Posts Tagged ‘‘Victorian Values’’

Westminster Council Goes 16th Century on the Homeless

January 15, 2017

Mike also put up a post yesterday reporting that Westminster council has decided on another authoritarian way of dealing with homelessness. They’re going to round them up and send them to other councils outside the borough from January 30th. The council’s excuse for this disgraceful policy is that it’s to combat the high cost of temporary accommodation. Mike points out that the reality is that it’s simply more social cleansing from a Tory-run council, whose leaders want to take as much as possible for themselves while giving little to others. Mike also makes the point that the real way to tackle homelessness is to make sure people are able to keep their homes, and states that it’s a miracle that anyone is there to do the cooking, cleaning and other menial work for the borough’s rich electors.

He concludes

This is truly disgusting behaviour by some of the most vile dregs of humanity, all dressed up as respectable people in the same way their activities are decorated with a veneer of respectability.

Scratch it and see the corruption.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/homeless-people-are-to-be-hidden-not-helped-according-to-britains-most-tory-council/

Johnny Void has been covering policies like this for a very long time. He has a particular interest in homelessness, and has put up countless posts about how Tory policies, and those of New Labour, actually create homelessness and make life worse for homeless people. He has also covered the social cleansing policies of the various councils in London and elsewhere, whose solution to the problem of rough sleepers is to make sure they are not seen on the streets, and so drive them out of town centres or the area altogether. This is part of the same mindset that seems very happy with putting house prices well out of the ability of working people to afford them, forcing them to commute from the poorer boroughs where they live into the exorbitantly expensive areas where they work further into London.

And the council has plenty of previous in its exploitative and abysmal treatment of its poorer residents. In the 1980s or ’90s there was the ‘homes for votes’ scandal, in which the council leaders, Dame Shirley Porter, and her minions deliberately put working class, Labour voters in sub-standard property with dangerous levels of asbestos as part of a strategy to engineer a cosy victory for the Tories.

Thatcher famously used to bang on about ‘Victorian values’, by which she meant making welfare as uncomfortable and difficult for the poor as possible, in order to deter them from using. Like the architects of the workhouse. This policy, however, goes further back.

Right back to the 16th century.

It’s a return of the old Elizabethan legislation in which the homeless in search of work were, unless they had a permit, to be whipped and sent out of the borough. Except that they haven’t got round to flogging them yet. However, as Mike put up a couple of posts just before Christmas of incidents where people thought that beating and urinating on the homeless and their bedding was a great joke, this probably won’t be long.

This shows the disgusting medieval attitude of the rich lords and ladies of Westminster council, and how they view us serfs, even if we are fortunate enough not to have to live on the streets.

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Owen Smith’s Rhetoric of Domestic Abuse

July 25, 2016

Mike also put up another piece on Owen Smith rhetoric and demeanour as he launched a campaign against misogyny, following the comments of one of his readers, who had been a victim for ten years of domestic abuse. Owen Smith pledged Labour to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on misogyny. To show the current double standards in the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn was vilified when he promised that Labour would end workplace discrimination.

In fact, as Mike shows, Smiff himself has previous on what some would regard at sexism. He told one of the female regulars on Question Time that she was only there because of her gender. But Mike’s female commenter picked up on the language he uses to denigrate and demean Corbyn. She states that after undergoing a 12 week course to deal with the effects of the decade-long abuse she suffered from her partner, she found that Smiff fits the profile of one type of domestic abuser: the headworker. This is the person, who constantly wears down his victim’s sense of self-worth, by telling them that they’re worthless, and using that insult to justify his assaults on them.

To test this analysis, Mike supplies a sample of Smiff’s comments about Corbyn, to see if they fit this profile. They do. They are all just remarks about how useless he is, and how unfit he is to lead the party, without any substance behind them. Mike also checks to see what personal smears Corbyn has cast over his opponents: precisely none.

