The Tories’ Cruelty Is Laid Bare as Multiple Welfare Cuts Bite

3.4.13

Ever since the Tories came to power in May 2010, aided by the Liberal Democrats, who, sadly, demonstrated that everything they professed to believe in could be discarded if it meant being in government, the very fabric of civil society in the UK has been faced with extinction. This is a country that has developed a welfare safety net to protect the most vulnerable members of society and those who have fallen on hard times, and one that has guaranteed healthcare for its entire population, through the NHS, paid for through general taxation, but the Tories are determined to destroy it, and far too many people have been fooled by their poisonous persecution of the poor and disabled, and their ideologically motivated “age of austerity,” which continues to ruin any chance of economic recovery, while plunging millions of people further into serious poverty.

On Monday, April 1, multiple welfare cuts hit hundreds of thousands of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, and although two newspapers led with the news on their front pages — the Guardian (“The day Britain changed”) and the Daily Mirror (“D-Day for Savage Con-Dem Cuts”) — there is no sign that the British people, in general, have woken up to the full ramifications of what is being done in their name.

From the beginning of the Tories’ attack on the state, the government and large parts of the media have successfully lied about the unemployed and the disabled being scroungers and shirkers, creating a climate of mean-spiritedness and hatred amongst my fellow citizens that I have found to be both shocking and disgraceful, because the blunt truth, which anyone could find out if they could be bothered, is that there are around 2,500,000 people unemployed but only 500,000 job vacancies.

That fact should be imprinted on everyone’s foreheads before the blame game begins, but what is also hugely important to realise, but which is almost entirely ignored, is that the benefit system is not primarily supporting the unemployed, but is  propping up a corrupt system in which low-paid workers are not paid enough to live on, and the cost of living — including housing more than any other component — is one in which the government does nothing to check rampant profiteering by individuals and corporations.

From the beginning, it was apparent to me that punishing people for not having jobs, while actively creating unemployment, as the Tories did with public sector job cuts after they took office, was cruel, in a way that, in the only other period comparable to this one — the 1980s — Margaret Thatcher at least recognised that kicking people for being unemployed at a time when the government was actively creating unemployment was a step too far, and largely allowed those on the dole to scrape by unmolested.

Now, however, there appear to be no lines that the Tories will not cross. Having been caught out by a judge regarding their workfare scam — forcing the unemployed to work for their benefits, for corporations that can afford to pay them, or charities that should know better — the Tories quickly passed an emergency law preventing them from having to recompense the victims of their policy to savagely undermine the minimum wage — and, disgracefully, were backed by the Labour Party, who abstained in the crucial vote.

Even that, however, is exceeded in the cruelty stakes by the Tories’ disgusting treatment of the disabled, in which, having established targets for the amount of money they wanted to save, they hired the corporate butchers of Atos Healthcare to conduct fundamentally unfair reviews aimed at establishing that those who are mentally and/or physically disabled — however severely — are in fact fit for work, so that the financial support that has made life tolerable for hundreds of thousands of disabled people can be withdrawn. I have sporadically covered the government’s callous treatment of the disabled in a number of articles, most recently in “Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled,” “The End of Decency: Tories to Make Disabled People Work Unpaid for Their Benefits.” “The Death of Empathy in Cruel, Heartless Britain” and “End the Tory Butchers’ Assault on the Disabled: For New Year, Please Sign the War on Welfare Petition.”

As noted above, the assault on the poor, the weak, the unemployed and the disabled reached an important stage on April 1, when a number of disturbing welfare cuts came into effect, in addition to the legislation intended to privatise the majority of NHS services, which is still being resisted in the House of Lords, as well as savage cuts to legal aid, and the scrapping of the 50p tax rate for the highest earners, introduced by Gordon Brown. According to Labour, this cut will mean that 13,000 millionaires will get a £100,000 tax cut, just as the poorest people in society are having money taken away from them.

In a rundown of these changes, the Guardian, in one of a refreshingly large series of articles about welfare reform (or, as we should be calling it, the war on welfare), highlighted the introduction of the welfare benefit cap, the introduction of the bedroom tax, changes to the way in which benefits are calculated, changes to council tax benefit, and the end of Disability Living Allowance.

The welfare benefit cap

On the welfare benefit cap, the Guardian wrote, “The most popular of the welfare reforms will begin on 15 April in the London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey. The intention is that no welfare claimants will receive in total more than the average annual household income after tax and national insurance — estimated at £26,000. Other councils will start to introduce it from 15 July and it will be fully up and running by the end of September. Some estimate 80,000 households will be made homeless.”

