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Ian Duncan Smith’s policy: starve the poor into committing crime

IDSThe papers are full-on when members or ex-members of the government make a fool of themselves behaving badly when they can’t get their way – Andrew Mitchell foul-mouthing a policeman with the toxic ‘plebs’ allegedly added in because he couldn’t ride his bike through the No.10 gates, and David Mellor ranting at a black cab driver over the best route home to his £8m pad near Tower Bridge.

But what really matters about members of the government is not their silly misbehaviour, it’s they way they’re crucifying millions of people even to the point where they’re denying them food and shelter. On this, with a few honourable exceptions, the media are largely silent on the grounds presumably that they don’t matter because they’re not famous. A million people have been sanctioned by government ministers over this last year, which means that they are deprived of all their benefit for often petty infringements (e.g. being 5 minutes late for a job interview) and hence have no money for at least 4 weeks and sometimes 3 months, forcing them to steal to survive.

If they’re caught, the penalty for stealing some meat from a supermarket might be a fine of some £200 which of course they cannot conceivably pay, or it might be 6 weeks in prison. IDS supervises the sanctioning (though it’s outsourced to a privatised firm doing his dirty work for him), while Grayling takes care of the imprisonment. This is the treadmill of impoverishment to which this government is now sentencing hundreds of thousands of people every year, a crescendo of wanton harshness out of all proportion to the treatment meted out to other miscreants. During and after the Napoleonic wars there were up to 200 offences for which a person could be hanged, usually for stealing to keep their family alive. The people of this country sitting on the juries finally got round this draconian repression imposed by the ruling class by refusing to convict. That is what juries and magistrates should do now when faced by the stark injustice of the criminal justice system.

MPs who 5 years ago stole big ticket expenses to which they were not entitled, including many on both front benches, suffered no penalty worse than being named and shamed in the newspapers, with no more than half a dozen fall-guys, not the main offenders, sent to prison for a few weeks. Not a single banker has been prosecuted for presiding over the wrecking of the financial and economic system by the most brazen arrogance, recklessness and incompetence, even though it has ravaged the lives of millions of innocent people. None of the super-rich who have been avoiding due payment of taxes by the most artificial forms of contrivance have ever been personally brought to book and sent down. We are now seeing one law for the rich and another for the poor in its most vicious and nasty form.


  1. Barry Ewart says:

    Good points Michael and yes we should focus on what the Tories (with the support of the Lib Dems) are callously doing to the poor but I guess this is what public schools ingrained in them – they don’t know any better, to them it is the rich and powerful above all else. Funny isn’t it that it could be argued that the whole global capitalist system is built on the theft of the surplus labour of the working billions; all perfectly legal in advanced capitalist liberal democracies and all presented as the natural way things are done but how truly ethical? I have been there; many years ago I was on the dole and living in an inner-city one bed flat beifore my liberation from poverty came via higher education which is one of the reasons I passionately believe that the next Labour Government should have a programme of recruiting and training an army of community workers to work with poor and oppressed groups in an approach pioneered by Paulo Freire which empowers them and together we work out where the power is in society.. It’s funny how we associate welfare with the working class and the poor and terms like shabbiness, minimal, cheapness, shame and stigma but of course there is another welfare state – the luxurious upper class welfare state, what someone once called ‘socialism at the top’. The rich and powerful are subsidised to the hilt on practically everythingv via tax relief etc. and public schools are there to train the next generation of leaders to maintain these privileges. Of course there is also an army of paid financial advisors to help the rich avoid tax and thus avoid giving to societies- perish the thought that they pay their fair share for the NHS, adult social care, child poverty, mental health etc. etc. Uncollected taxes by the rich in the UK last year were £30b and New Internationalist argues that the rich globally stash 22 trillion dollars globally in illicit offshore bank accounts – again to avoid giving to societies – so who are the real global scroungers? Imagine if there were paid professionals advising the unemployed how to work on the side? Many years ago I remember reading Hayek and laughing outloud at this right wing lower middle class man’s assertion that “Welfare is tyranny” (he never experienced poverty) and I certainly didn’t feel that when I was down to my last fish finger before my giro finally arrived.. I remember a friend telling me when he was young how the Council probably saved his life when it gave him a flat to escape a violent step-father and he didn’t feel oppressed and was forever grateful for the security given by the public sector. Those at the top flood out to vote for the Tories and market forces for us but funnily enough somehow not for themselves. So perhaps we need to liberate those at the top from their “Tyranny” and as for their socialism well I think the 99% will have some of that but ours will be democratic. One of my favourite quotes which was used in the excellent Marmot Review is by Pablo Neruda, “Rise up with me against the organisation of misery!”
    Yours in solidarity!

