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Monday, April 01, 2013


the joke is on us

today is the day when the media and practical jokers all try to pull a fast one in order to have the rest of us believe a fantastical but perhaps true story.
there is a certain amount of fun scanning the newspapers to see what story is the blatant hoax - the problem with the red tops is that so much of what they print is made up to begin with it is hard to know.

perhaps the funniest of the pranks carried out today was iain duncan smith's claim that he could live on £53 a week.
quite a lot of people choked on their coffee or tea when they heard that.

april 2013 is the month when a raft of coalition, sorry i mean conservative, policies move from being pieces of political paper into hard cold reality affecting the lives of most people throughout the country.

whatever else you say about the conservatives you have to admit that they have been busy preparing some major sweeping changes to the fabric of life. if i didn't know better i would have said that they had planned it very well. over the last few years they have been very canny in their use of the blame game. setting up shirkers against strivers. the people who get up at 5am to go to work while the feckless lazy scally on benefits lays roasty toasty in bed.
they have been helped in this myth building by organs such as 'the sun' and 'daily mail' who seem to come up with an endless stream of benefit scroungers who are living large at the expense of the strivers.

when the costs of benefits are discussed it is always as a total and it is, to use a technical term, humungous and that is quickly equated with those who are unemployed. even though the largest portions of the benefit receiving public are those receiving their pensions. another large group are those who are receiving in work benefits in order to top up their shitty pay.
none of this matters as a big chunk of the public think that there is a large amount of benefit fraud going on (no there isn't, especially when compared to companies and wealthy individuals dodging taxes) and they also think that the benefit bill is being used to prop up the lifestyles of the lazy.

all in all propaganda job done.

making it all that much easier for the changes that iain duncan smith has been working on to come into effect.

surprisingly there are elements of what ids (as he is known) is trying to accomplish i agree with, for a period of time i even thought that duncan smith had his finger on the pulse of what needed to be done.
nice to see that a tory always reverts to type and just becomes a nasty grind the poor into the dirt when we can kind of guy.

instead of helping people back into work - even though there isn't enough work there for people to go into - the plan of the coalition (sorry liberal democrats - you're as guilty of this as the tories) is to starve people off benefits.
there are stories circulating that jobcentres in some london boroughs have targets to get people on sanctions, not get them into work, but to punish them and remove their benefits. we are not talking about help here.
my experience with the jobcentre is that they don't know their arse from their elbow and frankly they don't care that they don't know.

even the, much derided, work programme had some postive aspects to it but was handled in such a cack handed fashion that it became 'slave labour'. instead of doing the sensible thing of paying a different rate of benefits for the period of work programme (say at the rate of an apprenticeship - the princely sum of £2.65 an hour), but no it was do this work or lose your benefits.
more often than not the work was of no use or relevance to those on the scheme and nor were they receiving any serious training (after all why would you train them when you are going to get rid of them and replace them with new cheap (sorry: free) labour in a few weeks time).
even so this intervention comes a year or more into a person being unemployed - when really more effort should be concentrated at the start of a period of unemployment to get people back into work while they still have the right habits.

what the tories and ids have is a race to the bottom for a large section of the population.
there is little or no training available  (when i ask if i could do a month long course i was told that i couldn't because i wouldn't be available for work during that time - that the course might have made me that much more employable was neither here nor there. even longer term courses - such as doing evening courses get bound up in rules about how many hours you are studying and how much the course costs) thus making serious retraining almost an impossibility.
(i hasten to add that this might not be the case - but that is what my jobcentre advisor told me.)

so back to the joke.
duncan smith is the latest in a line of very wealthy people who claim they can live on the £71 (or less) of jobseekers allowance. and by jingo if they can do it why can't johnny poorboy do it as well.
the difference being (as we all know) is that it is easy for the rich to slum it for a week or two it is not quite so easy when it is your daily grind or worrying if you can pay the next set of bills, can you afford to put the heating on in winter etc etc.

duncan smith has been challenged to walk the talk and back up his claim and live on £53 a week - but let's see if he can do it for several months.
after all is said and done duncan smith is just a public sector employee - another group that has been victimised by the tories in the past.
i'd like to think that iain duncan smith sees the irony in his position, but frankly i believe he is sitting their in his comfortable house with his feet up laughing all the way to bank to see how much he has benefitted from seeing the top rate of tax being dropped.

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