Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated


8:50 am - January 3rd 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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There’s a fairly familiar script to how Labour and Left debates around issues like welfare and immigration take place.

It looks like Sunday’s Mail report – Now Ed Miliband gets tough with onslaught against ‘evil’ of benefits scroungers – fits right into that script.

And we know how the script works:

1. the media sensationalise a speech or policy. Given that welfare reform is generally a technocratic area of policy that no one pays attention to unless it involves ‘cracking down’ on people, any reporting is almost always mischaracterised by the media.

A smart observer should look at the actual policy or the carefully chosen words by MPs. Note that not even Liam Byrne uses the phrase ‘welfare scroungers’ – that is entirely the Daily Mail’s concoction. You can brief a newspaper about what you’re going to say but can’t control how it will report the story. Either way, lefties almost always pay more attention how it’s spun in the press than the proposals.

2. lefties get angry. They have a right to be: the small proportion of welfare cheats don’t cost the economy as much as tax avoiders do. And when unemployment is so high, there is little point in blaming people for being “idle” – the jobs they want just aren’t out there.

But this is also an area where lefties ignore public opinion to their own cost. A poll in Oct ’11 found 63% of people doubt the benefits system works effectively, and 72% want politicians to do more to cut the benefits bill (only 15% disagreed). 78% wanted job seekers to lose benefits if they refuse work they can do. The polling was just overwhelmingly as slanted in late 2010.

The uncomfortable fact for lefties is that poorer working people are more vindictive towards supposed ‘benefit scroungers’ than richer people.

3. then they get ignored Lefties ignore the polling and over-whelming public opinion so they get ignored.

And for Labour this is a toxic issue. A 2010 poll found 66% of people thought Labour ‘was close to’ benefits claimants, while only 12% thought that for Conservatives.

Other, similar polls found that Labour were seen as too soft on benefits claimants. Yes, the tabloid media exaggerate the impact of welfare cheating but the Daily Mail cannot be wished away to oblivion.

4. then, Labour feeds the monster
Convinced that they need to ‘neutralise’ the welfare problem (also applies to immigration), Labour MPs are then wheeled out with ‘strong’ rhetoric to deal with the problem. Liam Byrne has popped up in the Guardian today.

But of course, it just feeds the perception that there is a huge problem. Note – I don’t think they created the perception, but they certainly feed it.

But people aren’t stupid – they just don’t believe Labour when it acts hard. MPs would literally have to murder a benefit recipient live on TV to convince the public they’re serious.

Despite years of similar rhetoric when in power, Labour barely managed to neutralise their disadvantage in either welfare nor immigration.

5. they don’t have solutions
The main reason why they never neutralised their negatives is that Labour doesn’t have any bold, innovative solutions to point to. It just talks endlessly on the need to talk about ‘cracking down’ on the welfare bill.

James Purnell’s dept came up with the idea of lie-detector tests that were useless, and offered programmes that didn’t work.

Is it any surprise the public don’t believe them? It would help if Labour MPs (apart from Kate Green) actually learnt about the issue more.

With Labour caught between a rock and a hard place and lefties ignoring public opinion on welfare, it’s no surprise we get the same repeated arguments. Rather than ignore the issue however, I’d love to see some actual interesting solutions being proposed.

**
Note: Labour ministers have deliberately avoided mentioning disabled people in their rhetoric, and Liam Byrne explicitly attacks cuts to disability benefits in his article. They are not talking about disability benefits here.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Labour will never beat the Tories at scrounger-bashing. People not wanting to work is not the cause of unemployment and Labour simply support the Tories’ distraction technique when they pick up this stick and run with it (or beat people with it).

Labour should concentrate on the real causes of unemployment, and a consequent rising benefits bill. There’d be more votes in it too.

“The uncomfortable fact for lefties is that poorer working people are more vindictive towards supposed ‘benefit scroungers’ than richer people.”

As Father Ted told Dougal, holding up a tiny toy cow: “THAT cow is far away.”

“The uncomfortable fact for lefties is that poorer working people are more vindictive towards supposed ‘benefit scroungers’ than richer people.”

As Father Ted told Dougal, holding up a tiny toy cow: “THAT cow is far away.”

Interesting. I agree that it’s often those who are comparatively badly off (but working) who feel most bitterly about (perceived) scroungers. I can think of a couple of people I’ve talked to who earn less than the average wage and who are *very* bitter about people they know who don’t work and seem to have a better lifestyle than them. Better off people, also, are perhaps less likely to be so well acquainted with the ‘scroungers’, and so will be less likely to brood on them as a problem (unless they are Daily Mail readers).

“I’d love to see some actual interesting solutions being proposed”

None of the following is remotely new but it’s still relevant:

- Mass council housing development; so you spend less on housing benefit in the private rented sector
- Living Wage; cuts the need for housing benefit and working tax credits. Either give it a statutory footing, or promote it with policies like Ed Miliband’s corporate tax concession, which he has inexplicably gone quiet on
- Job creation policies (not necessarily government make-work schemes); there’s no cutting unemployment benefit with no jobs to go to. Labour talks a lot about this but has little in the way of credible policy here (what’s been proposed is pretty limited)

Couple of other points:

- if Labour struggles on this issue, perhaps it would be better off changing the subject? The Tories hammer on about welfare because it shifts attention from their mates in the financial sector
- Labour could (but won’t) make the point that governments of all stripes have been publicly cracking down on benefits for 30 years without success, and that any government that persists with a policy that has failed for three decades needs its head checked

FACT: There are people who abuse the benefits system.
FACT: There are people who abuse the disability benefits system.
Such people might be less financially damaging to the country than tax avoiders or bailed-out bankers, but I would argue that the damage they do to people’s trust in the welfare system (a system I firmly believe in) IS as damaging as tax-dodgeers etc.
The fact many people on the left fail to condemn this cancer to one of our own great institutions would be funny if ithe consequences weren’t so tragic.

6. Christof_ff

FACT: There are people who abuse the 999 emergency telephone system.

Should we get all hysterical and shut that down too?

Most systems in whatever field are under constant attack from abusers. They key is to set up quality controls to minimise such instances.

Running around proclaiming that the sky is about to fall in because 0.01% of your expenditure is leaking is a massive waste of energy.

8. Alisdair Cameron

Note: Labour ministers have deliberately avoided mentioning disabled people in their rhetoric, and Liam Byrne explicitly attacks cuts to disability benefits in his article. They are not talking about disability benefits here.

Er, not quite. The focus as ever is on the (in media terms) “sexy” issues of cancer sufferers etc, not those with stigmatised and/or not immediately visible disabilities. Labour have ducked and dived quite disturbingly around say, mental health.
More pointedly, if the public is allegedly (and the evidence is meagre, beyond the odd alarm sparked by the tabloids reporting on a rare exceptional case) against welfare claimants, that doesn’t mean that you simply go along with that: the public is also by the same measure, similarly fuelled by wilfully biased/selective reporting, against immigrants, asylum seekers, young people wearing hoods etc etc.
Point out that tax credits are a form of welfare (one that actually subsidises bad employers paying low wages, but that’s another argument), point out the necessity of a safety net that doesn’t let people fall through, point out the actual levels of fraud (low, I mean really low), play to people’s humanity, not their small-mindedness, and misplaced resentment. Put plainly, Labour needs to say, no, this is what we believe to be right and this is why, properly informing people, not pandering to their prejudices.

9. Solomon Hughes

I’d definitely second Chaminda – especially on housing.

It’s a simple , powerful , potentially very popular argument: – We are wasting billions on Housing Benefit that goes to sky high rents from private landlords.

Instead we should be investing money in building decent homes for folk with modest incomes. It would help the less well off, and would also help the economy and help with jobs.

The market has failed to supply enough housing for a hundred years, only a council house building programme will stop the waste and misery in the housing market -as it has done in the past.