Missing in all the arguments about spongers and scroungers has been any mention at all of the fact that most of the benefit consists of housing benefit, all of which goes to the landlords and not to the benefit claimants. This makes up the lion’s share of the payments, in a market run on greed alone, and without any legislation to moderate what landlords can charge, or how they treat their properties, or their tenants, and it is depressing that so many people have failed to note who receives the housing benefit, and how greedy and exploitative they are. Personally, I am permanently shocked when I think about the numbers of people who may be obliged to move from where they live, uprooting their children from school, and leaving friends and family, through no fault of their own. In London, it is the first indication that the Tories are committed to a programme of social cleansing,  and I can only hope that other towns and cities around the country, who are supposed to take in those expelled from London, will refuse to accept their role as intended ghettoes.

The bedroom tax

Added to the housing benefit cap is the bedroom tax, a disgusting way of treating those in social housing as second-class citizens, without the right to regard their homes as homes, and of punishing those in receipt of benefits for the fact that, from Margaret Thatcher onwards, when social housing was first sold off to tenants, there has been chronic under-investment in the creation of new social housing.

Under the bedroom tax, those deemed to have a spare room “will lose 14% of their housing benefit and those with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25%.” The fact that those implementing the policy are millionaires with an abundance of spare rooms is a cruel irony lost on the Tories, who are so marinaded in their class-based cruelty that they have no notion of how cruel they appear to those whose moral compasses are still functioning, and it is to be hoped that the bedroom tax will be a key component in the demise of this bunch of sadists, as the poll tax was for Margaret Thatcher.

The stated aim of the bedroom tax is to make people on benefits downsize, but in most cases there are no properties available for them to downsize to, and many of the one million households affected may well be obliged to give up their homes and either become homeless or become part of the far more costly private rental market. As the Guardian noted, “Critics say it is an inefficient policy as in the north of England, families with a spare room outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands will be hit with the tax when there is no local need for them to move.” The Guardian also noted, “Two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled,” and stated that the intended savings will be £465m a year, and “as many as 660,000 people in social housing will lose an average of £728 a year.”

For some powerful articles about the ruinous impact of the bedroom tax, please see Amelia Gentleman’s Guardian article, “The human cost of the bedroom tax,” John Harris’ Guardian article, “The spare bedroom tax: a mess of contradiction and impossibility,” and this article by a Community Housing provider in Wales. All are very powerful, and a thorough indictment of both the individual cruelties involved in the tax (relating to those who use the “spare rooms,” like disabled people, and the visiting children of separated parents, for example), and the bigger picture of the government’s malevolence towards those in social housing, and in difficult circumstances.

Changes to the way benefit is calculated

“For the first time in history,” as the Guardian explained, “welfare benefits and tax credits will not rise in line with inflation and will instead for the next three years rise by 1%. Had there been no change benefits would have risen by 2.2%.” These changes are intended to “sav[e] £505m in the first year, rising to £2.3 bn in 2015-16. Nearly 9.5 million families will be affected, including 7 million in work, by £165 a year,” adding to the cuts that many families will also be experiencing though the bedroom tax and the overall welfare benefit cap.

Changes to council tax benefit

Adding further strain to the incomes of those in receipt of benefits — the low-paid as well as the unemployed, remember — council tax benefit, previously administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, has been transferred to local councils along with, crucially, a ten percent reduction in funding. As the Guardian noted, “Council tax benefit is claimed by 5.9 million low-income families in the UK,” adding, “The new onus on councils has come at a time when local government funding, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has fallen by 26.8% in two years in real terms. A Guardian survey of 81 councils last week found many claiming they face difficult cuts, with almost half saying they were reducing spending on care services for adults. This also comes at a time when 2.4m households will see a council tax rise.”

Last month, in an article for the Guardian, Richard Vize analysed what will almost certainly happen at the council level if, as intended, the poorest members of society are expected to pay part of their council tax. Vize noted, “The prospect of a return to routine non-payment of local tax thanks to cuts in council tax benefit is a major reverse for councils. In the 1980s, the poll tax rebellion made it socially acceptable to avoid payment, whether through poverty or political conviction. Tax collection rates plummeted while collection costs soared, inflicting serious damage on councils’ finances. After the poll tax was abolished, it took many years for collection rates to recover. Now, the spectre of non-payment has returned.”

He added, “Local authorities believe that up to 84% of people on low incomes will refuse to pay council tax, with benefit changes meaning poor people face an average annual bill of £247 from April. If the government had conducted any intelligent analysis of the impact of this change, it would have realised that levying a tax of barely £5 a week on people who will struggle to pay it is a recipe for spending a lot of money to collect very little. No wonder councils are building up their reserves.”