This bears out Mike’s commenter’s observations.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/23/headworker-owen-smith-resembles-domestic-violence-perpetrator/

I wonder how far this culture of New Labour bullying is the creation of Blair, Brown, Campbell and Mandelson. Blair’s coterie was notorious for their determination to micromanage everything they could to make the Dear Leader appear popular and acclaimed, and ensure that MPs and officials were properly compliant and ‘on message’. When they went ‘off message’, as Claire Short did on numerous occasions, then they went on the personal attack, briefing against them.

I also wonder how far this is due to a general culture of bullying within a middle class marked with a very strong sense of entitlement. David Cameron, for example, claimed that he wasn’t a toff, but a member of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle class’, who were determined to get all they could. It was a risible claim, as Cameron is demonstrably a toff. He can’t remotely be described as ‘middle class’, except in so far as that term also describes the haute bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, this is a class that feels that it has an absolute right to rule, and to bully those it considers a threat. You consider the sheer venom Peter Lilley, the former Tory Secretary of State for Welfare, and the right-wing press has for ‘benefit scroungers’. The signing-on at the Jobcentre Plus for Jobseekers’ Allowance, the Work Capability Assessment and Workfare are all forms of bullying, set up to degrade and intimidate the unemployed claimant so that they only sign on if desperate. It’s explicitly based on the Victorian doctrine of least eligibility espoused by Thatcher as one of her ‘Victorian values’. Thatcher’s regime also saw the rise of ‘macho management’, in which company officials bullied their staff in order to get their absolute obedience and raise standards. Allegedly. Thus, a couple of managers appeared in Private Eye for threatening to hang a member of staff at a branch of Asda. And I was told by a former journalist on one of the Bristol papers that the editor there would call people into his office every morning to criticise them. This was all done for no reason, except that it was supposed to make them ‘better journalists’.

That type of management went out with John Major. But I do wonder if it hasn’t left its mark in the bullying psychology of New Labour, and their absolute determination to hang on to power. New Labour won its electoral victories by appealing to middle class swing voters. Blairite MPs still talk about ‘aspirational voters’, even though for the bulk of Labour supporters this is not an issue. They just want to survive unemployment, zero hours contracts and workfare. The Tories have survived and gained their votes partly by playing on status insecurity in parts of the working and lower middle classes. They exploit the fears and snobbery of the wealthier sections of these social classes against those below them. And so you have the Tory rhetoric about ‘hardworking people’ who want to make life more miserable for the unemployed, as they don’t want to see their closed curtains when they go to work. This was reflected in the pledge of one London Blairite MP that Labour would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories if they got into power.

That kind of rhetoric alienated Labour’s core voters, who have now returned with Jeremy Corbyn. And the entitled Blairites can’t stand it. So to hang on to power they have gone back to a Thatcherite culture of middle class bullying and abuse to keep these awkward proles in line, and stop them losing the favour of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle classes’ with whom they wish to ingratiate themselves.

The Two Faces of IDS: He Laughs in Parliament, But Cries On TV about Plight of Unemployed

April 6, 2016

I know I’m going to be preaching to the converted on this one, but there’s a chance that somebody out there may not know precisely what a slimeball Ian Duncan Smith is. Yesterday, Mike posted up a piece from the Groaniad, which reported that the Gentleman Ranker will appear tomorrow in a programme on Victorian attitudes to poverty. He’s going to be interview by Ian Hislop. Hislop’s done something like three previous documentaries on British history, and the profound changes in cultural attitudes that occurred during the 19th century. In one, he covered public education, from the Victorian period up to the present. The other year he fronted one on reformers, and a third on philanthropists. The last documentary was particularly interesting in that it charted the change in attitude towards the acquisition of wealth. In the 19th century the Christian conscience of a number of tycoons, who had made their money in banking, was disturbed because of Christ’s condemnation of the rich and greedy, who thought nothing of the poor. As a result, some of these 19th century millionaires were extremely generous, giving away the equivalent of millions to charity. And the attitude that wealth was only good if you gave it away was also shared by many of the Jewish entrepreneurs, who rose to prominence in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Nathan Rothschild, the banker, pioneering Jewish MP, and leader of the stock exchange, was personally immensely generous, despite leading the opposition of the British financial sector to Lloyd George’s reforms which formed the nucleus of the British welfare state.

