A little while ago, somebody said: “The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
It’s a comment that could have been tailor-made for the Coalition government, in the run-up to tomorrow’s debate and vote on the plan to break the link between benefits and inflation, ensuring that those on benefits fall further into poverty as the years pass.
Why? Because ministers have been preparing the ground by demonising benefits claimants – getting the public to believe not only lies, but huge lies about the level of benefits and who gets them.
They’ll get what they want – the Coalition between Tories and Liberal Democrats creates a majority in the House of Commons. In theory they can do what they want. But they know that public opinion will swing against them – and stay against them – unless the people can be softened-up with a few juicy non-facts.
Vox Political has already uncovered some of these lies. More have been found by the Trades Union Congress in a recent poll which reveals some of the “myths” the public has been fed about those who rely on benefits.
So, as we go into the debate, let’s look at some of these myths. The people spreading them are the usual suspects – George Osborne gave us his story about “the shiftworker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits”; and Iain Duncan Smith has highlighted figures showing that, in percentage terms, benefits have risen by almost twice as much as earnings in the past five years. In fact, as demonstrated in this blog, this simply means that benefits as a proportion of earnings have remained at the same level. It’s a manipulation of statistics in order to mislead the unwary. Were you caught?
A YouGov poll found 42 per cent of people think benefits are too generous.
It discovered 59 per cent believe the system has created a culture of dependency.
But just give those people a few cast-iron facts and their beliefs change drastically.
The plan to cap benefit rises at one per cent was supported by 48 per cent and opposed by 32 per cent – but only because three out of every four people asked believed the “myth” that it was the unemployed that would take the hit. When told that 60 per cent of those affected will be low-paid workers receiving tax credits (fact), the move is opposed by a margin of 40 per cent to 30 per cent.
Only one in four believe benefits should rise be less than wages or prices, and 63 per cent want to see them linked to wages, prices or both (in other words, keep them as they are – precisely the opposite of what Herrs Osborne and Smith are pursuing).
The TUC poll found:
People think 41 per cent of the entire welfare budget goes on benefits to unemployed people, while the true figure is just three per cent.
They think 27 per cent of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently, while the government’s own figure is 0.7 per cent.
They think that almost half the people (48 per cent) who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance go on to claim it for more than a year, while the true figure is just under 30 per cent (27.8 per cent).
They think an unemployed couple with two school-age children would get £147 in Jobseeker’s Allowance – more than 30 per cent higher than the £111.45 they would actually receive – a £35 over-calculation.
Only 21 per cent of people think that this family with two school-age children would be better off if one of the unemployed parents got a 30 hour a week minimum wage job. They would actually end up £138 a week better off – in other words, they’d have more than twice as much money. Even those who thought they would be better off only thought on average they would gain by £59.
Yes, you’ve been told lies.
Yes, they’re big lies.
What might surprise you is the amount of time the Tories, in particular, have been telling these lies.
I am indebted to skwalker1964, who pointed me towards the pro-Tory ‘research trust’ Reform. This organisation published a press release as far back as 2009, claiming that Britain had a welfare “dependency problem”.
It said benefit “gimmicks” – among which it numbered child benefit, winter fuel allowance, maternity pay and tax credits – were “benefiting nobody”.
And it called for an end to universal benefits (such as child benefit, which stopped being a universal benefit today) and the localisation of welfare (as demanded in a ‘blueprint for the next Conservative manifesto’ being promoted by 70 Tories including Michael Gove and David Willetts).
So you see, the person who made the comment at the top of this piece really knew what he was talking about. Who was he, again?
He was Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
And he was paraphrasing his own boss, Adolf Hitler.