Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Set-about the lay-abouts

There's a reason the most vulnerable in society get picked on the most - they find it hardest to fight back. If you went round trying to bully hardened wrestlers renown for their robust attitude to living you may well gain the moral support of pip squeaks everywhere, but they are unlikely to step in to defend you when the upper cuts and Half Nelsons begin to rain down on you.

For a political party it means that if your going to start abusing people, and threatening their quality of life, don't pick on potential donors like Richard Branson, you need to get tough on the weak. Just look at David Cameron, if you can bear it, he has announced today he's going to get tough on the long term unemployed. He's going to give them a good thwack, take away their lunch money and then probably finish it all off with a Chinese Burn (like the one he's about to give the puppy, pictured right).

The donations keep rolling in, the work shy layabouts try to piece together half a Kleenex with which to wipe their snotty noses and the world is as it should be. Etonian's on the top looking down with disdain upon the huddle masses.

So one thing he's come up with is if someone who's on the dole finds a temporary job they should turn it down because it's going to threaten their ability to get benefits once the job is over. Under Dave's bright idea when you went back to sign on again your "track record" will be reassessed and the fact that you've only had that job for a short time will be held against you. Far better just to stay where you are frankly.

Then what happens if you refuse a "reasonable" job offer? Well you could lose the entitlement to benefits for up to three years. It's as if they *want* people to take to crime or bottom out into suicide. Does Cameron understand at all that unemployment benefits are there to protect society from the poor, not as a little present for being out of work. The social consequences of cutting off all welfare payments to those with or without families to support would catastrophic.

Another scheme, akin to his previous wheeze (which he seems to have forgotten all about once the headline had faded from memory) of introducing national service, he wants people to be forced into schemes to conduct "amenity work in the areas where they live". Whether this involves wearing an orange jumpsuit with the word "lazy chav scum" emblazoned on the back we are yet to learn as Mr Cameron says this will be "down to the companies running the schemes".

Another thing we could do is put those without work in detention forcing them to spend most of the week in hellish, demoralising, "back to work centres" designed to crush your spirits and ingrain into you the idea that you are an utter failure. These centres will be cut price holding pens with no realistic strategy of getting people decent jobs, particularly if these jobs do not exist.

One of the reasons they dropped making the unemployed come in everyday in the thirties was it meant the jobless could get together and organise, which brought them into contact with subversive ideas - whether this scheme would automatically see the reinvention of the National Unemployed Workers Movement or not I don't know and I'd rather not find out frankly, despite its heroic history.

Dave then realised that he hadn't picked on the sick yet, and they're much more open to attack than the unemployed after all. So in he comes with "Are we really saying there are half a million people in this country under 35 who are simply too ill to work? I don't think that's right." Promising to reduce the number of people claiming incapacity benefit, sending a tiny chill of fear down half a million backs simultaneously.

Considering the last Tory government encouraged people to go onto incapacity purely to bring down the unemployment figures he might have a point - but let's face it he's not interested in people's ability to work, he's only interested in the bill - because every penny spent on the poor is not being spent on his Bollinger swilling chums.

The last Tory government came in (I know this was 1979 but stay with me for moment) making great claims about the fact they were going to get tough on the jobless and that they'd bring the unemployment figures down. The result? Some of the most severe and prolonged unemployment in this country's history. It takes more than a sound bite and waving a big stick to solve economic problems, particularly when they turn into social ones.


Charlie Marks said...

Excellent post, the best I've read on this issue.

The lovely thing about Camoron's response to critical questioning is that he can say "oh, look there are plenty of jobs for those EU migrants" ignoring the fact that this does not occur in those high-unemployment areas (i.e. de-industrialised in the 80s) but he can't respond by saying (as most Tories would expect) that there would be limits on EU migration - he accepts the free movement of labour within the EU.

So, while this might appeal to the Tory base, it might not convince them.

Anonymous said...

The other group who get picked on are poor whites. There's a lot talked about the needs of black and asian people in inner cities, but the point about those groups is not their ethnicity but their poverty. There are poor whites too, in just as bad a situation, but instead of supporting them, even the left use words like 'chav' - when they would not dream of using words like 'p*ki' - and are inclined leave them to rot.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I'm finding it hard enough on benefits as it is. You virtually get shovelled into temporary or agency work.

Jim Jepps said...

Thanks Charlie

Chris: if your point is that the main dividing line in Britiain today is welath not race then I agree with you

LWC: I agree - but Cameron's proposing making you worry about getting that temporary job at the same time as being forced into it

Unknown said...

This reminds me of those forced labour camps set up in the 1930s, run by military squirearchy I think. Something rubbed out of official memory - I was quite shocked when I came across an old Left Book Club book about them with photos. There was something on them in the late 1960s I think, but maybe Cameron figures its safe to bring back the idea. I note the mention of companies that would run these schemes - another little racket like the private prisons and detention centres. Chain gangs next?
Simple question - if it is OK to spend money to create work, why not enable councils to expand services and revive direct works departments which would also provide apprenticeships? Because New Labour's job has been to drive such simple reformist measures out of consideration and beyond the pale, and soften us up for more attacks by both themselves and the Tories.

peter said...

Charlie Marks:
You said, "Cameron can say "oh, look there are plenty of jobs for those EU migrants" ignoring the fact that this does not occur in those high-unemployment areas"

Are you sure this is right?

I know it's difficult to get a picture of where new EU migrants are settling but, anecdotally, there are many Poles in places like Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, Blackpool, Bradford...
- places which have high levels of unemployment.

Jim Jepps said...

peter, as you say it's difficult to get a precise picture but intuitively it doesn't seem to make sense to go to a country to work and settle in a high unemployment area.

Cambridge, for instance, is far from a black spot and has a very large number of eastern europeans, and the shops are full of their lovely brands (like Lech)

The only exception to this might be where workers are taking jobs that pay less than benefits (like some rural jobs) as they're willing to work for a salary that no one should have to put up with.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I've just come to your blog for the first time via the Britblogs. TY this is an excellent post. Bendy Girl

John Mullen said...

Can half nelsons rain?
Don't you hate bloggers who only comment on insignificant details ?

Jim Jepps said...

John - I recognise your pedantry and salute it! You have no idea how long it took me to find that inadequate phrase.

bendy: thanks for visiting - please do come again