This week we all learned a new euphemism. From now on, it seems, the less-offensive synonym for a governmental lie will be: “forward-looking”.
As in, for example: “Part of [David Cameron’s speech on reducing immigration] is on the importance of reducing pull factors from people who may be considering coming… There is a forward-looking angle to the speech.” (A Downing Street spokesdrone)
Okay, so when he said he was giving migrants from the European Economic Area – in other words, people who already live here – a “very clear message” that there will be no absolute right to unemployment benefit, those words were referring to the future?
That’s fine, but only 0.65 per cent of the two million net migrants to the UK from countries who joined the EU in 2004 – 13,000 people in total – have ever claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance, and that figure is unlikely to rise in the future.
So for Cameron to be claiming this is an important step forward would be a li- it would be a l- It’s forward-looking??
Downing Street’s claim that there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of social lettings to migrants between 2007-8 and 2011-12 cannot be taken as forward-looking. It’s a statistic – and a typically-distorted one.
The number has indeed risen by 40 per cent – from 6.5 per cent of the proportion of such lettings to nine per cent. All of those people qualify because they are either working, self-sufficient or have a permanent right of residence in the UK – in other words, they are not a burden on the benefits system.
Eligible foreign nationals have their housing needs considered on the same basis as other, UK-born, applicants in accordance with each local authority’s allocation system – in other words, they get no preferential treatment.
Mr Cameron also said Britain has a “free National Health Service, not a free International Health Service”. It seems likely this claim was based on concerns raised by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who seems to think foreign nationals owe the health service £200 million a year, despite the fact that official Department of Health figures place the total for 2011-12 at £33 million – less than one-sixth of his claim (but still a substantial sum of money)
Mr Hunt has announced plans to limit free NHS care to permanent, not temporary, foreign nationals, on the basis of these fake- sorry, forward-looking, figures.
Mr Cameron has also announced plans regarding foreign migrants – he’ll limit their benefits. While this shows a certain consistency within the Coalition government – it is already limiting benefits for people who were born here – Cameron seems to be making no effort to tackle illegal immigration, or exploitation of foreign migrants.
But let us not criticise this new “forward-thinking” breeze that is blowing through the corridors of power without considering some of its other applications.
For example, employment minister Mark Hoban said last week, during the debate on the Jobseekers (back to the Workhouse) Bill that there were no national targets for applying sanctions against jobseekers, nor were there league tables of Job Centres, ranging from the best to the worst in imposing those sanctions.
How does he reconcile this with the leaked letter from an employee of Walthamstow Job Centre, which is 95th in the allegedly nonexistent league table – out of only 109.
The letter states: “I have until the 15th Feb… to show an improvement. Then it’s a PIP [Performance Improvement Plan – the first stage of disciplinary action for Job Centre Employees] for me… to improve my teams SBR [Stricter Benefit Regime – in other words, sanction] referral rate.” The letter went on to say the Job Centre’s manager was looking for 25 such referrals per week, from each section.
“Guys, we really need to up our game here,” the letter concludes. “The 5% target is one thing, the fact we are seeing over 300 people a week and only submitting 6 of them for possible doubts is simply not quite credible.”
Another thing that is now “not quite credible” is Mr Hoban’s claim that there are no targets and no league tables. Or was this another bit of “forward-looking” – to a time when there won’t be any need for them? Perhaps when everyone has been cleared off benefits altogether?
A leaked newsletter for Malvern Job Centre, quoted in The Guardian, also refers to the five per cent target.
Liam Byrne, the Labour work and pensions spokesman who traded away his Party’s opposition to the Jobseekers (back to the Workhouse) Bill for a nebulous promise of an independent review of back-to-work schemes, lasting 12 months and with no deadline set for the government to respond to its report, demanded that this review should be set up immediately, “so it can begin the job of putting the DWP’s house back in order” – even though it has nothing to do with the sanctions regime.
He clearly doesn’t want to rock the boat.
So we have government ministers – and a Prime Minister – determined to lie- sorry, look forward about as many policies as possible, while Her Majesty’s Opposition is determined to look the other way.
And, out in the real world… How are your finances looking for next month?