The end of Disability Living Allowance

As well as still facing the callous reviews intended to find disabled people fit for work, whether they are or not, disabled people now face another blow — the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance, and its replacement with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, is, in the Guardian‘s words, “not based on your condition, but on how your condition affects you, so narrowing the gateway to the PIP. It will contain two elements: a daily living component and a mobility component. If you score sufficient points, a claim can be made. Assessments will be face-to-face rather than based on written submissions, starting in Bootle benefits centre, handling claims across the north-west and north-east.”

For further information about the abolition of DLA and its replacement with PIP, see this Guardian article by Jane Young of the We Are Spartacus group of disabled activists, and the detailed We Are Spartacus report. “Emergency Stop,” which analyses “the economic and social impact of the Personal Independence Payment regulations.” In it, We Are Spartacus “call on the Government to ‘go back to the drawing board’ on proposals to replace disability living allowance (DLA), after it buried last-minute changes to criteria which will see thousands more disabled people with mobility difficulties lose out than expected.”

The changes on the ground: a report from Tottenham

In another Guardian article about the changes, political editor Patrick Wintour travelled to Tottenham, to attend a meeting convened by the Labour MP David Lammy for “about 900 families in Lammy’s north London constituency – one of the most deprived in the country – [who] will be hit by the household benefit cap, which limits the total weekly amount each unemployed household can receive in benefits to £500.” Only around 200 families turned up, showing, I believe, the shocking scale of ignorance about the changes. Although Wintour noted that many of them were “mothers with young children in tow,” and that there was “palpable anxiety, and an undercurrent of anger,” Lammy told Wintour, “The first some of them knew of the imminent cut to their income was when they opened his letter.”

As Wintour noted, “More than half such families will lose between £50 and £100 a week in housing benefit as a result of the benefit cap … Those who face smaller losses may be able to scrape together the shortfall and keep their tenancy, but at the cost of buying food or heating their home. Others will be unable to pay their rent, and will end up in arrears, then homeless or forced to move out of London to low-rent areas of the country.”

Wintour also explained, “Families can sidestep the cap if they find a job that offers 16 hours a week for single parents, or 24 hours for couples. But jobs are scarce in Tottenham, and as one mother points out, even if work is found, childcare is expensive.” Acknowledging “a ‘real fear’ about homelessness among his poorest constituents,” Lammy told Wintour, “The local authority will have to think very hard about its responsibilities. We cannot evict people on to the streets with no alternative: this is not America.”

Perhaps not, but we are not far away from it.

As Patrick Wintour also noted, providing exact figures of how much will be taken from those who only just have more than nothing at present:

The household benefit cap is just one of nine changes coming in this month, laying bare the sheer enormity and complexity of the coalition’s welfare reforms. Others include the bedroom tax (typical weekly loss per household, £14), the abolition in many areas of the country of council tax benefit (£3 a week), and the 1% cap on benefit increases (£3 a week). Six of these changes will take £2.3bn from the pockets of the poorest households in 2013-14, according to the charity Child Poverty Action group (CPAG).

He added:

That figure does not include the replacement of disability living allowance with personal independence payments, to be phased in over three years from April. By 2016, an estimated 500,000 will lose this benefit, squeezing an estimated £1bn a year out of the incomes of disabled people. Disabled people will be disproportionately affected by the wider changes, with tens of thousands being hit simultaneously by up to six different welfare cuts.

Also to come, of course, is the introduction in October of universal credit, Iain Duncan Smith’s attempt to “merge a string of unemployment benefits and tax credits into a single payment for working-age people,” as the Guardian put it. Although Duncan Smith claims that “universal credit will simplify the system, making it easier for people on benefits to make the leap into work” — even though the jobs don’t exist — “about 450,000 disabled people will lose financially, according to Disability Rights UK, while 400,000 of the poorest households — such as single parent households with children — will be worse off by 2015, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing.”

As Patrick Wintour also noted:

Social analysts are concerned that deprivation levels are going back to those of 30 years ago, with the poorest families worse off than they were under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Debt and food poverty are growing, homelessness is increasing, and demand on food banks is soaring — a sign of more people falling through the welfare net. The social impact of this impoverishment of Britain’s poorest families — with more than 60% of such households in work — will unravel recent achievements in tackling poverty, say campaigners. According to Alison Garnham, chief executive of the CPAG, the coalition “is on course to leave behind the worst child poverty record of any government for a generation.”

With Labour ignoring, or spurning, on a daily basis, the opportunity to stand up for the poorest and weakest members of society, and for the importance of the state provision of services, leaving that job to the churches, I wonder when — or even if — there will be a massive revulsion against the Tories’ cruelty to make people wake up, take to the streets and demand change.