If the programme is like the others Hislop’s done, then I think it’s going to be very good. Unfortunately, there is already something that’s going to spoil it: he interviews Ian Duncan Smith. Now, I suppose it’s only right that the Gentleman Ranker is on, as he was head of the DWP when the programme was being made several months ago. But it also gives him the opportunity for some first class acting, lying and hypocrisy. During the interview, he breaks down in tears at the plight of the poor, and in particular about the case of a 19-year old single mother, who had given up hope of finding work.

Way back in the 1980s or ’90s, if I recall correctly, there was a terrible old Conservative MP, who when faced with something he considered sentimental or hypocritical from the other side of the House, would say, ‘Hand me the sick bag’.
Well, looking at this prime display of hypocrisy from the master of cheque book genocide, I’m more than feeling a little queasy myself.

Mike’s article describes, yet again, how aIDS has been responsible for having hundreds of thousands of people sanctioned, and their benefits cut. He was responsible, for example, for using the Bedroom Tax to throw a rape victim out of her house, because she had converted her spare bedroom into a panic room, in which she could seek refuge in the case of another attack. Hundreds have died of starvation, neglect, or by their own hands due to his sanctions regime. And nearly a quarter of a million others have had their mental health made worse by the terrible insecurity constant assessment engenders.

And then, to add insult to injury, this jumped-up eugenic murderer had the temerity to laugh about the suffering he’d inflicted in parliament when some of the cases of the hardship he’d caused were read out. Mike includes the description of this disgraceful event from an eyewitness, Jack Monroe, who was understandably and rightly furious.

And now this squalid apology for human being is going to cry publicly on TV tomorrow, to try and salvage his image. He left the cabinet, remember, protesting that he though the sanctions’ regime was unfair. If he felt that way, he certainly didn’t show it. He carried on with it for about six years. One of the reasons why he left was that he felt it was terribly unfair for him to get the blame for sanctions, when it was introduced by Bliar. Well, they were introduced by New Labour, true. But that doesn’t mean that he had to follow them.

There’s another reason his appearance on the box tomorrow in connection with Victorian attitudes to poverty is particularly fitting. He, Osbo and Cameron all share the same attitude to it, going right back to Maggie Thatcher. Tory policy is basically the return of the ‘less eligibility’ attitude to benefit, which means you make it as hard for the unemployed on benefit as possible in order to force them off. Hence all the sanctions and the humiliating rigmarole of interviews, workfare and so on. It’s all part of what Thatcher called ‘Victorian values’. Well, it was one set of values that was rightly discarded when Labour first took power. And it should have been kept that way. Now it’s returned, along with real, grinding poverty in Britain. There are 4.7 million in ‘food poverty’, thanks to Smith and his masters.

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/05/iain-duncan-smith-wept-crocodile-tears-about-plight-of-single-mother-in-tv-interview/ Go and read it. He also has the picture of Smith and Cameron chuckling away about mass suffering, if you can stomach it.
And unlike Smith’s repulsive crocodile tears, that really is something to make you weep.

Vox Political: Ian Duncan Smith Whines that It’s Not His Fault Councils Can’t Manage Services Due to Cuts

March 2, 2016

More whining and self-justification for the Gentleman Ranker. Presumably he believes that it wasn’t due to him that his wretched party couldn’t mount a successful challenge to Blair.

Mike over Vox Political has posted a piece about aIDS’ latest attempt to defend himself on the subject of cuts to local councils. Doug Taylor, the leader of Enfield council, has been forced to cut youth services, blaming the decision on the cuts in local government funding from the Tories. So aIDS got on his high horse to announce that successful councils were those, which were able to manage their funding successfully without it making ‘headline news’. In other words, ‘you should be able to deal with these cuts, shut up about it.’ The Grauniad, who are carrying this story, remarked that aIDS was like his boss, David Cameron, in carrying on blissfully unaware about the cuts his government was making, despite austerity being the government’s central policy.