This was one of the biggest failings of “New Labour” – ingoring vote after vote at party conference, and spending a decade trying to “end council housing” and promoting failed alternatives, (shared equity, stock transfer, relying on “planning gain”, promoting “affordable” houses for sale instead of rent) when they should have been building council houses. Backing a real Council House building programme is one of the most important corrections Labour need to make in moving away from “New Labour”

Presently both Labour and Tories are caught promoting ever more complex ways to ration existing social housing stock, instead of looking at how to build more. But building more council housing is the way to fix both a big part of the welfare problem, and the housing problem.

“You can brief a newspaper about what you’re going to say but can’t control how it will report the story.”

And in your briefing, you can leave out words like ‘evil’, which most definitely was not a Daily Mail concoction as Byrne also uses it in his Guardian article. And why did he like the idea of it being in his Daily Mail briefing? Because he knew full well they would seize it and pair it with ‘scrounger’.

So-called “public opinion” on benefits is stupid and we all know it. There’s no “benefits crisis” – it’s just a lie that’s been manufactured by the Tories and the right-wing press and colluded in by pseudo-Labourites. If Labour tries pandering to people’s prejudices over welfare we will just make the situation even worse. What the party needs to do is show actual leadership – tell people the real facts about welfare and steer them away from the pit of ignorance that the establishment has led them into.

“Lefties” don’t ignore public opinion. “Lefties” hold on to this radical idea that sometimes politics is about making an argument and trying to change people’s minds. The radical idea that you treat people like rational human beings, not just the passive recepticles of tabloid-manufactured prejudice.

I note that Labour is more than happy to ignore public opinion when its suits it. Like on foreign policy, for example. If public opinion reflects the wishes of wealth and power, then Labour says its reflecting the will of the people. When public opinion goes against the wishes of wealth and power, Labour preens itself for not taking the easy, populist option. Same old, boring script. Same old conceited, craven New Labour. I agree with Miliband. Let’s judge them by whose side they’re on.

Cowardice is apparently now hardwired into the DNA of the Labour leadership. If they can’t just stand up for the poorest and most vulnerable in society – on principle – then what is the fucking point of them? What credibility do they have as a “progressive” party if they can’t even bring themselves to articulate an argument as simple, straightforward and morally urgent as this one? If in the current economic situation, of all times, they want to point to people forced to rely on social security as the problem, then forget it. This is not a party of basic human decency, let alone the centre-left.

Miliband is apparently content for Byrne to take the party back into what Miliband once called its “New Labour comfort zone”. That way lies the total collapse of its base support. There is no reason to suppose that the 5 million voters lost since 1997 – mostly not to the Tories – is the maximum that can possibly desert the party.

13. bendyleopard

What @Chris 11, said…a million times.

Labour should not be pandering to the lies whipped up by the press, Tories & New Labour. They should be shaping the debate, getting the truth out there rather than dealing in prejudices based on disinformation.

As to your point about Liam Byrne not mentioning disabled people…well no he didn’t need to. There are no disabled people in the UK, we are all fakers, all lead swingers, it went without saying.

One other thing Sunny – do you really think Liam Byrne doesn’t believe the stuff he’s coming out with? Ed M might be positioning and pandering, but this is pretty much the kind of stuff Liam Byrne has always come out with whenever he’s given the chance.

Leaders are able to actually shape and shift the debate.

Labour will not win on immigration or benefit fraud. They shouldn’t be letting the Conservatives set the agenda.

Blair knew this, he was a master at making the debates about issues he could win on – NHS, education, these are the things the nation needs to be talking about for a Labour win. Make the debate about the NHS. That’s the Labour equivalent; the Tories can’t “win” on the NHS just as the Labour party can’t “win” on immigration and benefit scrounging.

16. Black Guardian

1. ‘Public opinion’ is based on lies.

2. Labour started those lies (Purnell & Unum).

3. Labour started this assault with ESA, so no rubbish about not being about disability benefits, please.

4. Labour know this, and haven’t got the guts to admit they were wrong. Which is why they will not challenge the now-’received wisdom’ on ‘scroungers’. Foolish, given that more and more people are being forced to face the truth through personal experience.

17. Alisdair Cameron

By the way, Labour (and Sunny, for that matter) really ought to read this in the BMJ. Quite possibly one of the most important articles published in there for a long, long time.
Can’t see Labour taking much account of it,though,not with the likes of Byrne playing his “dog-whistle” politics of bullshit:if you cite Beveridge remember it’s lack of work available that’s the giant to be slain, not those lacking work

“They have a right to be: the small proportion of welfare cheats don’t cost the economy as much as tax avoiders do.”

How many bloody times – tax avoidance isn’t illegal.

19. Charles Wheeler

“The uncomfortable fact for lefties is that poorer working people are more vindictive towards supposed ‘benefit scroungers’ than richer people.”

That’s why they need to be given the facts rather than have their prejudices confirmed by misinformation in the Daily Mail.

20. gastro george

@17 Alasdair – thanks for the excellent link.

Of course the problem for Labour is there just isn’t the fight in the Labour ranks any more. The entire front bench, most of the back benches and a fair amount of the activists are not in politics for the same reasons that their Nineteen Forties counterparts are.

People join ‘Labour’ and ‘the Left’ for different reasons. The Party that investigated and set up the Welfare State did not do it as a favour to voters. The Welfare State was set up to alleviate real grinding poverty that existed in this Country between the wars. They lived in those communities. They knew those people and saw the direct results of poverty. They joined the Labour Party to change the World.

People who join the Labour Party do not, by and large, come from those backgrounds. They join the Party for different reasons. They join the Party and become ‘Lefties’ for a vague feeling of ‘social justice’. They want to break the ‘glass ceiling’ into the boardroom of the FTSE 100, for example.

So, in a way, the Welfare State has been such a success that for many of us the grinding conditions that brought it into existence are unimaginable. I have often read on this blog that the Welfare State is a ‘luxury’. Coming from the scum that is fair enough; these cunts hate us and hate who we stand for. However, I seriously wonder if our collective memories are all being wiped by complacency. I have often heard it said that welfare claimants vote Labour. That is not true because people on welfare mostly do not vote.

I wonder if those on lowest incomes have understood the implications of a weakened or removed Welfare State means for their own terms and conditions. I wonder what would happen to their jobs if people were expected to ‘work for their dole money’. I wonder what would happen to the minimum wage if the downward pressure of the price of labour became irresistible?

The main thing we should learn from this is that we need to resist this slide into American politics. There seems to be an obsession with American politics on the Left. We seem to be obsessed with Barak OBama, the Democrats and the ‘West Wing’. Sometimes I wonder if the Labour Party the Glasgow Celtics to the Democrats Manchester United*.

It is almost as if they join the Labour Party, but secretly really want to be part of the socially Liberal, but finically Conservative wing of American politics. The Republicans dragging politics further to the Right and the ‘freedom fighters’ of the Democrats winning small concessions here and there.

Well look across the pond and see the abject failure of the Democrats to stop the Republican completely dominate the political landscape.

*Regional analogy there, basically we get a group of people who support a smallish team who believe that supporting a bigger team gives them reflective glory.

22. Rob the crip

I think concentration camps are the answer I really do.

“the small proportion of welfare cheats don’t cost the economy as much as tax avoiders do.”

Neither cost the economy anything. Not a single penny.

Both cost the taxpayers something, both cost the government revenues something, true. But neither the taxpayers nor the government finances are the same thing as the economy.

It’s simple: there are not enough to go round. Why not focus in that, rather than demonising those who claim – even long-term. This is an argument for when there is full employment. When. If. (Never?) Is it better to dip in and out of unemployment and take temp jobs, or stay for years on benefits? There just aren’t enough jobs to go round.

17 Alasdair Cameron

Great link thanks for putting it on. As you say, very important article.

But the only reason the public are so hateful towards benefit claimants is because of the media lies!

If the Sun didn’t keep telling people on lower incomes that benefit claimants are all fakers living the high life at the expense of the working man poorer people wouldn’t be so angry with those living on JSA.