I hope so, or this will increasingly become a country in which it is difficult for decent people to live.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign”, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

56 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Michael Cheneywatch McCollum wrote:

    Tories would just as soon run anyone but their ilk out of town, keep everything for themselves and ignore those who produce their wealth.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Michael. As you know, of course, all our politicians are members of the same club, pimping for the banks and corporations at the expense of the people, but those on the right reserve particular hatred for the state provision of services, which only becomes truly apparent when they’re in office. Since 2010, it’s been as though we got Mitt Romney in charge of the UK.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Viola Wilkins wrote:

    Oh we can’t tax the rich
    Cause they make all the jobs
    And we can’t tax the rich
    cause they are the big nobs

    If we tax the rich
    They’ll depart our fine shores
    if we tax the rich
    They’ll avoid our tax laws

    So let’s not tax the rich
    And make this place their heaven
    Let’s not tax the rich
    Just like in Ocean’s Eleven

    So shovel all our money
    to Gina and the gang
    Force it down their gullets
    And go out with a bang

    The richer Murdoch is
    The better off we will be
    So join in the choir
    And sing along with me

    No tax, no tax, no tax
    Except for you and me
    No tax, no tax, no tax,
    That will set them free

    No tax, no tax, no tax
    Except for you and me
    No tax, no tax, no tax,
    There lies our poverty.
    – John Passant.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Viola. Great poem. John Passant’s poem, for those interested, is on his website here: http://enpassant.com.au/2013/04/03/we-cant-tax-the-rich-songs-for-the-band-unformed/

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Nick Jewitt wrote:

    Thanks Andy for the comprehensive analysis. I would only add on the matter of the ‘bedroom tax’ that, here in North Wales (as in a number of other places) there are significant numbers of people who would gladly downsize their homes, if the smaller homes were available – and they are not, in fact there is a serious shortage. So, reducing benefits cannot possibly nudge people ‘selfishly’ occupying larger accommodation than they need to move to smaller places. As you rightly point out, the millionaires tax breaks on their spare-bedroomed houses give the lie to all this.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Nick. Yes, although I mentioned that smaller properties generally don’t exist for people to downsize to, I neglected to mention also, as you note, that many people would move if they could. Everything about the bedroom tax is so colossally unjust that I really do hope that it helps to topple these Tory scumbags – that, and the massive exodus of people whose only crime was to rent a home from a landlord who was fleecing them.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Cheneywatch McCollum wrote:

    LOL, yeah Andy, once the check comes in, they know who they work for!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Kiernan wrote:

    Exactly why I’ve been putting up my posts these last months. Sharing. Thanks. P

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Pauline. I had been feeling very guilty about not having found the time to write about these problems over the last few months, primarily because of focusing on the NHS, as well as my usual Guantanamo beat, so I’m glad that I’ve finally got round to it. More to come, including a very personal defence of social housing …

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Eric Ross wrote:

    We –progressives in the US and UK– need to find new, more compelling ways to reach a wider audience. Increasingly, I think the answer is through documentary film, organized by a committed collective of skilled, well-informed people of the left. My son, Reuben, a young visual anthropologist, living in London, would probably like to join forces with you (reubster@gmail.com).

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Eric. I’ll drop Reuben a line. I agree that we need new ways to get our message across, not just the UK and in the US but in all the other western countries dominated by the greed of banks and corporations and the politicians who pimp for them. Not everyone will agree, but I think formulating notions of what society should be – rather than what it shouldn’t be – should also involve getting ideas together for a new political movement, one based on the needs of the people rather than the profits of the few, and one based on service rather than egos, power and greed.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I just saw this, Andy. I’ll share it so that my FB friends and others can see your summary.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. That’s very good to hear.

  14. damo says...

    there are nothing lower than this bunch of pathetic weak useless dim shrivel cocked little maids as this heap that calls itself our government that includes new labour shoot the fucking lot of em,start again ..this country is over …ca..moron and his vile fellow tories have any idea what its gonna be like for people ..there are no jobs..sussesive governments have sold of or given away ..everything everything..theres nothing left .and labour say nothing defend no one champaine socialists are lower than dogs at least the torie are honest with there class hatred..people need to take to the streets

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Damo,
    Good to hear from you, albeit under such terrible circumstances – the April 1 deadline we’ve mentioned many times, when people might finally wake up to what’s going on.
    No sign of that just yet. The saddest thing I found in researching this article were the people in Tottenham who didn’t know what was happening to them until they got a letter from David Lammy. Lots of people will be finding themselves evicted without even knowing why at this rate. I hope they don’t then think that voting UKIP will sort everything out, because, you know, racist tossers in suits carrying “Middle England” flags – featuring a bulldog wrapped in the St. George’s flag cudgelling foreigners – really isn’t going to work.
    We need a revolution of the workers and the unemployed against the true shirkers – those who profit massively off the toil of others through their investments, their properties and their colossal sense of entitlement without working, or by only working on the basis that they get paid 10, 20, 50 or 100 times more than the average worker. Sorry, but I don’t see why anyone one is worth 100 times more than a nurse.