Mike remarks that he’s just the latest politicians to claim that the cuts aren’t his fault, just like the deaths and suffering caused by his policies in the DWP aren’t his fault.

Iain Duncan Smith: the latest MP to pretend council cuts are not his fault

Precisely. The Tories don’t like the welfare state. With the exception of the questionable support it received from the ‘One Nation’ group, they have always attacked it on the grounds that state provision supposedly weakened the individual’s will and ability to stand on his own two feet. Hence all that cobblers about ‘welfare dependency’. It all ultimately goes back to Maggie in this current political incarnation, who in turn derived it from her precious ‘Victorian values’. Instead of complaining, you’re supposed to stand straight, straighten your tie, and sing ‘God Save the Queen’, or whatever it was Cameron shouted at Corbyn when he couldn’t answer his question at the Despatch Box the other day.

And it is all about closing services through cutting funding. It’s grossly hypocritical for aIDS and Cameron to claim otherwise, when for the past half decade and more they’ve been in power, services have been cut to the bone and beyond. This was, after all, part of their wretched localism campaign, in which senior citizens and other volunteers were supposed to take over the running of certain services like libraries. It was the ‘Big Society’. Which sounds good, as it’s supposed to call to mind the American’s ‘Great Society’. Unfortunately, this was the American’s penny-pinching, curmudgeonly, mean-spirited little brother. Rather like the people, who dreamed it up in fact.

The real cause of Tory fury here, is not that services are being cut – that’s always been the plan – but that they’re getting the blame. And that would never do. It would stop them getting re-elected. And so they have to find someone else to blame. It used to be ‘high spending Labour councils’ giving money to anti-racist activists, Blacks and lesbians. They can’t quite make that stick this time round, and certainly not after Cameron’s decided he wanted to get the gay community on board. And so without an adequate scapegoat, we have aIDS throwing a tantrum, yelling that they should be able to balance their books anyway, and that it’s not his fault. Perhaps he’ll go and sulk in a corner after this.

The man’s a pathetic charlatan, who’s unable to accept responsibility for the cuts, and for the suffering he’s deliberately inflicting on the people of this country. He has never, ever been remotely fit for office, and it’s a disgrace he got anywhere near the corridors of power.

G.M. Trevelyan and the Promotion of Victorian ‘Workhouse’ Values in the 20th Century

February 24, 2016

I’ve put up a few pieces in the past few days tracing Thatcher’s ‘Victorian values’ and the modern Tories’ emphasis on conditionality in welfare support – or what’s left of it – to the doctrine of less eligibility that insisted that welfare relief should be made as hard and uncomfortable as possible in order to dissuade the able-bodied poor from going on it. The recommendation of the Tory think-tank, Reform, that the disabled should be paid the same amount of relief as those without disabilities very strongly echoes the classic statement of the principles of ‘less eligibility’ as articulated by a Victorian Poor Law Commissioner.

G.C. Peden in his book, British Economic and Social Policy: Lloyd George to Margaret Thatcher (Deddington: Philip Allan Publishers Ltd 1985) describes how laissez-faire individualism was central to Victorian economic attitudes. He notes that it became a philosophy that permeated politics and social studies, and discusses the rise of the doctrine of ‘less eligibility’ and the 1834 Poor Law establishing the workhouses. He also mentions the work of the historian, G.M. Trevelyan, in continuing to promote the workhouse and the ideology behind it into the Twentieth century, writing

One man acting as a bridge between the centuries was G.M. Trevelyan, who was born in 1876 and who was Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge from 1927 to 1940. His British History in the Nineteenth Century and After first appeared in 1922 and was still being printed as a paperback in the 1960s. In it, Trevelyan gave a classic defence of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Before that date magistrates in England and Wales had had the power to supplement inadequate wages out of local rates – a form of relief which Trevelyan describes as destructive of self-respect and self-help, virtues which could be restored to what he called the ‘cringing poor’ only by the ‘intellectually honest’ if ‘harsh’ reform of 1834. (Trevelyan 1965, pp. 248-9). (p. 4). (My emphasis).