Seems to me that a more sensible tactic for Labour would be to spout some actual facts rather than using the same propaganda to try and win some votes. Why on earth should anyone vote Labour while they’re using the same rhetoric as the Tories and the Lib Dems? Most people want to vote Labour because they sound different to the Tories, not because they’ve mimicked them.

David Wearing:
“Lefties” don’t ignore public opinion. “Lefties” hold on to this radical idea that sometimes politics is about making an argument and trying to change people’s minds.

Sure – but at what point do people accept that they’ve demonstrably failed to shift public opinion or hold on to their positions?

Surely this is measured against something? I agree lefties should fight the fight, but we have a situation where people have failed to influence the public and put themselves in a position where they’re so far out of touch with public opinion that the political establishment ignores them.

Given that the lefties don’t have the fire-power (without trade unions, most of those members buy into this narrative) – how exactly does anyone shift opinion?

Lisa: Most people want to vote Labour because they sound different to the Tories, not because they’ve mimicked them.

On this issue I’m afraid that’s just not true. Labour’s own base are in the same place as Tories on this. The polling is overwhelming.

David W – just to add to my last point. I don’t think the situation is unsalvageable. Labour doesn’t get anywhere with its ‘hard-man’ approach, and sooner or later they’ll realise a different approach is needed.

But lefties need to offer some new, interesting solutions to problems, I think, than just dismissing them as irrelevant.

29. Alisdair Cameron

@ Sunny (27) . Surely, if you believe something is wrong then it remains wrong, whether it’s erroneously accepted by public opinion (which I don’t think it is, beyond the scare-mongering cases flagged by tabloids and the right-wing) or not.
You don’t stop believing it’s wrong (unless you are both unprincipled and dishonest), nor do you stop making your case, though of course you may pursue different tactics to do so. What you don’t do is change your tune solely because of some ill-informed assumptions that prevail. Well, you don’t do that unless you are shamefully opportunistic and lack any values.

Sunny, I think Alisdair makes a solid point. The Tories and their stooges in the media are telling lies about welfare claimants for their own political ends. We cannot simply go along with that for short term political advantage. Once we accept the narrative framed by the Right, Labour are doomed to failure. Any policy that you ever frame that is built on a lie cannot possibly succeed. The Right’s goal is to destroy the welfare State and to hell with the consequences. The Left’s goal is to defend the poor from the very real poverty that looms for millions of people inside and outside the current Welfare State.

We cannot do that if we start of with a position based on entirely a false premise. There are simply not the jobs to go round everyone. We all know that. Instead of lining up to kick the guts out of those on unemployment, we need to confront those assumptions. I agree it is not easy and the Left simply no longer have the stomach for the fight, but we are not talking about welfare here, we are talking about the very soul of our political system.

If we abandon ‘truth’ just because it is difficult to put it forward in simple cause/solution terms, then what is the point of progressive politics? What is the point of Commissions, policy research, MPs and the like? What is the point of politics if all our policies are based on whatever American talkshow hosts think are the ‘real’ issues?

You are a supporter of American Politics, so how does conceding ground every time the Right frame a narrative working out for the Democrats? Aren’t Americans STILL fighting Roe vs Wade, Darwin vs intelligent design, Climate Change vs Big oil?

Every time the Democrats buy a Right Wing lie, for political expediency, does that stop the next lie? Or do the lies just get bigger and more co-ordinated?

If Labour roll over when unemployment is rising then what is the fucking point of them? What was the point of the last fifty years?

The problem is, that you need bags of cash to fund and maintain the platforms necessary to get your counter message out, and the left simply can’t compete with the right in terms of owning capital. It’s all well and good for blaming lefties for their failure to sway public opinion, but we do have the slight problem of not being able to directly confront people with our arguments to the same extent that the right wing press and media is.

Cylux @ 31

You will be reported if you say something worth reporting, though. If the Left start using term like ‘despicable vermin’ to describe the Tories, it will get in the newspapers.

Just before the Christmas shutdown there was an edition of ‘Question Time’ where a judge (black female) was spouting the usual Right Wing crap. The guy from the New Statesman had a half hearted go at her and was getting at her. He was scoring points to the extent that Dimbilby was forced to shield her from the more obvious points.

Now, if had just called her is liar, then interpreted her with the truth, perhaps, just perhaps they might have put her of her game a bit.

The labour stooge sat passively as the whole exchange took place, of course.

Public opinion is wrong.

I agree that it’s not an easy task to change it, but seriously, what is the alternative? All the parties invent increasingly ‘tough’ measures on benefit claimants in order to pander to public prejudice? Until the welfare state is demolished and there’s a return to the kind of horrible poverty of the past?

Benefit claimants, the sick and disabled are people who can vote. Ditto their carers, families and friends. It seems like the parties, particularly Labour because they ought to know better, forget this fact. Right now I feel that we are being dehumanised to an extent, as we are being treated like our votes are not worth anything.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy too, a vicious circle. When James Purnell decided to invent ESA and give the country the impression that benefit fraud was much worse than it actually is, my heart sank. It meant that none of the major parties were representing my needs. I still voted in 2010, but I would not blame anyone in my position who decided not to.

One thing that can’t happen in a civilised society is that the unemployed, sick and disabled become a group so alienated from mainstream society that we are no longer able to influence politicians or policy whether we vote or not. But this is what will happen, if the only people who count are those are prejudiced against us. If the only people who are listened to are Daily Mail and Sun readers.

Like I’ve said in other comments, we all want to live in a compassionate society, whether we know it or not. What Labour should be doing now is educating people about this fact.

Allow me to rewrite your script a little:

1, People become aware of a policy they don’t like.

2, This annoys those of us on the left, who are generally much smarter than the average Joe, and ought to be left alone to dictate policy in peace.

3, Public opinion takes over, dagnamit.

4, The Labour Party gets confused and starts acting like the people are its actual constituents.

5, Ultimately the only acceptable solution is the status quo ante, so this whole process is a big fat waste of time.

Jim @30:

“You are a supporter of American Politics, so how does conceding ground every time the Right frame a narrative working out for the Democrats?”

Or as the US comedian Bill Maher put it:

“Why is it when a Democrat seeks ‘common ground’, he always seems to find it right where the Republican is already standing?”

There are two main elements to this.

The first is the policy of ‘triangulation’ which developed in the US with Clinton, and which basically means that you trim to whatever position is held by those who shout (or have the means to shout) the loudest. New Labour was entirely a creature of this policy.

The second is the failure of any concept of leadership. A leader, by definition, leads rather than follows. No Labour leader since – I would suggest – Wilson has shown any desire or ability to do so.

We have therefore ended up with those who lead in name only, who fear temporary unpopularity to such a degree that they can only follow the shouts of a malinformed public rather than seeking to educate that public.

If there is a truth to be spoken, people of genuine conviction do not stop speaking it loudly and often just because they can be temporarily shouted down by the mob. If it were otherwise, we would still be living in a society where it was ethically and legally acceptable to deny housing to non-whites, to throw gays in prison and to force women to face a likely gruesome death should they need to terminate a pregnancy.

There is a strong ethical element to progressive policies on welfare and the economy generally. It is time the alleged leaders of the ‘soft’ Left in the UK (especially in England) started to make that ethical point – firmly and frequently.

36. Rob the crip

The question is if you can work and i mean doing an every day job like lets say roofing a building or plastering a wall or fill top bottom or middle of the shelves on a supermarket then you should be on JSA.

But we have another problem people with a mental health issues would be able to do most of these jobs depending on training, of course on a bad day they jump off the building to end their lives, so what a lot people forget of course that many employers demand you go through a medical, if at the medical a person is found to be mentally ill, which insurance policy do you think would cover them from say killing them selves.

I have been looking for work for ten years I’m disabled with Paraplegia and the reason I get turned down is simple if my injury gets worse from working at the factory or office I’m not exempted from claiming, so two years down the line I stated that filling sehvles caused my back to get worse I can claim, so the biggest excuse not to employ me has been, our insurance will not cover your disablity

“78% wanted job seekers to lose benefits if they refuse work they can do.”

Well yes. And that’s one of the reasons why the law says that should happen. It’s a done deal.