  16. Thomas says...

    There might be new riots once the summer finally warms up, that and large scale theft as people have no alternative.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    We’ll see, Thomas. The most obvious thing that I expect we’ll notice is an increase in muggings and robberies. Much of the damage, however, will be out of sight of the majority – in areas of great poverty, and, most chillingly, behind closed doors where desperation and violence won’t be seen. We need those who care to speak up relentlessly, and I’m hoping those of a religious persuasion – in churches, mosques, Hindu temples, synagogues etc. – will not be silent, or, when they do speak out, will continue speaking out.

  18. damo says...

    ukip god help us,lol,lol i just feel a scence of gloom and sadness at the state of things..its worse than the 80s ,worse than thatcher i was up acton high street today .god the people are so beaten down groups of homeless men standing there shivering ,the pound shops selling just crap.i went to hastings over the easter holls ..andy people are starting to look …thin…..the poorest people down there seem to be loseing weight on a daily basis there are to food banks there every thing is closed down there ..there realy is nothing down there..oooh hang on the wealthy have discovered hastings and are buying or is that snatching up second homes there calling it…hoxton on sea…vile,lol

  19. damo says...

    the thing is andy people are just sitting there like dead things hopeing it will all be alright .it wont and it isnt i find it sad and amazeing that people in tottenham didnt know until they got a letter from david lammy WTF god you have got to be on the ball now everythings changed people just cant sit there otherwise they will starve like the people are starting to down in hastings [andy people looked thin ,hungry and desperate] we have to start fighting thease torie scum ,and the banks otherwise they will just crush people into the mud the tories are weak cowards they allways back down when you front up to them.thats why there attacking the weakest members of society i mean punnishing the disabled ..WOT…lives are at stake we have to start fighting destrol the aristokrocy rid this counrty of them and we can start with that useless bunch of bennefit scroungers the royal family..parisites

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Depressing to hear about “Hoxton-on-Sea,” Damo, while people begin to starve. The message from Tottenham is so chilling because it means that the Sun, the Express and the Mail are still poisoning minds, and confirms that people are genuinely depoliticised in vast numbers, to such an extent that they haven’t a clue about what’s happening. I hope their anger will be focused, but I fear that it won’t be. We need an alternative to UKIP and the BNP and we need it fast – a coalition of all the religions, the unions, and anyone who believes in the state provision of services, the welfare state, the NHS, an end to unfettered greed, a sense of proportion, a belief that we can make a future together rather than the self-obsessed greed that passes for “society” these days. There’s more to life than money, people. I know it, even though I’m constantly bombarded by people telling me that I can only be measured by what I own, what assets I have, how much I have in the bank, how much my house is worth … I have a heart and a brain and creativity and a sense of justice, and I remember a time – happily, like a lost idyll – when money didn’t define everything. Yes, even when it was awful, as it often was in the 70s, 80s and 90s, it was better than this soulless pit of selfishness and obsessive materialism.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher John Webster wrote:

    chilling times…

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Chilling, indeed, Chris. As a Guardian article explained today, “In total 1.6 million families already in poverty – as officially defined by the government – now have to cope with further reductions in income,” while Osborne’s millionaire mates get £100,000 extra because of the axing of the 50% tax rate: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/apr/04/families-lose-welfare-double-whammy

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Louise Gordon wrote:

    Daily Mirror headline: “Despicable,” as George Osborne is caught parking in a disabled parking bay:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=630301383653121&set=a.153379844678613.31780.128453487171249&type=1&ref=nf

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    We had a saying back in the 80s, Louise, and it is perfectly applicable today. We used to call them “Tory scum.”

  25. Thomas says...

    If we don’t get rid of them in 2015 we probably never will.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    If, by 2015, the Tories have not succeeded in alienating enough of the voting public required to allow them to form a government, Thomas, either alone or in another coalition with the Lib Dems, then Britain will presumably be looking like some feudal nightmare, and I can’t imagine wanting to live here anymore. Just saying … Mind you, it’s not as though the Labour Party has any idea of how to be a viable alternative. Every day, ministers are presented with opportunities to promise, at the least, to be functioning human beings with some kind of societal awareness, but mostly they don’t seize these opportunities. They are as enslaved as the Tories by the notion that all methods of making money are to be applauded, and that individuals and corporations have no responsibility towards society as a whole. Like the Tories and the Lib Dems (and UKIP, should they ever get anywhere near power), they are, essentially, only interested only in people earning more than the national average (£27,000 a year, or £54,000 for a household) and, primarily, are interested in those earning as much or more than their own salaries (bumped up by their “generous” expenses). With all this comes a sense of entitlement – that fair taxation on the rich is a burden, that they deserve at least, what? £1 million as income during their retirement to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed, and that an economy built on the old exploiting the young primarily through a perpetually inflated property bubble is somehow acceptable. We need to get rid of this mentality, but it’s going to be very difficult.