Trevelyan was one of the leading historians of that period, and my guess is that many schoolchildren and students studying history in the early and middle twentieth century were brought up on at least some of his works. My mother, for example, has a copy of one of them, though she certainly doesn’t share his attitudes. My guess is that Trevelyan’s works form the intellectual background to Thatcher’s ‘Victorian values’ and their re-emergence in the Tory party. Of course, she was greatly taken with von Hayek, slapping to down in front of her cabinet colleagues to say ‘This is what we all believe now’, but I think Trevelyan’s influence was already strong, at least in preparing the intellectual ground for von Hayek, Friedman and the like. And it’s disgusting that what should have gone the way of the 19th century is still blighting life in the early 21st.

Vox Political: DWP Charging Premium Rates for Helpline

February 20, 2016

More of the sheer malice the Tories have towards the poor and needy. Mike has this report from the Independent on the way the DWP is continuing to charge premium rates of 45p per minute for mobiles, 12p per minute for landlines, on its helplines. With the long delays claimants can suffer when trying to telephone the Department for help, this means that, according to the head of the foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust, David McAuley, many claimants will be forced with a stark choice between eating and sorting out their claim. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/19/how-much-dwps-helpline-will-break-the-bank-for-benefit-claimants/.

One of Mike’s comments, Spamlet, has pointed out that this violates equalities legislation as many claimants are disabled. He also has personal experience of being hit with an enormous phone bill for an afternoon’s call to the DWP. He writes

Under the Equality Act, the DWP is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ not to discriminate against disabled people. A large proportion of those forced to use this service will be disabled people. It is not reasonable to force them to use food money waiting for hours in the hope that they might eventually get through! I once had a £17 phone bill for one afternoon calling help lines, just trying to find the right person to complain to about lack of service.

This is more of the ‘less elibility’ Maggie hailed as one of her ‘Victorian virtues’: you make welfare and poor relief so tough that it deters all but the most desperate to take it. Mind you, the Tories aren’t the only people, who’ve done this trick with expensive phone lines. In the 1990s, the permatanned talk show, Robert Kilroy-Silk got into Private Eye for the exorbitant rates calls to his programmes charged when they decided to make an edition on homelessness. The Eye reasonably thundered against this, asking rhetorically home many homeless people could afford the charge. Now the Tories are trying the same stunt. It could even be cooked up by the same people, given the way BBC news personnel seem to shunt back and forth between the Conservative party and our supposedly impartial broadcaster.

Silk vanished from the public eye after becoming involved with anti-European Union, anti-immigrant politics. He first joined UKIP, then left and formed Veritas with Joan Collins. His career finally imploded after he went on a long rant against the Arabs in his newspaper column. One of the least offensive things he said there was that they hadn’t done anything constructive since the 12th century. This was about the same time the public was treated to the spectacle of him campaigning for UKIP. He was shown on live television asking a Frenchman working in this country why he didn’t go home tomorrow, and have ordure poured over him by Muslims. This was one violent attack in Britain by members of that faith that people of all faiths and none supported as a moral act.

Silk, fortunately, is gone, but less happily the Tories remain.

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.

‘Less Eligibility’ and Maggie Thatcher’s ‘Victorian Values’

February 14, 2016

Very many bloggers have commented on the roots of the current Tory policy of denying the poor, the sick and the disabled proper welfare benefits ultimately stem from the Victorian principle of ‘less eligibility’. This was the doctrine behind the ‘new bastilles’ of the workhouses erected under the Liberal ‘New Poor Law’. It was the idea that while some support should be provided, it should be made so humiliating, uncomfortable and harsh that no-one would willingly take it unless they absolutely had to. Bloggers like the Angry Yorkshireman, Johnny Void and Mike over at Vox Political have shown, again and yet again, how this doctrine is behind the benefit cuts, the degrading and humiliating treatment handed out to benefit claimants, and the determination of Atos and now Maximus to find the flimsiest pretext to throw a claimant off benefit, no matter how ill they are.

