The right-wing tabloids aren’t serious about reducing the welfare bill either


5:04 pm - April 25th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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I said earlier that Conservatives aren’t serious about cutting the welfare bill, primarily because they don’t focus on its biggest components: lack of jobs and pensions. I add to that the unwillingness to reduce housing benefit by building more social housing.

For all their huffing and puffing, many parts of the press (Mail, Telegraph, Express) aren’t serious about this issue either.

That’s the only conclusion I can reach given they keep publishing blatant lies by Iain Duncan Smith about how he’s getting people off welfare.

In the Economist, Daniel Knowles blogs about IDS’s “questionable numbers”. He implores:

The welfare reform [sic] does indeed need reform. But the whole point about government statistics is that they are meant to be at least sort of objective. Ministers can quote the ones which support their case—but they shouldn’t manipulate them and distort them to tell stories that aren’t actually true. There is plenty of evidence to support welfare reform without resorting to such disgraceful abuse of numbers.

This blog by @spoonydoc sets out recent errors in point form.

But the key point here isn’t that IDS has grossly manipulated stats – he’s only continuing to do so because the newspapers go along with the façade.

I find this behaviour by newspapers a bit baffling. If a Labour minister was abusing statistics like this they’d be outraged, because IDS is trying to create the illusion that his policies are working.

It’s like the Workfare schemes that they also backed to the hilt – despite evidence that its worse than doing nothing.

If the newspapers were serious about cutting the social security bill, they would ask IDS why he’s lying to them. They would consider serious solutions to reduce the welfare bill and ask what the government is doing to create jobs (the rise in unemployment barely made the top story last week).

Instead, they’re happy to promote IDS’s façade that his plans are working, even when they know its full of accounting tricks. I can only conclude they’re doing this because they want to demonise people are who are forced to rely on welfare benefits through no fault of their own, rather than accepting it as a necessary part of a civilised society.

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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


I don’t think anyone on the right wing of the political spectrum wants any of the metrics to actually shrink – not the welfare budget, not the deficit, not the debt. A lot of rich people are poised to make a lot of money from scrapping the welfare state; privatisation is good for them, and they need the spending, borrowing & deficit figures to remain alarming so that they can continue with the charade of “austerity” that’s delivering them these easy profits.

And if the overall state budget continues to grow, what do they care? It’s not as if they pay any tax. No skin off their nose.

The Right is always about two things: defence of privilege and cheap labour. There may be the odd fad that comes and goes but that’s it really.

What worries me about the current bunch of trans-Atlantic radicals is that they seem to have looked at Russia and China and to have liked what they’ve seen. Neo-lib ideology but without democracy. Ideal!

My own conclusion has been that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare ideas are entirely a vanity project. There are a lack of self-reflecting statements from him about what he’s doing, even the Mail article following on from when he was asked if he could survive on £53 a week contained no reflective qualities on his part. It’s something he said a while ago that shapes how I interpret his behaviour and statements since.

He said that his welfare reforms would be the last thing he does in politics. I don’t have a direct quote on hand, but that is the accurate content of it: they are ‘his’ welfare reforms and they are his legacy.

I wondered since then what he would do when it started crumbling to pieces. I thought he might have a nervous breakdown given how ‘all in’ he went over key policies like the Work Programme and Universal Credit. Instead it appears he’s protecting himself from reality in a cocoon. It’s bizarre to watch.

Vanity and incompetence often go together and I suspect his refusal to face facts over the Work Programme is down to Smith’s monumental helpings of both. He was ridiculed and reviled by is own party when he was leader and his dreams of being a great leader crashed and burned so he saw his chance to be remembered as a great statesman by reforming Britain’s social security system into something that works. Unfortunately, he simply cannot see how completely incompetent he is and so believes it is reality that it is at fault, not him. He will be remembered but not for the reform that social security drastically needs, he will be remembered for causing more suffering than the Luftwaffe and being responsible for more deaths than Harold Shipman.

As for the rest of the right wing maniacs in government, they don’t want to shrink budgets, they simply want to divert as month money as they can from them into corporate coffers. Any Tory supporters who dream of a small state, low tax country will ultimately be very disappointed as spending will remain at European levels but services will decline to American quality, the worst of both worlds. Unless you are one of the plutocrats or their minions.

Good article Sunny and some good links.

“I can only conclude they’re doing this because they want to demonise people are who are forced to rely on welfare benefits”

And also because they want to maintain the Tories’ image of being “tough on scroungers”. The papers don’t really support the Tories to reduce the welfare bill; they support the Tories because they promise the biggest reductions in their (and their owners’) tax and wages bills.

Persuading voters to back tax and “flexible labour market” policies which are massively against their own interest requires voters to be outraged (at scroungers) or scared (of immigrants) – and requires the Tories to be depicted as the only chance of tough defence and enforcement…

Schmidt: “As for the rest of the right wing maniacs in government, they don’t want to shrink budgets, they simply want to divert as month money as they can from them into corporate coffers”

Too true. I mean, remind me, how was it Grant Shapps made his fortune before joining the government…?

someone with the right skills should set up a web wall of those people who have been adversely affected by IDS.
then he could look at his legacy everyday.

Distinct lack of the usual right-wing contributors,I wonder why?

“I said earlier that Conservatives aren’t serious about cutting the welfare bill, primarily because they don’t focus on its biggest components: lack of jobs and pensions. I add to that the unwillingness to reduce housing benefit by building more social housing.”

I agree with pensions, but aren’t lefties always saying how JSA is a tiny proportion of the welfare budget? YOu can’t have it both ways.


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