  27. damo says...

    i am amazed at how indiferent people are now obsessing over property,money ,status to the detriment of everything eles we are now seeing the beginings of climate change ,global poverty a very real possible global war ..and yet there they sit fussing with there apps,lol,lol[sob]

  28. damo says...

    i dont want to live here anymore andy i cant see a future for myselfe here its not worth it…is it

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t know what to say, Damo. I always felt that this was my country and that it was worth fighting for it, but it’s more difficult than ever, now that the population consists of so many zombie people – the greedy, the unthinking, the callous, the self-obsessed.
    As far as I can see, though, the impoverishment of the many by the wealthy is taking place, to some degree or another, almost everywhere, so we have little choice but to stay and try to get people to wake up.
    One of the things that gets me is the gyms – particularly when people drive there, but in general when they’re doing the fitness and body beautiful thing, but apparently without any notion of whether there will even be a functioning eco-sphere for them to be fit in. The gyms are everywhere in London now, but while the fortunate pamper themselves, the poor are drinking themselves to death.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Mckenna wrote:

    I think I’ll go for that in my headstone (Or plaque, or Rizla adorning my ashes tin can) – ‘Tory Scum Frankly Made My Life Largely A Bag Of Shit’.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I can understand that, Neil. Perhaps there will be a tipping point when a majority of the people definitively understand that, the less money you have, the more the Tory scum really really really regard you as sub-human – and that that’s how the Nazis started. You are either with us, or you are preparing to be “just following orders.”

  32. damo says...

    andy they already regard us as subhuman,lol there is this very sinnister mentality creeping over humanity and as weve said before anyone on benefits is a subhuman or anyone who dosent fit there agenda or ideals of beautiy is a subhuman again were i live i have shithead neibours and yet again thease are white middleclass young profetional couple[yuk] passive aggresive bullying ,sneaky snydie snotty nosed property owning uncool creeps my neibours and myself on the groundfloor yeah we live in benefit flats ok there shitty hard to let flats and thats why the landlords take benefits becouse nobody would rent them yes we put up with the damp and thr rats and we have to put up with yuppie aresholes abouve us ….they think were subhuman andy they think were vermin how they try to treat us how the try to talk to us its written all over there faces utter contempt yet they darent confront us becouse they know thell get a real hideing verbally and physically ..i do pity them there in there mid 20s obssesing over there property being so fucked up and anal..they should be on the beach fucking under the moonlight on some tropical beach traveling round the world ,getting stoned,going to raves.being free..not being vile….just thease zombies andy thease obsessives god your only young once,lol but thats how it is now .

  33. damo says...

    i forgot to add none of us in the benefit flats is sitting idle on our arses were all working part time ,doing volentry work ,giveing back as much as we can

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Damo, for another powerful analysis. I think you’ve hit on something – when materialism defines you, as is the truth nowadays, everything that life has to offer is filtered trough that narrow and soulless perspective. These young people should be enjoying themselves, but enjoyment now is only about making money or spending it – and the perceptions of power that go with it.

  35. damo says...

    they think they have power ,lol they havent working all hours to pay for a shit flat,lol,lol,lol just puuuuke they will never be young again none of us will the years 18 30 are the free ,best times enjoy it in my mid 20s i was bumming around america surviveing by the seat of my pants ,going to burning man,parties getting stoned fucking everything in sight ..thats wot your meant to be doing in your 20s not obssesing about the value of your property ..god its just so strange to be like that so young after 25 time starts to speed up the hours,days ,mounths ,years they start to compress time gets shorter and its the start of the long march home,lol so thease younglings shoud be out there raveing…LIVEING…dxxx

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Damo, it’s been one of the greedy capitalists’ best tricks, hasn’t it – persuading young people to hand over their spirit in exchange for materialistic rewards. I admit I find these types of young people like bodysnatchers – they look like humans, but they appear to lack all passion.

  37. damo says...

    SPOT ON they give me the creeps they seem strange and weird to me sinnister creepy ..the rise of these oddballs the young profetional couple..puuuuuuuuuuuke

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    I pray for a return to a time when there was more to life than material consumption, and the shallowness of showing off what you have, Damo – and everyone dressed up like stars in their own movies. And an end to Edwardian-looking moustaches would suit me too.

  39. damo says...