New Labour introduced the ‘welfare to work’ tests, devised by John LoCascio and the fraudsters of Unum. But the ultimate origin of the doctrine as a whole, as it was introduced into the modern welfare system, should lie fairly and squarely with Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher was infamous for her espousal of ‘Victorian values’, which many commenters and critics rightly saw as her rationale for turning the clock back to the very worst aspects of the Victorian era. And Thatcher, in her 1993 book, The Downing Street Years, talks about how she got her ideas about forcing people off welfare, from those same Victorian values. She wrote

I was an individualist in the sense that I believed that individuals are ultimately accountable for their actions and must behave like it. But I always refused to accept that there was some kind of conflict between this kind of individualism and social responsibility. I was reinforced in this view by the writings of conservative thinkers in the United States on the growth of an ‘underclass’ and the development of a dependency culture. If irresponsible behaviour does not involve penalty of some kind, irresponsibility will for a large number of people become the norm. More important still, the attitudes will be passed onto the children, setting them off in the wrong direction.

I had a great regard for the Victorians for many reasons … I never felt uneasy about praising ‘Victorian values’ or – the phrase I originally used ‘Victorian virtues’ … They distinguished between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving poor’. Both groups should be given help; but it must be help of very different kinds if public spending is not just going to reinforce the dependency culture. The problem with our welfare state was that … we had failed to remember that distinction and so we provided the same ‘help’ to those who had genuinely fallen into difficulties and needed some support till they could get out of them, as to those who had simply lost the will or habit of work and self-improvement. The purpose of help must not be to allow people to live a half-life, but to restore their self-discipline and through that their self-esteem. (My emphasis)

From Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of the Britain’s Welfare State 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 54.

There you have it, in her own words. She doesn’t say ‘less eligibility’, but it’s clearly there, nonetheless. And so all the 590 people who have died of starvation, neglect or by their own hand in the depths of despair, and the 290,000 or so who’ve suffered severe mental illness because they too have been thrown off benefit, have ultimately been killed because of her and her precious Victorian values.

When she met Blair, she pleaded ‘Do not undo my work.’ Well, yes, please! All of her ideas have been shown to be rubbish, from the free market, to the removal of mortgage limits, the sale of council houses, all of it. Maggie and her specious intellectual legacy should long ago have been consigned to the political dustbin.

SPEye Joe Shows that Tax Credit Cuts Will Increase Welfare Bill

November 3, 2015

Joe’s argument is that at the moment, there’s £24 billion of welfare benefits going unclaimed, a large chunk of which is Housing Benefit. This will have to be paid as part of the government’s Universal Credit, and people facing cuts in their tax credits will automatically turn to looking at what other benefits they can claim instead.

He describes the Tories’ calculations as like those made on the back of fag packets, or the harebrained schemes concocted by Top Cat. The article begins:

Will the tax credit cut of £4bn cost up to £20bn per year more?

Yes as households will now by consequence claim what they are entitled to in other unclaimed benefits and the tax credit (TC) policy will end up costing much more in overall welfare cost.

The policy is so back of a fag packet that it may as well have been developed by TC himself above – though of Top Cat and Benny the Ball I couldn’t say for definite which one is Osborne and which one is IDS. Cameron, however, is clearly Officer Dibble waving the truncheon of financial privilege as he will surely do soon!

Once again we find the Conservatives zeal on “welfare” resulting in a policy that is ill-conceived and ends up costing more: Just like the combined HB reforms of bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA and SAR caps which collectively cost £1 billion more per year according to the IFS; the same think tank whose report into Tax Credits now has to be considered by the Conservatives.

The tax credit household is surely the definition of the “hardworking family” that politicians love to state and in taking away tax credits which give an incentive to work the system now provides a disincentive to take up work. So by way of consequence will tax credit households now seek to claim the minimum £24 billion per year that goes unclaimed in welfare to compensate for the tax credit cuts?

