly after a period of confusion and abject poverty but as George was saying today in a few years time we shall all feel better about these regretable hardships. As Margaret was apt to say this misery is a price worth paying.

I’m sorry I did not quite hear you. Yes, that distinguished looking person with the moustache, on my right. Wall, you say, we don’t have a Berlin wall to pull down. Good observation. I get reports, for all I know you get them too, that our party position has become desperate in Scotland. I have been told that we are likely to be wiped out entirely in the Scottish Assembly elections next May. It would of course, be a disaster for the Union. We do have a wall. It isn’t necessary to invent one. Hadrians Wall. We could pull it down as a gesture to the Scots. No more Imperial British power or painful memories  of past hostilities. We, the Brits and the Scots are in this together as friends and allies. We wish you to share our misery and our hopes for a better future. We are all in this together.

(The meeting broke up in confusion).

Leave a comment

Filed under Afghanistan, BBC, Berlin Wall, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, George Osborne, Gorbachov, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, Nick Clegg, Politics, Poverty, Russia, Scotland, Scottish Assembly, Thatcher

Poverty: a checklist approach


I think I must tell you once again that these posts of mine should  not be treated seriously but as fun. In my humble opinion there is too little fun in the world today and even a  chuckle is worthwhile.

Charlie. Thank you for coming along today, Dave,  and for your willingness to discuss your policies for reducing poverty in Britain. Dave. Not at all, Charlie, isn’t it?  The pleasure is mine Charlie. Could we start Dave by a definition? Poverty is usually defined as the difference in income between the poorest in society and those on average incomes. Is that how you define it? No. I prefer to think of poverty as people having too little income. We all know when we are short of a quid. Really Dave. Would a millionaire short of a few quid for buying the latest Ferrari be thought of as poor by you? Well he might be Charlie. he might be. He could be down on his uppers so to speak. I prefer not to concern myself with definitions. You might not be able to define an elephant but if one were to burst into this room we would certainly recognise it. Wouldn’t we? Early in my life I adopted a simple but effective way of dealing with problems. I put down all the factors involved in considering one and then I attempt to deal with them, factor by factor, one by one. For example, let’s take poverty. I write down: low intelligence; grotty home with inadequate parents, probably not working but living off benefits; poor schooling; heavy drinking; takes drugs; self-deluded about suffering incapacity; being a woman. I know that if I can help these inadequate individuals get into work all will be well. Dave, my dear chap that would be quite a programme and given the background of a recession and fewer jobs  do you really think  that  much can be done in the way you indicate, and even if you had some success,  wouldn’t it still be true that the unacceptable gap between the incomes of the poorest and those on  average incomes  would still remain? Charlie, Charlie, there you go again! Definitions, you are stuck with definitions. Can we help the poorest, of course we can. One to one is the answer. We send an experienced volunteer to their house and chat with them over a cup of tea. We identify the problems and help these unfortunates deal with them. The world is stuffed full of criminologists and sociologists, Charlie, every kind of ologist really, and a fat lot of good they ever do for the needy. Volunteers and more volunteers, that’s what’s needed. Will this be enough Dave, I don’t see how it can be? You need faith Charlie. The old ways have been broken. We can protect the very poorest but, as for the rest,  the way ahead is clear for them. Get fit, get rid of that hangover, keep off the pills and do not rely on the social for it won’t be there for you if you are a slacker, or benefit cheat. Get yourself a job. And if that turns out to be difficult, why not think of volunteering. After all who knows more about drug addiction than an addict? Common sense really, Charlie, have faith in your fellow human beings.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Disabled, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, Politics, Poverty, Schools, Treasury, Volunteers