    DING DONG THE WITCHES DEAD good ridense though all the useless stinking mps [both left and right] are falling over themselves trying to make….IT….out as some kind of saint includeing all the phoney femminists the usewal suspects..kill them all,lol

  40. damo says...

    i hope it kicks of on sat night in trafalgar sq ,lol,lol i hope your going andy …yeah come on lets start trouble ,lol,lol

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s disgusting, isn’t it, Damo? The bias in the media, and the spinelessness among the majority of Labour MPs is enraging. It goes to show how far Thatcher really did succeed in destroying society and prioritizing greed and self-interest. She destroyed countless working communities, creating deserts of unemployment, and she also established the selfish, atomized world that plagues us to this day. There’s nothing good to be said about her.

  42. damo says...

    the only mp with any guts and balls was glenda jackson the rest are worthless esp ed milliband pathetic little runt never done a days work in its life..labour will never get in again there so pathetic corrupt and weak there are no old labour bulldogs left ..just these weak stupid middle class bullshit socialists..ie tony blair types so that leaves us doomed to endure the tories and they will continue there aim of harmeing and destroying people i dont know wots wronge with the british population but were pitifull and divided no one but no one has the bulls to get out there anymore people are letting these cunts crush them into the ground..useless

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, I guess, Damo, that we have two years left to persuade the Labour Party to remember who they are.
    Glenda Jackson’s speech in the House of Commons is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDtClJYJBj8
    1.2 million people have seen it so far, so that’s good news at least!

  44. damo says...

    i went on sat to trafalgar square ,lol the rain didnt help but i think we all had the dunkirk spirit,lol therewere some very interesting people there i got chatting to some realy cool young people and told them to check out your site ,they had loads of passion whitch was uplifting to see and hear and the brew crew were good entertainment,lol,lol

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    Well done, Damo. I intended to go, but I was shattered on Saturday evening, and the rain put me off, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, plus the horrible feeling that there would be engineered trouble. As it is, it seemed to have been a rather lovely get-together of those implacably opposed to Thatcher, without too much grief from the police. I intend to show my face on Wednesday at any rate, to try and make up for my failure to turn up on Saturday.

  46. damo says...

    well ive got a box of rotten eggs to throw ,lol only jokeing as the police would crush me into the ground they would give me a hideing ,lol we all better watch out they will be after us all on wends

  47. damo says...

    andy wot time are people meeting and were ive got to do stuff in the morning but can be there for 12.30 …were

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    From the Metro, Damo:

    9am – Doors open for guests at St Paul’s Cathedral.

    10am – The coffin, dressed in a Union Flag, will leave the Palace of Westminster and will travel by hearse to the Church of St Clement Danes, the RAF Chapel, on the Strand in central London.

    10:30am The coffin will then will be transferred to a Gun Carriage drawn by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery to St Paul’s Cathedral. The route will be lined by tri-service military personnel.

    11am – The coffin will arrive at St Paul’s Cathedral when the funeral service will begin, it will last just under an hour.

    I probably won’t be able to get into central London until 12.30 either, Damo. I have a hospital appointment at Guy’s in the morning. I guess I’ll head to St. Paul’s, and see if people are still there …

  49. Paul says...

  50. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Paul. Good to hear from you.

  51. damo says...

    hi andy wanna meet 07851810763 and do stuff on acton the best time to reach me is 9am or 9pm so lets work,lol did you see that pityfull cunt osbourne sniveling at the monsters funneral…crocodile tears of course,lol kill him kill them all,lol,lol

  52. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Damo,
    Absolutely, but I’ll need to work out when I can get out west without needing to be back by late afternoon to be with my son. I’ll get back to you on this!

  53. damo says...

    i have just watched the most vile program on bbc 2 ever its called SAINTS AND SCROUNGERS…no bullshit a program on bbc 2 about people on bennifits the saint comprise of sad fuckwit dopes moraliseing about how the stopped being a scrounger and got a job at asda for min wage of course comeing out with petty morals,the scroungers were the poor sods makeing a few pounds washing a couple of windows ,haveing to sell all the possetions at car boots for nothing desperate people haveing to do desperate things just to survive…..the queen and her inbreed retard family are scroungers,every mp is a scrounger,shyster landlords are scroungers,bankers are scroungers,crooked bussiness men are scroungers…and they pick on the desperate like this pandering to every daily mail reading vile torie cunt..this is becomeing a sad sorry miserable little society[so called] in the godforsacken country…….yours outraged of tunbridge wells,[royal],lol,lol..dxx

  54. Andy Worthington says...

    That sounds awful, Damo. What is wrong with these people in commissioning? I just looked it up. It’s the 4th series! This is its blurb: “Series following fraud officers as they bust the benefits thieves stealing millions of pounds every year, while charities and councils track down people who actually deserve government help.”
    So when do we get the series on tax avoiders, bent bankers and corporate criminals?