In political terms attacking the low paid -the epitome of political rhetoric in the “hardworking family” – was always mindblowingly stupid and perhaps only serves to show how untouchable the Conservatives believe they are in their megalomania on welfare issues; or conversely, it exposes just how little scrutiny and opposition their welfare policies have had to date!

Now benefit claimants having access to unclaimed benefit money is what should happen. But with this government, I’m not so sure. The reason why most of this money is unclaimed is probably because the government has made it very difficult for anyone to find out what is available and just what they are entitled to. It’s an old tactic going all the way back to Thatcher and Major. Cuts would be made, information on benefits either withheld or otherwise difficult to acquire, and then at an election, lo! and behold! The government starts telling people how much benefit money is going unclaimed, and then starts boasting about how its committed to supporting the poor. Despite having done everything in its power to cut benefits over the previous four or five years.

I’ve reblogged Mike’s article about 300,000 people suddenly being sanctioned without warning, because the letters they were supposed to receive informing them of their sanction and how to appeal against it had not been sent out, due to an ‘administrative error’. How very convenient! I expect something similar will happen to information about what other benefits are available to cash-strapped claimants very soon.

As for Top Cat, I used to love that cartoon when I was a lad. Yeah, it was sort of a junior version of Sergeant Bilko with anthropomorphised cats, but it was funny, and cheered up many tea-time for children back in the ’70s. Unlike the Tories, who would like to put them back up chimneys as sweeps, where they belong, in line with their policy of bringing back Victorian values. So far, these seem to be hypocrisy, mass poverty, starvation, and rickets.

TV on Tuesday: Celebs in the Workhouse

May 17, 2015

The past five Tuesday evenings, the Beeb has been showing the series 24 Hours in the Past. This is pretty much a reality TV show with an historical slant. Instead of being thrown into a jungle and then made to survive, or compete against each other to produce the finest cakes or dishes, each week the programme’s cast of celebrities are required to go back to a certain period in history and do some of the nastiest, dirtiest or most unpleasant work from the period. It’s like Tony Robinson’s 2004 Channel 4, The Worst Jobs in History, but with a crew of six as the unfortunate Baldricks forced to labour and grub for their living like the inhabitants of Victorian slums. Or the rookeries of 18th century London. Or whatever.

This week, however, they reach the very nadir of poverty and desperation: the workhouse. The blurb for the programme states that the workhouse was partly intended to reform the corrupt and indolent character of its inmates. It’s therefore a kind of irony that Ann Widdecombe is so bolshie, that she finds herself placed in solitary.

The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

As the six celebrities stroll up to an impressive redbrick institution for their final Victorian experience, Miquita Oliver reckons it looks like somewhere she’d go for a weekend spa. Hardly. It’s the workhouse, where there are no rewards, only punishments, explains Ruth Goodman. So immediately bolshie Ann Widdecombe is put in solitary confinement.

In order to “reform the moral character of the undeserving poor”, workhouse inmates were degraded,k overworked and mistreated, taking the time travellers almost to breaking point.

Tempers are definitely fraying but to give them credit, nobody shouts “I’m a celebrity … get me out of here”. It’s been a filthy, gruelling history lesson.

And

Hungry and penniless after stirring up a worker’s rebellion in the Victorian-era potteries, there’s only one place left for Ann Widdecombe, Zoe Lucker, Colin Jackson, Alistair McGowan, Tyger Drew-Honey and Miquita Oliver. Clad in rough uniforms and clumsy clogs they enter the harsh world of the workhouse – the 19th century equivalent of the benefits system – where they are immediately stripped of their belongings and indentities. Filthy and exhausted the celebrities must endure relentless graft and grind for their basic necessities. Will they rise to this most daunting challenge and prove they can work their way out of the workhouse and back to the comforts of the 21st century?

As left-wing bloggers like Tom Pride, the Angry Yorkshireman, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Jayne Linney, Mike from Vox Political and myself have pointed out, the ethos underlying the workhouse – that of ‘less eligibility’ – has returned to 21st century Britain in the form of the various tests, examinations and ‘work related activity’ benefit claimants are forced to go through in order to show that they really are looking for work, if fit, and genuinely deserving of invalidity or sickness support if they cannot. And as the government has made it very plain it wants to cut down on welfare expenditure in order to shrink the state back to its size in the 1930s, conditions are being made as hard as possible so that increasingly few people are considered deserving of state support.