As others have pointed out public opinion on this is simply wrong. It is indefensible that anybody should simply shrug their shoulders, give up and join in with a massive falsehood.

The ‘scrounger’ rhetoric is simply false and has devastating effects on the millions who need welfare benefits to survive. There are real consequences, people who would otherwise be entitled refuse to claim because of their fear of stigma or that just claiming in itself is ‘fraud’. This really does happen, I’ve had these people sitting in front of me time and time again.

Yes, solutions need to be offered but people supposedly of the left jumping feet first with the ‘scrounger’ rhetoric isn’t a viable alternative (and yes, Hundal, I’m looking at you all over Twitter yesterday). This really is a candidate for the ‘if you’ve nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all’ cliche. I’m quite happy to contribute to offering solutions but Labour would far rather hire an investment banker and reinvent him as a ‘welfare expert’. I suppose at least that same thinking makes me an investment banking expert…

The fact is that Labour is capable of shaping debate. It got itself into government somehow and put considerable effort into challenging media stories and opinions. It just couldn’t be bothered to do the same with the nonsense about benefit claimants.

By the way, Byrne’s claimed distaste at disability benefit cuts is a mere sop. Employment Support Allowance, in itself a massive cut and source of oppression of the sick and disabled was designed and introduced by Labour, as was the tightening of the Work Capability Assessment introduced last February. The ‘reform’ of Disability Living Allowance was initiated under Labour and was quite advanced in planning when the Tories entered power. The Topries have merely added the 12 month time limit for ESA into the mix which Labour has failed to challenge adequately. Or barely at all.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 vimothy

“This annoys those of us on the left, who are generally much smarter than the average Joe, and ought to be left alone to dictate policy in peace.”

Would you prefer for the right-wing press to be left alone to dictate policy in peace?

Because that’s the problem here. If news sources were generally balanced and responsible, and the majority of the population STILL resented benefit claimants, you’d have a good point – I could scream “argumentem ad populum” all I wanted, but ultimately it would be clear what the electorate thought. That’s not currently the case, though.

Hmmmm, Sunny, if I had the spoons I would question some of this, but I don’t.

I’ll simply say if they are not talking about sick and disabled people they keep mysteriously forgetting to make that very clear.

Still I suppose if the best we can hope for is “not being mentioned” we should pat ourselves on our little cripple heads and go on our way, eh? ;)

What a shame Liam didn’t listen to this article, right here on Libcon 6 months ago eh? http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/06/14/how-liam-byrne-could-help-save-his-career-through-welfare-reform/ Perhaps if he ever deigned to speak with us, meet with us, listen to our proposals for alternative welfare reform – and you know very well we have them Sunny, Labour just don’t want to know about them – he wouldn’t make such a dog’s dinner of his articles in the Guardian.

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/06/14/how-liam-byrne-could-help-save-his-career-through-welfare-reform/

@7

FACT: falsifying a report to the emergency number is illegal and almost always punished.

FACT: about 99% of calls reporting benefit fraud lead to nothing, most are malicious.

FACT: the government protects those callers with anonymity despite almost all of them perverting the course of justice.

I’d love to see some actual interesting solutions being proposed.

There is one that would solve all issues relating to benefits, but neither right nor left seem willing to discuss it in public.

Strange.

http://www.citizensincome.org/filelibrary/Citizen%27s%20Income%20booklet.pdf

Sunny – the left on its own is pretty weak, materially speaking. As you’d expect given that by definition it speaks against wealth and power. Sometimes you have to speak up against conventional wisdom and against the odds. Its merely the right thing to do to defend the poorest and most vulnerable when power is ganging up on them.

I would be articulating the view I have on this issue even if I were the only person doing it. Someone has to. What’s the alternative? Do we just let these people get screwed?

That said, the idea of democratically organised people on low and middle incomes forming a political party to represent their interests was to amplify and give a more prominent voice to concerns such as these.

When that party spends the better part of two decades pandering to prejudice and basically helping to stigmatise the people its supposed to be defending, you cannot then say, when majorities disagree with the left, “oh well, we tried but we can’t win”. Some of us weren’t trying. Some were working against us.

What I am suggesting – and pardon my anger Sunny, its not directed at you – is that the Labour Party does its fucking job. I believe you yourself have noted that pandering to the right shuts off political space and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Now we in the left can try and open up political space on the left for the Labour Party to then walk into. We can campaign as hard as we can with what little we’ve got. Some can camp outside St Paul’s in the wind and rain. Others can risk jail for taking mild direct action against sponging corporations. But there comes a point when we’ve done as much as we can, and people like Miliband need to locate their testicles and just take a fucking stand on stuff like this.

Seriously, people across civil society are making enormous efforts, some taking massive risks, and Labour can’t even bring itself to disagree with the Daily Mail? Its pathetic.

If the party can’t even defend those forced onto social security (which is a pittance by the way) at a time like this, then its bordering on worthless as far as I’m concerned. I try to view the party leadership sympathetically, accepting that they’re not socialists like me and that you need to build coalitions across the “progressive” spectrum. But there’s a limit to all that. There really is.

Vimothy @ 34

Solutions, bold or otherwise, must surely come from recognition of the problems we are attempting to address. If the information we have is false we would very lucky if we managed to come up with a viable solution to a problem without actually knowing what the problem is.

That is Labour’s dilemma, because the information that the public are basing their perception is falsified, Labour and the Left knows it is being falsified, yet cannot (for whatever reason) convince the general public that the information is falsified. That means that Labour cannot possibly propose any ‘solution’ to the perceived problem without knowingly starting of from a false premise.

Look, I am not saying that you never ditch an (justly or unjustly) unpopular policy under any circumstances. You need to come up with a viable alternative and most importantly workable policy.

Thirty years ago the Labour Party was in hock (rightly or wrongly) to CND. In fact, you could not get into a selection committee without your semaphore badge on your lapel. That policy was deeply unpopular (rightly or wrongly) on the doorstop.

In theory, IF the Labour dumped the policy, replaced the leadership, convinced the public that it really believed in a nuclear deterrent and managed to pull it off, they could have administered that policy without too much hassle. In fact, when Labour won power the CND badges were all forgotten about, the subs sailed along quite happily, and the nuclear button was never pushed etc.

Welfare is a different matter, whereas nuclear subs sailing below the waves were out of sight, welfare ‘reform’ is going to affect millions of people, including people who have so far never claimed a penny. To instigate a policy shift based on the need to appease fuckwits and downright nasty scum is going to lead to short term disaster and political difficulties.

The Tories are slowly finding that out with their reforms to housing benefits and will find out the same when they attempt to shoe horn people into an already crowded labour market. This will affect Labour too if they promise to embark on half witted ‘solutions’ to problems that reside in the heads of tabloid journalists and the Countries sociopaths.

44. Alisdair Cameron

@ David (41). Excellent, really good,direct post.

45. Siôn Eurfyl Jones

Only one rational solution for leftie Scotland and Wales – INDEPENDENCE.

pagar 40 – Greens will discuss Citizen’s Income til the cows come home, won’t they?

7. BenM
I wasn’t saying we should agree with the cuts to welfare, my point is that denying or dismissing those that point out such fraud serves nobody, least of all the vast majority of genuine claimants.
Also wildly throwing around figures about the levels of fraud makes us no better than the Daily Mail. Unless you assume a 100% detection rate, fraud by it’s very nature is unmeasurable.

The fraud prevalence estimates are very close to the ceiling of the actual incidence of fraud. I can be confident of this because the previous government despite what the Mail says greatly increased anti-fraud activities within the DWP. Special measures like the Benefit Integrity Review and National Benefit Review both for DLA failed to find much more than the 0.5% prevalence attached to that. The highest success made by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate which ran for ten years between 1997-2007 was with Housing Benefit(which they focused most resources on): they managed to reduce fraud by a whole 1% of the total expenditure.

