Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Pass the parcel
Well, I watched Channel Five’s The Big Benefits Row and I rather wish I hadn’t. A situation with very clear-cut rights and wrongs – it IS right to have a safety net and it IS wrong to have a system which snares people for life on benefits – was hijacked for the purpose of lowest common denominator entertainment. The deployment of Matthew Wright should have warned me, but turning to Terry Christian for one of the earliest contributions from the audience ought really to have had me turning over in disgust. Why was he even there in the first place?
But no, to my discredit I stayed for the whole thing. Along with millions of other sad dupes I sat there gawping as metaphorical Christians were fed to the lions and, via Twitter, I shamefully engaged in the twenty-first century equivalent of proffering the thumbs down. What was billed as a vaguely serious debate descended rapidly into a staged gore-fest using Katie Hopkins and Edwina Currie as bait for the baying mob. There was a clear anti-government agenda and it wouldn’t have mattered which government was in power; it’s always their fault and “Something must be done!”.
This is the culmination of a succession of administrations hell bent on gaining or retaining power at all costs; a game of political pass the parcel that has been trundling along for decades and despite all the obvious warning signs and Gordon Brown’s blatant profligacy as Chancellor it was down to the parties most distant from the recent benefits arms race to tear off the last layer and gaze down at the booby prize they had won. The Welfare State – and what a sorry state it’s in. The shattered remains of Beveridge’s proud dream are beyond economic repair and a new model needs to be found.
Because the simple, inescapable fact is that we just cannot afford to fund a system that imports low-skilled labour for domestic industries and keeps its own population on the dole, pretending publicly that the tax paid by minimum-wage workers offsets the costs. Even with the rampant wage suppression of such a policy we can’t compete in drudge industries against world labour prices and despite our pre-eminence in many high-tech and finance sectors, there too we have insufficient capability to grow all our own talent. We are heading towards a world in which - by force - a relative minority of high earners will end up working at punitive tax rates, so that the majority can stay unemployed and impoverished. Can anybody seriously imagine a world where that is the outcome?
Nobody said it was going to be easy but even with the grim prospects faced by many for years to come, the name of the game is still power for its own sake. And The Big Benefits Row played right into Labour’s strategy to regain that disreputable power. As the architects of the enormous debt and deficit we were left with it beggars belief to imagine the leopard has changed its spots. But instead of quietly saying sorry and letting the coalition get on with reforms, Miliband’s motley crew is hell bent on seizing back the reins once more and any means justifies that end.
Look out - it's a trap!
It’s a cowardly way to fight, but the benefit classes and the much-maligned immigrants who help keep them there are Labour’s cannon fodder for the next election. Fired up by anti-Tory, class war rhetoric these simple dupes will follow their hearts, cast their ballot and thus keep their place on the breadline in perpetuity. Those at the top of the heap will use their ingenuity and superior intellect to find ever more ingenious ways to legally avoid paying more than what they think is fair. The UK is a confined space - should the parcel-bomb ever get passed back to Labour it will blow up in all our faces.