Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Slavery’

Private Eye Photo Lampooning Ian Duncan Smith

February 29, 2016

IDS Photo

I found this old photo of IDS in Private Eye’s issue for 26th June to 8th August 2003. This was the time when IDS, the William Wilberforce de nos jours, was the leader of the Tory party. I thought I’d include it just remind people what a failure he was then.

If you can’t read it, the speech bubble reads, ‘Oh no – I can’t even beat these eggs!’

Unfortunately, the man, who fancies himself the equal of the great anti-slavery campaigner, has gone from trying to beat eggs to beating humans – the sick, the unemployed, and the disabled, driving them to death and despair with the benefit sanctions he believes, but can’t dare prove, are making them fit to work.

He’s a failure, his policies are failures, and its a tragedy and disgrace that he and the rest of the government are in power.

The Principle of Less Eligibility in the Words of the Poor Law Commissioners

February 15, 2016

Bloggers such the Angry Yorkshireman, Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void and very many others have pointed out that the dominant ideology behind the Tory cuts is essentially the principle of less eligibility. This was the idea behind the New Poor Law, which saw the creation of workhouses across the UK, in which the poor were incarcerated. Conditions were made so unpleasant in order to deter what would be known now as ‘welfare dependency’. They were to stop people entering them unless they were in absolutely dire need.

I found this statement of the principle from one of the 1832 commissioners responsible for the ‘New Bastilles’ in Pat Young’s Mastering Social Welfare (Basingstoke: MacMillan 1989).

Every penny bestowed, that tends to render the condition of the pauper more eligible than that of the independent labourer, is a bounty on indolence and vice. But once the condition of the pauper is made more uncomfortable than that of the independent labourer then new life, new energy, is infused into the constitution of the pauper; he is aroused like one from sleep, his relation with his neighbours high and low is changed; he surveys his former employers with new eyes. He begs a job – he will not take a denial, he discovers that everyone wants something done. (p. 71).

This was the principle that saw families split up, husbands separated from wives, and punished if they even kissed each other in the morning. And it resulted in terrible suffering and hunger, such as the scandal which erupted when the inmates in one workhouse were found to be so starving that they were eating the marrow from the bones they were supposed to be cutting for fertiliser.

It’s the principle that Maggie espoused in her wretched ‘Victorian Values’, or as she called them, ‘Victorian Virtues’. It’s the appalling system of values that has seen 590 people die in despair, neglect, starvation and through their own hand, and 290,000 suffer mental problems, through benefit sanctions and the stress of the odious ‘work capability’ tests.

It’s also interesting that tonight, on the regional current affairs programme for the Bristol area, Close Up West, that they mentioned self-reliance as a factor in the high rate of male suicide. Suicide is the leading killer of men under 50. Five times more men commit suicide than women. In Bristol the rate is even higher: it’s six times more. The hospitals in Bristol and Bristol uni are taking steps to counter and treat this. Among the factors cited for the high suicide in my fair city by one of the female doctors interviewed was the current economic climate. Joblessness, and immense debt incurring while studying, which also didn’t give you a job after you graduated, were important factors. Women were better able to cope because they were more open and had more ‘networks of support’, in the sense of sympathetic friends. Men suffered because they tended not to go to the doctor. And part of this was the need to be self-reliant. If you’re a bloke, you can’t be so ready to be weak, or seen as weak and unable to cope. And so it destroys those who need help, and can’t cope. Like one in four British citizens in their lifetime.

The Victorians had a lot of virtues. They were clever, inventive, worked hard, and at their very best had a very strong sense of moral responsibility and social consciousness. Among the men and women, who campaigned against slavery, were people who lived, worked and worshipped with the people they were sworn to champion, and they suffered from it at the hands of the bigoted and privileged. Marxism as a political theory is deeply flawed, but Marx himself was fired by a genuine, burning outrage at the poverty and squalor he saw around him. As were F.D. Maurice and many of the Christian Socialists he disparaged. But ‘less eligibility’ is a vile doctrine, that should have gone out along with the Poor Law and the Workhouse. It should have no place in the 21st century.

Words from the Southern US to Describe Ian Duncan Smith

February 3, 2016

ids-slug1

I’ve been going through dictionaries of slang, turning up words and turns of phrase that describe the current head of the DWP, and minister in charge of culling the unemployed, sick and disabled. One of them is ‘Gentleman Ranker’, a 19th century term which described a broken gentleman, who was forced to serve as a private soldier. One of the rumours going around about IDS is that, contrary to his claim to have been an army major, he flunked the course at Sandhurst and was R.T.U.’ed – returned to unit. IDS certainly has pretensions to gentility, and so the term suits him admirably. And looking through You All Spoken Here, a compendium of words and phrases from the southern US, I found a few more terms that could be imported over here to describe this least honourable of Honourable Gentlemen. These are:

‘Coattail politician: One who depends on the favour of a more successful political figure.’ IDS has been an abject failure on his own. His stint as leader of the Tory party was a disaster, as has been his management of the DWP. He is massively incompetent, and his big idea – the consolidation of all the various welfare benefits into a single, Universal Credit, has been marked since its inception with massive cost overruns and postponements. It seems to me that he owes his whole position in the cabinet to his vocal support for David Cameron. And it seems to me that it is only Cameron’s power that’s keeping him there.

‘Snollygoster’: The book defines this as

A tadpole; a pretentious boaster; a political shyster. The Dictionary of Americanisms quotes “a Georgia editor” as defining snollygoster as “a pretentious boaster” and a “fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform or principle, and who, whenever he wins, gets there by the sheer force of monumental talknophical assumnacy.”

Whatever “talknophical assumnacy” is, deponent knoweth not. But we know the editor quoted was Colonel H.W.J. Ham. He was great shakes as a platform speaker, circa 1890, and on the northern lecture circuit was known as “the Cracker Chaucer.”

The Colonel’s son, Walter Ham, said his father applied the snollygoster tag to “a fellow who is continually side-wiping around after a little office which he can’t get, and which ain’t got sense enough to fill even if he could get it.”

President Harry S. Truman, in his whistle-stop campaign in 1952, renewed interest in the term. This when he applied it to “a group of Republican obstructionists – men of little minds and mean aspirations – who have put party above country and have worked for votes instead of peace.” “Republican snollygosters,” he called them.

The article ends by stating that the term originated as a colloquial word in the south for a tadpole.

It also fairly accurately describes IDS. He is indeed a vain boaster. He claimed that his benefit reforms would end poverty, and likened himself to the great anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce. He has also claimed to have a degree from an Italian college or university, even though that particular institution doesn’t issue first degrees. His management of the DWP is massively incompetent, and he seems to have zero scruples whatsoever.

He and Cameron won their first campaign going round slum estates and expressing concern about poverty in Britain. The book, Red Tory, by Cameron’s political mentor, Andrew Blond, made Cameron’s Conservatism seem more left-wing than Blair’s Labour administration. Once actually in power, of course, the mask came off, and it was back to privatisation, stringent welfare cuts, and the demonization of the poor, the underprivileged, the unemployed and the disabled as usual. Cameron also declared that his ‘would be the greenest government ever’. That also went by the board very quickly. Once in office, Cameron ditched the windmill he’d put over his front door, and set about passing laws to allow fracking, build nuclear power stations and generally set about avoiding any kind of environmental regulations. And now he and Osbo have decided to cut the subsidies for renewables. And despite Osborne’s statement that all this austerity and hardship is to cut the deficit, it’s actually gone up under the Tories. So in that respect, just about the entire Tory front bench are snollygosters.

It’s time to call them what they are, and throw them out of government for good.