In 2013 the government are planning on merging the projects the DWP, HRMC and local councils have to investigate benefit fraud. The impact assessment was published back in October and the policy objective is defined as thus:

“To increase the level of sanctions and prosecutions per investigator administered to Tax Credit and benefit customers committing fraud. And at the same time increase levels of overpayments of benefits thus reducing the overall amount of loss in the benefit system due to fraud and error.”

Quite simply; investigators individually don’t find much so when Labour increased the number of them they individually found even less. The Coalition want to reverse this.

49. Leon Wolfeson

@44 – Since when did being a left-winger in those areas involve backstabbing the left in England?

@47 – Well sure, but they have to camouflage moving MORE resources away from corporate tax avoidance investigations somehow!

Chaise,

I could scream “argumentem ad populum” all I wanted

Bit of a redundant thing to scream in a democracy, though–right?

When you say that listening to the people requires a more balanced press, it seems like you mean “more balanced, in our favour“. I.e., if the left controlled the press, the people could be educated out of their inconvenient views in short order, and then we could afford to be more democratic about the whole thing.

What if the causality in this case is running in the opposite direction, and the press are simply representing the people? But I agree, what people believe is plastic–given enough time and resources I’m sure that they can be made to believe almost anything.

@46

But the problem is, constantly harping on about benefits fraud or ‘scrounging’ gives undue precedence to what are in fact very minor problems.

Of course you cannot say that fraud does not exist and expect to be taken seriously. No finance based system will be immune to fraud. However, it is sensible and correct to demand that a sense of proportion prevails, that we recognise the law of diminishing returns in pushing anti-fraud measures further when fraud is less than 0.5% for disability benefits, that there are negative consequences for genuine claimants in concentrating so heavily on welfare fraud and that we would be better served by concentrating resources in other areas like tax fraud where pickings are MUCH richer.

As for your questioning of the ability to measure fraud levels, the figures are only ever presented as estimates and are a damn sight more reliable than the ‘man in a pub told me’ opinions that far too many people profess to be gospel.

“Note: Labour ministers have deliberately avoided mentioning disabled people in their rhetoric”

Yes, leaving the public with the perception they are talking about disabled people in their attacks on ‘scroungers’ .

To sum up : the public perception is based on little more than misinformation , prejudice and a deliberate right wing attempt to dismantle the welfare state via distorted media narrative, BUT because the public has this perception Labour must play along?

I was under the impression you entered the world of politics because you believed in something. Labour’s response to welfare hysteria simply confirms we have lost any chance of a radical left of centre party for a generation .Labour has the facts to challenge the lies about the level of benefit fraud but chooses not speak out. Indeed, Labour are simply re-selling the public the lie they have already bought hook , line and sinker .

54. Anon E Mouse

@53 – Brian

When you say: “I was under the impression you entered the world of politics because you believed in something”

Would that be like Labour rewarding bankers, city slickers and spivs like no government in history? Or punishing the poor by removing the 10p tax rate? Or numerous foreign wars in support of a Republican US President? Or supporting overseas dictators like Gaddafi and the like?

Seems to me if you think Labour, led by public schoolboy type political wonks and a countess toff deputy leader are any different from this current government you’re reaching.

The fact is this country cannot afford to take taxpayer’s money to line the pockets of greedy landlords to allow people to live in houses they themselves cannot afford.

It isn’t fair and everyone knows it…

(not that Labour would care about that in it’s quest to punish the poorest in society)

I think the role of the right-wing press is over-estimated in this. A lot of peoples negative perceptions about the welfare system is based on their real-life perceptions of neighbours, friends & relatives. The press just inflames what is already there.
Even when their is a genuine need, how that money is spent can raise resentment – when money intended for the kids is spent on booze, fags, gambling or luxury electricals.
In real terms, corporate tax avoidance is a vastly greater issue, but despite the fantastic efforts of UKuncut and others, to many people it’s still a remote and abstract problem, whereas benefit fraud is happening in their neighborhood or on their street.
If the left didn’t destroy their own credibility with outright denial of the existence of SOME real-life scroungers, their case about tax avoidance might be less likely to fall on deaf ears.

55. christoff_ff

I think the role of the right-wing press is over-estimated in this. A lot of peoples negative perceptions about the welfare system is based on their real-life perceptions of neighbours, friends & relatives

This is naive.

Listen to the complaints of people who make assertions about what benefits they believe their neighbours are on and it’s all the same stuff – usually lifted straight out of their favourite tabloid rag.

Ask me what benefits or earnings my neighbours get and I’d only be honest if I admitted I have no clue.

This is why I make a point of saying “b*llocks” to friends and family when they launch into rants about alleged “scroungers” in their area.

They don’t actually know either.

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 50 vimothy

“Bit of a redundant thing to scream in a democracy, though–right?”

No, for the reasons I gave above. And argumentum ad populum IS a logical fallacy – it’s just a bit pointless invoking if you live in a democracy that ALSO has a balanced press AND you’re talking about national policy AND there’s no chance of legitimately convincing people to see your POV.

What that doesn’t mean is “50+% of people can’t be wrong”.

“When you say that listening to the people requires a more balanced press, it seems like you mean “more balanced, in our favour“. I.e., if the left controlled the press, the people could be educated out of their inconvenient views in short order, and then we could afford to be more democratic about the whole thing.”

Yes, I thought you’d grasp at that straw man. What I mean is we need a press that strives to report reality as it is, not twist it to support some political side. We all know the tricks that papers can use to do this without actually lying – turning anecdotes into major stories, using misleading figures or phrasing to exaggerate or downplay an issue, quoting smart people that you agree with and stupid people that you disagree with. Or sometimes they do just lie.

That problem would still exist if we had a hugely left-dominated tabloid space. I’m arguing for honestly. Claiming that, as I don’t like a dishonest right-wing press, I must therefore want a dishonest left-wing press, is not only a straw man but a false dichotomy.

“What if the causality in this case is running in the opposite direction, and the press are simply representing the people?”

If the public were given an accurate portrayal of benefits in the long-term, and even after the left put forward their best arguments, the majority still resented welfare, that would be the time to give up (or at least put the issue on the back-burner for 10 years to see if the wind changes).

“But I agree, what people believe is plastic–given enough time and resources I’m sure that they can be made to believe almost anything.”

Which is exactly what we need to ameliorate..

56. BenM
Granted, people might not have and exact pounds & pence figure of what people are claiming, but judgements are formed by the visible lifestyle and spending of their relatives, neighbours. If someone is known to be funded by taxpayers money, and spending money on things that many taxpayers would regard as frivolous, it causes bad-feeling.
Also, like any tale, it gets exaggerated in the telling, but it doesn’t hide the basic truth in the underlying case.
By dismissing it as bollocks, you just come across as out of touch.

#58:

“visible lifestyle and spending” etc… hmm well the problem with that is whether accurate conclusions can be drawn from what is ‘visible’, and what you expect benefit claimants to do about it if/when people make wrong assumptions.

For example I drive a pretty decent car, i.e. not a luxury model, but not a rustbucket either. People who know I am on benefits might look at it and think ‘she bought that with taxpayers money’ and have ‘bad feeling’ as you put it, but they’d be wrong. I bought it with savings I had from when I worked, it’s relatively cheap to run and I use it for essential journeys. Maybe I should explain this to everyone I know, just so they don’t judge me, but I would’ve hoped that would be unnecessary.

My point is that short of asking benefit claimants to provide a detailed report of where they got the money for everything they buy, and having a judging panel deciding which products are acceptable for a benefit claimant to buy and which are too frivolous, you will never assuage the resentment of people who are determined to get upset at the perceived greener grass of their neighbours. So the best thing to do with such petty people is educate them with facts about benefit fraud and not pander to their prejudices.

In other words, people’s financial lives are none of anyone else’s business – unless they are breaking the law – and that goes for benefit claimants as much as it does for anyone else.

Vimothy @ 50

When you say that listening to the people requires a more balanced press, it seems like you mean “more balanced, in our favour“. I.e.,

Typical Right Wing bullshit. We want the vermin to stop lying and tell the truth, we do not want them to lie ‘in our favour’. We want the press to report the actual ‘truth’ regarding these stories, not just what the Right want the answer to be.