  2. Robert says:

    And then we had labour and UNUM Provident and ATOS of course so yes the Tories are the nasty party, but for most of the poor so is labour.

    I can understand why the down trodden and poor fell for a bloke like Hitler now, lucky the Scottish people have the SNP all we have are four right wing parties fighting over each other to see who can do the most damage.

    1. Mukkinese says:

      you make a valid point. It was Ed Balls who was at the forefront of initiating this war on welfare claimants. We could all see only too clearly the enthusiastic glee with which the Tories would take it up.

      This “War” is the real reason IDS is still a minister after so many cock-ups and blatant lies. The right, including the owners of the big newspapers want the welfare state destroyed.

      To be poor today is to be punished by the state for being poor.

      I cannot understand how any of the cabinet or indeed the shadow cabinet get to sleep at night…

  3. Barry Ewart says:

    Robert middle class New Labour neglected the working class. Also Lib Dems with their anti-politics non-political leaflets claiming credit for everything under the sun depolitised sections of the working class with their fake community politics but have faith I believe Progressive Labour is coming and some of us are in Labour democratically working on innovative democratic socialist ideas. To stir your heart if you don’t already read New Left Review ( you may need a dictionary like me). Time for working class socialists to stop,”Eating bitterness.” Yours comradely.

    1. Rod says:

      Barry: “some of us are in Labour democratically working on innovative democratic socialist ideas.”

      You can work until you are blue in the face but there are no democratic processes within the LP by which policy can be determined. The prospects for democratic renewal within the LP are more diminished than ever before.

      With the passing of each day the Labour Party elite become more isolated and less able to articulate the concerns of ordinary people.

      Hence the loss of nearly 5 million votes from ’97 onwards. Hence the loss of Bradford West and the near-loss of Heywood and Middleton. Hence the dash to the SNP in Scotland. And the dash to the Greens and UKIP in England.

      While you’re busying yourself with your campaign for democratic socialist ideas everyone else is moving on – political life is passing you by and as Labour sinks you are in danger of sinking with it.

  4. Barry Ewart says:

    Footnote- Hitler was supported by plenty of the middle class, rural areas, war veterans, capitalists – war reparations by rival capitalist powers created the conditions of the rise of the vile right- the grotesque racist Henry Ford for example gave all the profits from his company in Germany to fund spectacular Nazi rallies in Germany – giving a poisonous movement a fake aura of being somehow being dynamic. Some sections of the working class as usual were conned but interestingly even at the height of the Nazi victory (by PR) Berlin for example by a majority voted Left. I am an international democratic socialist originally from a working class background and not a politician – I believe we should argue for what we belive in democratically, simply, clearly and honestly. Tony Benn once said the Left needed a teacher – he was wrong – we need to be facilitators for change. Conclusion Rosa Luxemburg got it right – its internationalism v nationalism. Yours in peace and international solidarity!

  5. Mukkinese says:

    All well and good Michael and I agree, but Labour are just promising more of the same, in fact worse.

    When Universal Credit is finally implemented the chaos, especially among those forced into low-paid self-employment will be massive.

    No matter how robust the system are made, and it looks like they will not be robust at all, the strategies proposed will force churning of the unemployed and underemployed on such a scale that costs will rocket numbers will reach levels never before admitted to by ministers and the press will have a feeding frenzy about the collapse of welfare and why it should be scrapped.

    Labour have been and are complicit in the breakdown of the welfare state and should hang their heads in shame…

  6. P Spence says:

    The parish workhouse was designed to be so horrible that only the absolutely destitute and degraded poor would “choose” to enter.

    IDS has re-created it; many millions now actively avoid registering as unemployed because of the humiliating process they are subject to on JSA. Many opt for spurious “self-employment” and working tax credits at much less than the dole to avoid the vice of JSA, work programmes and sanctioning.

    Today I met a 45 year old man sanctioned for 3 months recently. He survived on hardship payments of £43.45 a week against £72.40 JSA; think about that, just over £6 per day for 12 weeks in London; how would you feel about the system if you were caught up in that; alienated angry and desperate; that is reality for millions of our citizens, as a matter of central government policy.

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