  55. Exiled-Busker says...

    I’m ashamed to live in a country like this!!!! Yes the British public will be all for benefit cuts, after all they have seen the numerous programmes on TV depicting the work shy drunks living the easy life while on benefits…. its not the norm for the vast majority of claimants, but it makes good entertaining TV programmes I suppose!!! The reality is somewhat different I’m afraid, and the great British public that support these draconian measures (unless they’re a secret millionaire) are closer than they’d ever think to experiencing at first hand the indiscriminate application on these Victorian poverty state policies. It’s easy to understand the spoilt brat/millionaire attitudes of people like Cameron and his ilk, who’ve never had to work for anything and find it easy to tell everyone else that they should be able to survive on £70 per week. It’s very telling that these spoilt brats probably wouldn’t think twice about spending the same amount on lunch for a day, but what amazes me is the rank and file (ordinary working people) that follow this thinking like sheep in the farm yard. Yes the benefits culture did need reforming and needed some original ideas to combat the something for nothing mindset of the minority claimants, but this one size fits all mentality doesn’t fit !!! My own personal opinion is that someone who is claiming needs help to get back into work, that help isn’t there (I speak from personal experience). If someone has been unemployed for 2 years plus then they either need additional help or a kick up the ass to point them in the right direction. The key word here is HELP….. not draconian measures to punish !!! My own personal story… I’m a 53 year old male. I’ve worked constantly since I was 16 years of age, apart from 3 years when I looked after my dying father. I worked in education for the last 20 years (full time). Not a teacher, but ran Apprenticeship programmes and functional skills learning. Well qualified in I.T, Management and Health & safety. Made redundant in Aug 2014, but lived off my redundancy and didn’t claim benefits till Dec 2014 (didn’t want to be classed as a scrounger). I’ve been applying for jobs since x-mas 2014, must have 250 plus under my belt so far, 2 per cent get back to you (very discouraging). I’m overqualified for the basic jobs I apply for (they think I’ll leave as soon as something better comes along) and competing with people half my age for the higher end jobs. I’m no idiot, have good qualifications, a good CV and a good attitude but what seems to go against me is my age. I know that legally these companies can’t ask that, but I’ve never filled an application out yet that hasn’t asked me to provide my date of birth (sort that out Mr Cameron). I received a letter today to say I’d been awarded £11.40 council tax rebate. At the same time I received an e-mail telling me I would now receive £62.10 per week as my council tax rebate was counted as income. I thought the law stated that i needed £73.10 to live per week? The wolves are at the door, the worst being the water company, closely followed by the council tax (both foaming at the mouth to bring a court case asap). I’m already resigned to the fact that the house will be re-possessed,…. fair enough (nothing I can do about that). .Where do you good people think I’m going to go from here ? : )

  56. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Exiled-Busker,
    Thanks for getting in touch and sharing your story.
    I find the indifference – or even hostility – of our fellow citizens towards those unfortunate enough not to have paid employment profoundly shameful, and while I understand the malevolent role played by the media, and the black propaganda of the Tories, it reflects very badly on the people of the UK that they are so willing to be openly hostile to those without paid work. What we never hear about is how, even using the most conservative estimates, there are nowhere near as many job vacancies as there are unemployed people, and that as a result it is profoundly unfair to condemn people for being workshy, scroungers etc.
    In January, for example, the Department for Work and Pensions claimed that there were 700,000 job opportunities across the country: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unemployment-falls-below-6-as-vacancies-hit-record-high
    At the same time, however, the Office for National Statistics was pointing out that “There were 1.91 million unemployed people”: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2015/statistical-bulletin.html
    The only way to demonize 1.91 million people for not getting 700,000 jobs would be if there was a governmental guarantee of full employment, and we haven’t heard that since capitalism pronounced that it had killed socialism, around the time the Berlin Wall fell.
    I also find it interesting that the ONS statistics also hint at potentially huge hidden unemployment figures, because the percentage of people aged from 16 to 64 who are in work is only 73%, and 9.09 million people “were out of work and not seeking or available to work (known as economically inactive).”
    I looked up whether the £73.10 that the law says people need to live on is “inalienable” benefit and found that someone had made a freedom of information request and had received the following reply:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/392516/foi-5156-section-187-social-security-act-1992.pdf
    That document explains how deductions may indeed be made from the “inalienable” benefit – for unpaid bills, for example, and includes the insulting claim that “In effect we are acting in the best interests of the claimant – we want to avoid them being evicted or having a utility switched off etc.”
    I also agree about ageism in the market place. I’m 52 and wouldn’t want to have to try and compete with people half my age.
    Mostly, though, your story is one of many that ought to be more widely heard, and people should, I believe, be regularly told – preferably through the media – that, unless we’re really quite rich, we’re all only a few steps away from having no job, and having to endure the kind of hostility and indifference you discuss so eloquently.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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