The point is that if we want to form a policy that appeals to the public and is likely to address the actual problem is and not what the lying bastards tell us what the problem is, then we need both parties, i.e. ‘the public’ and the ‘policy makers’ to understand what the problem is.

Why is that so difficult to grasp?

I’m not saying for one minute that the vast majority of benefits claimants are not fully entitled to what they claim.
I don’t doubt that much of the talk about fraud or ‘scroungers’ exaggerated or malicious.
I strongly believe in the welfare state and it pains me to see it cut back.
I know that in financial terms, tax evasion is much bigger problem than benefit fraud.

But, benefit fraud does exist. I know first-hand, of people who exploit the welfare state. I’ve seen numerous instances both in a personal and professional capacity. In many cases the people concerned have bragged about how they’ve played the system, and in many cases, they’ve done this at the expense of their children.
Yet to many of the contributors on here, I’m making it up, believing urban myths, and/or being drip-fed by the tabloids.

By acknowledging that *sometimes* fraud does occur, and condemning proven cases that do come to light, the left might re-connect with the general public, and be listened to on the issues that do really matter.
Whilst lefties pursue with Orwellian certainty the line that issues don’t exist or don’t matter, that those who speak about them are liars or fools, large swathes of the 99% will continue turn out and vote for the 1%.

62. Chaise Guevara

@ 61 cristoff_ff

“Whilst lefties pursue with Orwellian certainty the line that issues don’t exist or don’t matter, that those who speak about them are liars or fools, large swathes of the 99% will continue turn out and vote for the 1%.”

I agree that pretending issues don’t exist is stupid. But who is actually doing this?

Chrisof @ 61

I have not seen anyone suggest that benefit fraud does not exist, nor are we saying that it should not be investigated or that we condone it.

What we are saying is that the Right wing press have deliberately and systematically misrepresented the prevalence of such cases. We are suggesting that to design a policy around such misrepresentations and subsequent misconceptions is wrong on both moral and pragmatic reasons.

#61

Basically what the others have said, but just to add: what you said in your earlier comment was that people look at benefit claimants’ visible lifestyle and spending, and it causes bad feeling. This is very different from witnessing someone actually admitting that they are defrauding the system.

The first is just petty resentment at work whereas the second is more serious.

However when it’s just anecdotal like this (‘I know someone who…’ etc) such instances are meaningless in terms of making an assessment of how bad the problem is, and whether it warrants the current response of the govt and the press.

To put it into perspective I’m sure everyone knows somebody who regularly drives over the speed limit but I have yet to see a systematic tabloid press campaign about how this is a runaway problem and these people are scum, nor a Crimestoppers initiative encouraging people to phone up and dob them in.

It’s all about proportion.

“If someone is known to be funded by taxpayers money, and spending money on things that many taxpayers would regard as frivolous, it causes bad-feeling.”

But this attitude simply harks back to primitive Victorian attitudes of deserving and undeserving poor and value judgements about what is frivolous.

For example, the most common complaint about benefits claimants in Daily Mail comment pages is that they sometimes go to the pub. This is frequently cited as clear proof that benefits are ‘too generous’.

Yet it ignores the fact that if you are unemployed or long term sick you don’t have the social networks that a job provides you with and you have to find something else. Yet the small minded really do believe that if you are on benefits you are required to be miserable and unhappy all the time as penance.

As someone else pointed out the correct response to such opinions is ‘bollocks’ and in doing so you are not being out of touch at all.

The fact is that, as a former welfare rights adviser I have a far better idea of the levels of income that the ‘working poor’ get, or what the supposedly ‘squeezed middle’ must be earning in order to be outside the entitlement conditions of Tax Credits, than they do about how much an unemployed or long term sick person has to live on. If such people claim that they can’t afford to eg go to the pub occasionally then I am far better equipped to make judgmental comments about over-committiing to mortgages or getting in hock in order to buy pointless posh furniture and such. I don’t do this because I understand that different people have different priorities for their expenditure and it’s up to them how they spend their money. In return, I expect a bit of understanding of the fact that I hardly ever buy any new clothes and use the money saved on a trip down the pub.

The ‘scrounger’ rhetoric is a mixture of ignoring evidence and disgraceful judgmental attitudes and we should argue strongly against both.

Why is that so difficult to grasp?

I don’t think it is difficult to grasp.

What actually is “the truth” here? Pace Pontius Pilote, it turns out to be knowable and inherently liberal. Which is why you can refer to people who disagree with you as “vermin” and “scum”. Obviously, at first glance this would appear to contradict fundamental principals of liberal philosophy (namely, that all judgements are subjective and equally valid). But since populist notions about welfare are themselves judgemental and contra some (assumed) rational analysis of aggregate social welfare… Let ‘em have both barrels!

And argumentum ad populum IS a logical fallacy

If I were to say to you that the earth is flat, you challenged me, and I pointed to the beliefs of the majority in the flatness of the earth, this would be an example of argumentum ad populum.

If we are talking about how people on welfare should be regarded and treated by society, then it’s hard to see how the fallacy comes in. People think that there is something inherently wrong with being on welfare.

If you want to say that people should not hold this view or that it is irrelevant because it relies on argumentum ad populum, then the implication is that any shared form of morality is invalid, becasuse it violates this principal.

But that is clearly absurd.

Violet @59:

“My point is that short of asking benefit claimants to provide a detailed report of where they got the money for everything they buy, and having a judging panel deciding which products are acceptable for a benefit claimant to buy and which are too frivolous, you will never assuage the resentment of people who are determined to get upset at the perceived greener grass of their neighbours.”

Or, to quote a regular contributor (step forward, Flying Rodent!):

“[A] society like the UK [...] seems to make most of its political decisions based upon mortal terror that somebody, somewhere is getting something for free”

As I said a little while ago on the threats to the disabled, if you can demonise that tiny proportion of people who are gaming the system that makes it far easier for you to spread the contumely and imprecations to those who are not. This makes it easier to do things to that entire category of people.

The ultimate neo-liberal project with the benefits system – as with all public sector provision other than, natch, the police and the armed services – is to denigrate it, smear it, undermine it in however many ways which can be got away with. The near-poor can always be persuaded to turn on the actually-poor, the architects of the policy can walk away smiling to themselves, leaving their targets fighting amongst themselves like rats in a sack.

vimothy @67:

“People think that there is something inherently wrong with being on welfare.”

The two questions which are begged by such a statement are:

1) Which people? People in general, or just those who make the most noise in the letters/comments pages of the press?

2) Why do they think there is something inherently wrong with being on welfare? Is it because they think it’s a disgrace that people should have to do so in one of the richest countries in the world; or is it because they have been told from a variety of apparently different sources, but all part of the same continuum of power – pols, biz & media – that if you claim benefits then the only valid status for you is that of moral pariah?

People do not live in a vacuum; they are influenced by what they see and hear. They are therefore prey to co-ordinated campaigns of shouting by – and on behalf of – vested interests who wish to see the victims of the current economic system fighting one another.

My brother thinks he’s ‘playing the system’. He’s not, he’s just stupid and a fantasist and likes the idea of himself as a Shameless-style rogue. You can never be sure anyone bragging about their benefits is actually cheating or if they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

Being ‘in touch’ it seems means ‘gullible’ and ‘believes people that talk utter shite’. This is why those who rely on anecdotes like ‘my neighbor/relative brags about it’ should be interrogated on exactly what benefits are being claimed. No, not the amount, just the benefit awards. The smart ones are reluctant to do it because they don’t know damn diddly feck about the system and don’t want to reveal it. The rest will often lump mutually exclusive benefits in their long list or benefits that have nothing to do with unemployment or even things that aren’t benefits at all. Then you know they’re talking out their ass.

And that makes people like me ‘out of touch’.

71. Leon Wolfeson

@54 – No, because your copy-pasted shit is copy/pasted shit, BNP boy.

