A Mischief Of Magpies

If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and a Mischief of Magpies would be as small as a pea.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blunkett Gets Nastier

As a pauper with a mere five TV channels, I didn't see 'A Very Social Secretary' so I'm unable to add anything to Steve's post. What I can comment on is David Blunkett's plans to dismantle what's left of the welfare state.

Blunkett has described the current welfare system as 'crackers' which, it has to be said, is rich coming from him. Anyway David reckons that the disabled have had it too easy for too long and that something must be done. He has all sorts of wonderful plans up his sleeve to get those workshy cripples back to work. The most startling of which involves monitoring the spending habits of benefit claimants. Spending more than average for someone on benefits could leave claimants facing a fraud investigation. Of course, under the new proposals, from the moment someone applies for benefit they will be suspected of fraud- why else incorporate a lie detector test into the application process?

To justify this disgraceful treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in society we are presented with the shocking statistic that benefit fraud and error costs the UK taxpayer £3 billion every year. However it is worth noting that approx £2 billion of this figure is as a result of errors made by DWP staff, leaving around £1 billion lost to fraud (based on total approx welfare spend of £100billion). In other words the disabled are to be hounded into low paid work because 1% of the welfare budget is lost to all claimant fraud (not just fraud involving disability benefits). It is also worth noting that the government statistics on fraud and error are rounded up to the nearest £500 million. Is it just me or are this government prone to exaggeration?

Every year in the UK it is estimated that £85 billion is lost to corporate tax avoidance and £14 billion to business fraud. It would seem to me that given the amounts involved and the fact that those responsible don't actually need the money, that tax fraud should be more of a priority than benefit fraud. But benefit fraudsters are scumbags and scroungers whereas tax cheats are 'wealth creators', major political donors and no doubt personal friends of a few government ministers. In any case if the government really feel so strongly about fraud, they might want to 'get tough' on government fraud which in Whitehall alone costs the tax payer around £5 billion every year. To put this in perspective, payments of Jobseekers Allowance totalled £2.3 billion in 2003. If I were a benefit fraudster I'd beat the forthcoming crackdown and get a job a Whitehall where it would seem fraud goes unnoticed.

Blunkett also reckons that work is the best means of escaping poverty, which is true if you're lucky and amoral enough to land a job in the cabinet. However he can't seriously expect anyone to believe that the long term sick and disabled he hounds back to work are going to be amongst the highest earners. All they are being offered is the chance to cope with work and poverty at the same time which, we are told will help them 'come alive'. In actual fact 42% of employees in the UK rely on income over and above their wages to avoid poverty. A large percentage of this 'other income' will come from Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, which is paid for by the UK taxpayer. It strikes me as odd that no-one seems to mind this, as all tax credits are in effect, is a wage subsidy for greedy employers, and a good excuse to leave the minimum wage at it's current derisory level. Perhaps the poor would find life a bit easier if they chipped in to hire a couple of expensive lobbyists to cosy up to ministers.

If David Blunkett wasn't blind already I'd poke his eyes out. I am sick to the back teeth of everyone on benefits being portrayed as dishonest and lazy, when it is not the case. I am sick of government ministers actively encouraging the worst prejudices of the tabloids and their readers. I am appalled by a government that constantly exaggerates the cost of maintaining a welfare state to justify it's penny pinching yet is willing to spend 'whatever it takes' in Iraq and turn us all in to terrorist targets. Oh, if anyone dares trying to justify voting for that loathsome, sleazy dishonest bunch with 'yeah, but we can't have the tories back', I'll poke their eyes out.

A Very Social Secretary

Last night, Channel 4 offspring More4 launched in Britain, attempting to provide adult entertianment to an over 35 age bracket. One of the first programmes it opened with was 'A Very Social Secretary', a satirical dramatisation of David Blunkett's time in the Home Office, and of life in the government in the runup to the Iraq War.

Something about the programme puzzled me, and will probably have puzzled anyone who watched it. Apparently, David Blunkett was none too happy about the programme, ringing around the channel's executives to see if it could be shelved. Why? He was about the only person to come out of the programme with any dignity left intact. In my opinion, he was simply portrayed as a straight-talking northern man who became a victim of circumstances, and of his own care for his child. By contrast, everyone else was shown in far worse light - the impotent and hopeless Blair, the effete and foolish Cherie, that ghastly Quinn woman, and the pompous and buffoonish Boris Johnson (no surprise there).

Speaking as a man who disagreed with almost every single one of David Blunkett's policies, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the programme, but less because of any assassination of his character and more because of the mauling given to the Westminster lifestyle. So why the fury, David?

Have Britain's politicians lost the ability to take a joke? Did they ever have it? Looking back to the furore over 'Spitting Image', it's hard to say they did. Yet really, the ability to respectfully laugh at our leaders is one of our best national characteristics, and Britain's politicians should consider that there is probably quite some gain in just accepting the joke.


Has a sense of humour been completly lost in the corridors of power?