And although not confined within the prison-like environs of the workhouse, its drudgery has been brought back in the form of workfare and the other requirements to perform ‘work-related activity’. This consists in performing unpaid, spurious voluntary work for particular charities, or big businesses like Tesco and so boosting their already bloated profits.

So far, conditions have not become quite so appalling as the Victorian workhouse, but real, grinding poverty, including starvation and rickets has reappeared in Britain, brought about by the Tories’ and Lib Dems’ atavistic desire to return to the very worst of the ‘Victorian values’ lauded by Maggie Thatcher. So far, 45 people have starved to death due to the withdrawal of their benefits, but the true number is probably much, much higher, perhaps 50,000 plus.

And it’s significant that while celebs, including a former Tory MP, are prepared to participate in a programme like this, the Tories have most definitely refused to experience its modern equivalent for themselves. Iain Duncan Smith was invited to try living on the same amount as a job-seeker for a week. He flatly refused, declaring that it was just ‘a publicity stunt’.

Well, what did you expect from ‘RTU’ Smith, the Gentleman Ranker. He’s a wancel (hat tip to Maxwell for this term), whose cowardice in facing his policies’ victims has been more than amply demonstrated over and again. Such as when this mighty warrior, who, according to David Cameron, ‘can crack skulls with his kneecaps’, hid in a laundry basked to hide from demonstrators in Edinburgh. Or when he sneaked out the back of a Job Centre he was opening in Bath to avoid meeting the demonstrators there.

Now I’ve no problem whatsoever with history programmes showing how harsh conditions were the bulk of people in the past, who didn’t belong to small percentage that formed the aristocracy or the middle classes. It gives a more balanced idea of the past in contrast to those programmes, that concentrate more on the lives of the elite. These programmes can give an idealised picture of previous ages, in which social relations were somehow more harmonious, and the lower orders were properly grateful and respectful to paternal employers and aristocratic masters. There’s been a touch of this, for example, in the Beeb’s Sunday night historical drama, Downton Abbey.

For most people, life was not a round of glamorous society balls, or a glorious career in the armed forces abroad, or in parliament at home. Most people did not have the luxury of fine food, wines and spirits, with their wishes attended by legions of dutiful servants.

Rather, the reality for most of the country’s population in the past was hard work, grinding poverty, and the threat of a very early death through disease and malnutrition.

However, there is also a danger with programmes like this in that they can give the impression of continual progress and improvement. There’s always the risk that some will look at the hard conditions of the workhouse and Victorian Britain generally with complacency. Well, that was terrible then, but everything’s somehow much better now. Things have improved greatly since then, and we have nothing to worry about. Indeed, the standard Tory attitude is that conditions have improved too much, to the point where the ‘undeserving poor’ have returned and are living very well from the taxes of ‘hard-working people’ like themselves, and other aristocrats, financiers and bankers.

For others, however, the programme may provide a salutary object lesson in the kind of country ours will be come once again, if the Tories aren’t stopped. One of the commenters on either Tom Pride’s or Johnny Void’s blog dug out a ConDem proposal for something very much like ‘indoor relief’ – as the workhouse system was called – for the disabled in the form of special units to provide training and accommodation to the handicapped.

In actually fact, the workhouses weren’t just a feature of Victorian England. They lasted right up to 1947, when they were made obsolete under the new welfare state.

Now with the Tories trying to destroy state welfare provision completely, and sell off the NHS, there’s a danger that they’ll return. The Tories have already brought back unpaid labour and less eligibility. They just haven’t got round to putting everyone on them in a prison-like environment yet.

In the meantime, it should be very interesting indeed to see how six people from the 21st century fare in the harsh conditions of the 19th. And especially a former Tory MP, like Ann Widdecombe.