And yes, gotta punish the poor rather than use solutions. Only rich white racially pure people are Human, after all.

@65 – No. You’re expected to quietly leave the areas with jobs and starve and freeze.

@67 – Saying that there’s something “inherently” wrong with being out of a job during a depression IS wrong, That’s why it’s called a depression.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ 67 vimothy

“If I were to say to you that the earth is flat, you challenged me, and I pointed to the beliefs of the majority in the flatness of the earth, this would be an example of argumentum ad populum. ”

I suspect people are factually wrong, though. Because the media tends to give a distorted amount of space to stories about benefit fraud, most people probably think that a higher proportion of claimants are fraudulent than is actually the case. I’m sure I’ve seen surveys bearing this out, although I admit I don’t have them to hand. Same thing with illegal immigrants.

“If we are talking about how people on welfare should be regarded and treated by society, then it’s hard to see how the fallacy comes in. People think that there is something inherently wrong with being on welfare. ”

If you want to say that people should not hold this view or that it is irrelevant because it relies on argumentum ad populum, then the implication is that any shared form of morality is invalid, becasuse it violates this principal.

But that is clearly absurd.”

You’ve got the concept the wrong way around. Argumentum ad populum does not say that an idea is wrong because most people agree with it. It says that an argument is not automatically RIGHT because most people agree with it. The point is that the popularity of an argument (or lack thereof) doesn’t in itself validate or invalidate that argument.

When you try to shame people for daring to disagree with the majority, accusing them of arrogance and so on, you’re appealing to that logical fallacy. Regardless of whether you formally say “You disgree with the majority, ergo you are wrong”. You wrote a post upthread based on sneering at people for holding an unpopular view. Therein lies the fallacious reasoning.

Now, if someone were to say “Most people disagree with me, but they’re wrong, so my ideas should be forced upon them against their will”, we’d be having a different conversation, one about the pragmatic benefits of democracy. But nobody said that.

Imagine something you found totally abhorrent was legalised based on popular support – slavery perhaps. Would you say to yourself, “ah well, looks like I’m in the minority, I better start believing slavery is right”? Or would you continue to believe it was wrong, regardless of being outnumbered? I’m not asking whether you’d go rogue and defy the democratic result to become an outlaw who rescued slaves. I’m just asking whether or not you’d still think the practice was wrong.

You wrote a post upthread based on sneering at people for holding an unpopular view. Therein lies the fallacious reasoning.

But of course I’m doing none of those things.

Why do we live in the society we live in? It’s certainly not because the majority are in charge. The majority are pretty much ignored, unless they are first patronised, and then ignored. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. I’m not a huge fan or democracy so the lack of it bothers me a lot less than the large amounts of hypocrisy and sanctimonious nonsense that surround it.

We live in the society we live in because liberal people control all the important institutions. This group pushes through change ahead of the wishes of the majority and then waits for the effects of education, the media and so on to bring the rest of us up to speed. That basically explains the last 100 years of our history. Goodbye old society; hello new one.

So, who makes the rules? You guys do! And what is the basis for those rules? A set of values that is alien to the majority of people in this country. Hell, a set of values that alien for most people for most of human history. But wait, argumentum ad populam, right?

Your fallacy is itself a fallacy. It’s redundant. It simply brings you back round in a great big circle, with nothing to show for it.

I don’t believe in democratic liberalism—the religion of the age. I’m certainly not sneering at people for holding “unpopular” views, which in any case are not at all unpopular where it counts. I’m criticising liberals for constantly seeking to re-engineering society along their favoured lines. People want to live in a society that reflects their values, governed by institutions that do likewise—indeed; they want to live in a society where shared values exist, full-stop.

But even the most mundane expressions of outrage are too much for you guys. The press should be ever more balanced! Of course—any expression of traditional values is too much, because traditional values are wrong. They should be treated like creationism. You don’t teach children creationism as if it were a valid theory, weighted by number of adherents (or whatever). It’s objectively wrong, so it be kept out of the classroom.

74. Leon Wolfeson

@73 – Well of course, only the right are allowed to do anything, and if the poor die, so be it! The right have dragged general policy SO far towards their views in the last 30 years..but it’s never enough. There must be One True Party.

Keep sneering at the very CONCEPT of shared values, though.

Vimothy @ 66

The truth is staring us in the face. The number of people who are convicted of defrauding the system is too low to be taken seriously. The number of cases investigated and subsequently found not to involve fraud is surprisingly high. The vast majority of cases investigated are dropped without further investigation. People make malicious phone calls to the Stasi every week and 99% of them are rejected.

Less than one percent of benefit cases are fraudulent, yet the Daily Hate publish these stories while leaving the vast majority of honest cases unreported. Who would do such a thing for political gain? Scum, that’s who.

The two questions which are begged by such a statement

Lot of that going round, I see!

1, People in general view the idea of being on benefits as inherently wrong, if less than they once did. That at least is my assessment–your mileage may vary.

2, Because the idea that people are living off the state instead of standing on their own two feet violates a commonly held norm. Let’s take the banks as an eg. Why are people bothered about the banks? Because they get all the upside and none of the downside, and this isn’t fair. Well, it’s the same principal here.

This norm is not something which the nefarious right-wing conspiracy that holds all the levers of power has introduced (because, think of the banks). This is something that comes quite naturally to people. They think that if you can work, you should work, because it doesn’t seem fair to transfer money from people who do to people who don’t but who could.

77. Leon Wolfeson

@76 – The jobs are NOT THERE.

The press is peddling lies. This isn’t something a democratic country can withstand. And the UK won’t withstand it, in fact, much longer.

78. Chaise Guevara

@ 73 vimothy

Ah. Paranoid conspiracy theories. Plus a claim that an accepted logical fallacy is “redundant” with no explanation (except a bit about circles that is itself redundant), and a repeated straw man about my desire for an honest media actually being a desire for a biased media.

Whatever, I’ve got better things to do that argue with long yet content-free posts about the eeeevil libruls that live under your bed. Carry on.

This whole debate about benefits fraud (cost: £1b while unclaimed benefits amount to £16.5b) looks like a massive diversion away from the real, deep and substantial damage being done to the economy and society. Anyone who goes along with Liam Byrne and his bedfellows is not doing anyone a favour except the looters at the top who know what they’re doing.

That’s why it’s important to take your tinfoil hat wherever you go.

@ 27 Sunny Hundai

David Wearing:
“Lefties” don’t ignore public opinion. “Lefties” hold on to this radical idea that sometimes politics is about making an argument and trying to change people’s minds.

Sure – but at what point do people accept that they’ve demonstrably failed to shift public opinion or hold on to their positions?

Surely this is measured against something? I agree lefties should fight the fight, but we have a situation where people have failed to influence the public and put themselves in a position where they’re so far out of touch with public opinion that the political establishment ignores them.

Given that the lefties don’t have the fire-power (without trade unions, most of those members buy into this narrative) – how exactly does anyone shift opinion?

Probably because most of the nominal ‘left’ haven’t even been trying. Instead they’ve decided to merely parrot the right wing tabloid line. Which in itself feeds the problem.

This raises a wider issue. For the past 20 or so years the left both here and in lots of other places like the US has fallen into the trap of believing that the only way the right can be beaten is if they out right the right. This can be seen on everything from economics to welfare policy etc.

This strategy has been a catastophic failiure! It has merely strengthened the right while undermining support from the left wing parties traditional base. The rightward drift has continued apace, both here and in the US and that is largely because the ‘left’ has decided to give up and clear the field for them.

This can never work, because no matter how far the ‘left’ tries to appease the right, the real right will always go further. It is time for a root and branch re-think of this strategy. To be really radical, how about the Labour leadership strongly and publically refute the tabloid line on things like welfare/crime/immigration, rather than doing their usual (and failed) strategy of trying to be seen to “be tough”.

But this is also an area where lefties ignore public opinion to their own cost. A poll in Oct ’11 found 63% of people doubt the benefits system works effectively, and 72% want politicians to do more to cut the benefits bill (only 15% disagreed). 78% wanted job seekers to lose benefits if they refuse work they can do. The polling was just overwhelmingly as slanted in late 2010.

