Thursday, 13 December 2012
Skivers and shirkers
Workers or shirkers and strivers and skivers. The Chancellor would have us believe that the nation can be divided into these simple categories. Oh, if life was only so simple.
With the help of his chums in the right wing press everyone claiming any benefit of any kind falls into the category of a shirker or a skiver. Those of us who don’t are obviously strivers.
Its the resurrection in modern parlance of the deserving and undeserving poor. The only difference is the “deserving” poor are also being hard hit by the Chancellor and his cuts.
The sad thing is that after years of stigmatising benefit claimants as cheats, layabouts and work shy, a large swathe of the country has swallowed the line.
Because mud sticks, political capital can be made of it. And this is precisely what the Chancellor is setting out to do.
In the new year the government will introduce a welfare uprating bill. Why precisely such a bill is needed has never being explained. Cuts in welfare payments of every kind can happen under current legislation. There is no practical need for the bill.
But young George’s cunning little plan, in introducing the bill, is to wrong foot Labour. To paint them as being the friends of the skivers and the shirkers and by implication against the honest working man and women.
Politics has come to a sorry state that political advantage can be made by hitting the poor and disadvantaged.
So a bill is about to be introduced, not to make law but to discomfort the Leader of the Opposition. So if Miliband stands up for the claimants he can be branded the friend of the skivers and the feckless. What a victory for the government.
The fact that the income of the country’s poorest people will be cut for the first time in over 80 years is not a cause of concern but a cause for gloating and party politics.
Even people in his own party want Miliband to go along with Osborne’s nasty little plan. Jacqui Smith, the former disgraced Home Secretary, commenting on an article in last Sunday’s “Observer” said “Within the article a ‘senior Labour figure’ suggested that there was a ‘caucus of “new Labour” figures believing it will be politically suicidal to leave the party open to charges that it sides with ‘scroungers’ and is in denial over the need to cut the benefits bill’. I’m sure this wasn’t meant as a good thing by the ‘senior Labour figure’, but frankly you can count me into this ‘caucus’.”
If Labour’s Miliband don’t stand-up for those affected, who will? If Mr Cameron wishes to turn his back on the social justice agenda he set himself when Leader of the Opposition it doesn’t mean that the current one should.
The facts are that the cuts fall more on those in work than those out of work. Many of those in work get paid so little, not even a living wage. Instead of the employers paying, working tax credit pays. To the tune of billions of pounds. So cuts to these will affect the “workers” and the “strivers.”
In his autumn statement the Chancellor declared his intention of breaking the historic link between the cost of renting and housing benefits. After next April’s 2..2% increase it will be capped at 1% in subsequent years.
One in five households rely on housing benefits to keep them in homes and 87% of these are low and middle income families and pensioners. Neither “skivers” nor “shrikers.”
The truth is that many need the State’s help to make ends meet. The low paid economy that is the Britain of today makes life a struggle to many. Cutting their living standards further will push many more to the food banks and the soup kitchen’s and the homeless charities.
Can such a society be described as civilised? Miliband should stand his ground both to government and those throwbacks from New Labour that are urging him to turn his back on those in real need.