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Sometimes it’s almost unspeakably depressing to be living in England, in a dystopian fantasy that no one voted for, with a useless coalition government of the Tories and the Lib Dems that required Frankenstein-like engineering just to come into being.
Yesterday was one of those particularly depressing days, as David Cameron shuffled his cabinet and lurched even further to the right. Of course, there is desperation in the Prime Minister’s manoeuvring, and we should be thankful for that. Cameron has not got rid of George Osborne, of course, as he is the prime architect of the Tories’ economic policy, which involves allowing the rich to hoover up whatever they can, including that which has been secreted offshore, while obliging the rest of us to have to try and prise five pound notes out of Osborne’s hands, who it turns out, has the tenacity of a corpse with advanced rigor mortis. However, when 48 percent of voters recently gave Osborne a vote of no confidence, it was obviously significant. Cameron may be the whey-faced buffoon who can come up with an opinion at any time of the day or night, but Osborne is the whey-faced buffoon in charge of economic policy — Gordon Brown to Cameron’s Tony Blair, if you will.
48 percent of voters recognised the toxicity of Osborne, thereby providing a stunning vote of no confidence in the government, but he remained in place in the reshuffle while other buffoons got shifted around or axed. Andrew Lansley, who trailed the Chancellor with a 37 percent disapproval rating in the Guardian/ICM poll on August 28, was shifted out of health, to be replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who had a 24 percent disapproval rating as culture secretary. Michael Gove (on 36%) keeps his job as the butcher of education, Kenneth Clarke (on 28%) was replaced at justice by the incompetent employment minister Chris Grayling, and William Hague (on 21%) kept his job as foreign secretary. Read the rest of this entry »
Forcing people into jobs they don’t want, just to claim their benefit, might be defensible if there was pretty swiftly a real job available to those who were capable and wanted it, but as the Tory-led government has pushed its workfare scheme, the alarming truth is that it has created a forced working underclass of claimants working for their dole — at £1.78 to £2.25 an hour for a 30-hour week, in other words — who have not been gaining essential skills of preparing for a full-time job, but have instead, found themselves being exploited by huge companies happy to take on cheap labour to be dumped at the end of a trial period.
Writing about this in the Guardian last August, John Harris noted that workfare’s origins were in Labour’s “Flexible New Deal,” and that “one of the central ideas of Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme is ‘mandatory work activity‘: up to 30 weekly hours of faux-employment spread over 28 days, during which people have to do work ‘of benefit to the community’ in return for their jobseeker’s allowance of £67.50 a week [and just £53.45 a week for those aged between 18 and 24]. If they decline the offer of “experience” … or fail to make a go of it, their benefit can be stopped — for a minimum of three months, and six months if the transgression is repeated.”
However, although a campaigning website, Boycott Workfare, was established in 2010 to publicise the Workfare scandal, and the story resurfaced in January this year, when an enterprising young woman named Cait Reilly “launched judicial review proceedings in the high court,” as “a challenge to regulations that require up to 50,000 jobseekers to carry out unpaid work at major corporations,” it was not until February this year that the story unexpectedly broke into the mainstream, when a Tesco job advert in East Anglia — for night shift workers to be paid “JSA plus expenses” — was publicised and went viral, that public opinion swung in favour of those being exploited. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, largely unnoticed by British citizens fortunate enough to not suffer from any sort of disability, the vile Tory-led government hacked away much of the financial support for disabled people. As austerity cuts go, the cutting of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for disabled people is particularly harsh on some of society’s most vulnerable people, to an extent that makes me feel queasy, and will severely diminish the lives of tens of thousands of disabled people and their partners, reducing them to a level of poverty that ought to be unacceptable in a civilised society.
As Claudia Wood, head of public services and welfare at Demos explained for the Public Finance blog yesterday:
Today marks a watershed in the history of the welfare state. It is the last day that the contributory principle — the concept of social insurance that underpinned [William] Beveridge’s vision [for a welfare state] — remains intact.
This is because tomorrow 70,000 ill and disabled people will lose their Contributory Employment and Support Allowance — a benefit that provides financial support for those who become unemployed due to illness or disability, in return for the national insurance contributions they made during their working life. Read the rest of this entry »
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