Wednesday, November 10, 2010

today : that's the sound of the men working on the chain gang

Nothing wrong with helping the long-term unemployed gain work experience and the confidence to re-enter the job market. It's quite easy to get a caught up in a whirlpool of low self-esteem while the waterfall flows over you.

But, as always, the Tories give themselves away with their rhetoric. In the past six months it has been a relentless barrage of negativity fired at the most vulnerable. It's a blatant attempt to create an orthodoxy of division and blame in order to justify their all-out attack on the poor. Anytime anyone points out that the rich seem to be getting richer they jump up and bleat on about class warfare. The real class warfare is in slashing investment, hacking away at the poorest in society, wilfully destroying jobs in vulnerable areas and continually attacking the poor for being poor.

And now the unemployed are to be put to work picking up litter and cleaning graffiti for their £65 a week.
This appeared in the press. A Coalition source said: ‘We cannot go on allowing tens of thousands of people to wilfully avoid getting a job. Some go to great lengths to sabotage all efforts to help them find work. That is partly why the welfare bill has gone up so much and it is why hard-working taxpayers get so angry. ‘Some have been out of work for so long that they are literally incapable of obtaining or holding down a job. They have lost the discipline and all sense of work ethic. ‘This programme is designed to address that. It is not intended to apply to people who have genuinely tried to find work or who genuinely cannot work. Some people have simply got out of the habit of working. Hopefully this scheme will help them get back into a nine-to-five routine. ‘But is it meant as a sanction? Yes – and we are convinced it will have an effect. ‘All research shows that when sanctions are applied to those who can work but try to avoid it, they soon get the message and get off their backsides.’

The first thing that is worth pointing out here is that something like these measures already exist. Long term unemployed people are compelled to attend job-seekers training courses. I know, because I taught a bunch of them basic skills (and in the process managed to help a few get a job). If they fail to attend the training then their benefits are compromised.
So all that's changed is that instead of endeavouring to help people, the Coalition has decided to declare this kind of thing as a sanction. The inference here is that people should be punished for being poor. An orange jump-suit and a shackle away from a chain-gang.

As with the relentless drive to demonise the disabled. At best this is merely a way of justifying what is really an easy choice for amoral politicians. It's easy to demonise the poor and voiceless as you attack them, just as it's easy to kick someone while they're down. At worst it is an expression of their hatred and contempt for the poor, disabled and voiceless. All evidence from the past suggests that they really do despise the poor and relish the opportunity to attack and undermine them. Remember that these are the people whose ranks include George Young (current Tory leader of the house) who described the homeless as the people you step over on the way to the opera.

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