This is hardly surprising when the public is fed daily with right wing lies and no-one of prominence is standing up and challenging it…. The thing is, those of us who know the facts know full well that public perceptions about welfare are based upon a pack of lies. I wonder what results you would have got if you’d have done an opinion poll in Germany in circa 1938 about public attitudes towards Jews?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/HDyiRtXm

  2. 441$H4

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/HDyiRtXm

  3. sunny hundal

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  4. Charlie

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  5. House Of Twits

    RT @sunny_hundal The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/uzlOWAVg

  6. Emma Burnell

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/HDyiRtXm

  7. Dànaidh Ratnaike

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/GHeGyFhL @sunny_hundal

  8. eleanor

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  9. Mags W

    RT @leftlinks: Liberal Conspiracy – Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/PobVAHZm

  10. fauxpaschick

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  11. Doug James

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/LpKO6lUO via @libcon – yep sunny hundal

  12. Jos Bell

    RT @leftlinks: Liberal Conspiracy – Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/PobVAHZm

  13. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/g8GCTYRM

  14. Peter Kenyon

    I challenge @LiamByrneMP and @PeterHain to convene a #Labour Party NPF for end January to debate eg Welfare reforms: http://t.co/KLMo9PbH

  15. Chris Paul

    I challenge @LiamByrneMP and @PeterHain to convene a #Labour Party NPF for end January to debate eg Welfare reforms: http://t.co/KLMo9PbH

  16. Skipton&Ripon CLP

    I challenge @LiamByrneMP and @PeterHain to convene a #Labour Party NPF for end January to debate eg Welfare reforms: http://t.co/KLMo9PbH

  17. sunny hundal

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  18. Legal Aware

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  19. Chris Paul

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  20. Claire Wells

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  21. Michael Carr

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/nYu50zBG via @libcon

  22. Patrick Butler

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  23. Rick

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  24. House Of Twits

    RT @sunny_hundal I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/uzlOWAVg

  25. Dr Marc Bush

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  26. Simon

    "[Labour] MPs would literally have to murder a benefit recipient live on TV to convince the public they’re serious" http://t.co/q5uz0MRs

  27. Neill Harvey-Smith

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  28. Walaa Idris

    Agree with @sunny_hundal, he thinks Lab MPs have no idea how to sort out welfare & benefits issue http://t.co/wYz9cMi9

  29. HelenBLaRouge

    I challenge @LiamByrneMP and @PeterHain to convene a #Labour Party NPF for end January to debate eg Welfare reforms: http://t.co/KLMo9PbH

  30. Dr Marc Bush

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/HDyiRtXm

  31. Mags W

    RT @sunny_hundal: I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/K9MAg1vj

  32. Martin Hinds

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  33. Boris Watch

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  34. Tom Pollard

    Interesting @sunny_hundal piece on circular nature of welfare debate – http://t.co/COjQ7VcB

  35. John D Clare

    RT @sunny_hundal: I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/K9MAg1vj

  36. James Ball

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  37. TeresaMary

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  38. Adam Richards

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  39. Tim Holmes

    @SunnyHundal This is silly. http://t.co/EKqV0DvQ How d'you know things wouldn't be even worse on this issue w/out "lefties getting angry"?

  40. Tim Holmes

    @sunny_hundal This is silly. http://t.co/EKqV0DvQ How d'you know things wouldn't be even worse on this issue w/out "lefties getting angry"?

  41. Michael Cronogue

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  42. Trakgalvis

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  43. Jeni Parsons

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wcxRz68H via @libcon #otmp #occupylondon

  44. Miles Weaver

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  45. Wildey

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wcxRz68H via @libcon #otmp #occupylondon

  46. DPWF

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  47. Rosemary

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  48. BendyGirl

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  49. Tentacle Sixteen

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  50. Janet Graham

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/HDyiRtXm

  51. Janet Graham

    The Labour party and lefties on welfare benefits: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  52. Janet Graham

    I still don't think Labour MPs have figured out how to deal with their welfare benefits problem http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  53. Virginia Moffatt

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  54. Salt&Caramel

    Excellent article by @sunny_hudai on Welfare Reform and how Labour keeps dodging the issue http://t.co/L0FjYV2o

  55. Larry Southpaw

    Excellent @sunny_hundal piece on why Labour is stuck dismally in a welfare reform habit it can't get out of http://t.co/cEwQ3WmF

  56. Too Many Cuts

    Excellent article by @sunny_hudai on Welfare Reform and how Labour keeps dodging the issue http://t.co/L0FjYV2o

  57. Michael Harrington

    #UK : Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/g8GCTYRM

  58. Alex Braithwaite

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/OheVBnfP via @libcon

  59. Richard Exell

    Sunny Hundal well worth reading on today’s Labour & welfare brouhaha: http://t.co/Kyifzwey

  60. BendyGirl

    Sunny Hundal well worth reading on today’s Labour & welfare brouhaha: http://t.co/Kyifzwey

  61. Molly

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated http://t.co/HDyiRtXm

  62. Marsha de Cordova

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/nnPe8nEW via @libcon

  63. Labour lurches to the right on benefits: Senior left-wing MP admits for first time system HAS to change « ATOS REGISTER OF SHAME

    [...] Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated (liberalconspiracy.org) [...]

  64. A Sense of Entitlement – The British and The Welfare State | saltandcaramel.com

    [...] very interesting report sums it [...]

  65. Richard Brooks

    Impressed with @sunny_hundal's balanced assessment of Labour's struggle to reconcile the issues around welfare: http://t.co/svO1JzY5

  66. Labour’s untenable position on social security and disability | Left Foot Forward

    [...] Sunny Hundal, however, writes: “Labour ministers have deliberately avoided mentioning disabled people in their rhetoric, and Liam Byrne explicitly attacks cuts to disability benefits in his article. [...]

  67. Susan Mackay

    Impressed with @sunny_hundal's balanced assessment of Labour's struggle to reconcile the issues around welfare: http://t.co/svO1JzY5

  68. Mike Smart

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/gj0pJYAh

  69. Too Many Cuts

    #frothers http://t.co/LErsEwuQ welfare reform: with some scary stats!

  70. Janet Graham

    Impressed with @sunny_hundal's balanced assessment of Labour's struggle to reconcile the issues around welfare: http://t.co/svO1JzY5

  71. TheCornishRepublican

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/xa4thg2r

  72. Max Dunbar

    Interesting on @libcon: why the left can't win on welfare/immigration http://t.co/r1IMRsWp

  73. Byrne and Beveridge « Representing the Mambo

    [...] wider political strategy. Something that Labour seems to have no response to other than mimicry. And seeing as no one trusts them to be tough anyway, then what is the fucking point? Why not try and change the terms of the debate rather than [...]

  74. Eamon Walsh

    Labour can not hope to regain power unless it deals with the toxic issue of welfare as Sunny Hundal acknowledges; http://t.co/guMCmtrG

  75. Rowland Paul Hill

    Impressed with @sunny_hundal's balanced assessment of Labour's struggle to reconcile the issues around welfare: http://t.co/svO1JzY5

  76. L Minx

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/gj0pJYAh

  77. lisa lou

    Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/v1evBSn3 via @libcon

  78. Labour’s untenable position on social security and disability | The Peter Principle

    [...] Sunny Hundal, however, writes: “Labour ministers have deliberately avoided mentioning disabled people in their rhetoric, and Liam Byrne explicitly attacks cuts to disability benefits in his article. [...]

  79. sunny hundal

    As I said yesterday, Liam Byrne et al will simply accuse left of ignoring public opinion on welfare and carry on http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  80. Chris Wills

    As I said yesterday, Liam Byrne et al will simply accuse left of ignoring public opinion on welfare and carry on http://t.co/pKnJc1YW

  81. sunny hundal

    @kevpeel LOTS of work to do… His welfare article was classic – more positioning and not a single new idea in there http://t.co/pKnJc1YW





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