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Iain Duncan Smith’s feet must be riddled with self-inflicted bullet holes – if only metaphorically.
Today (December 14) he went on the record saying that it was wrong for a cross-party group of MPs to suggest that the rise of food banks was purely to do with benefit-related problems.
Germany had more generous benefits and higher pay – yet more people there used food banks, he said in an interview on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.
He said 1.5 million people a week used food banks in Germany, whereas the Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank provider, has said it fed 913,138 people during the 2013-14 financial year.
“It is tiny in proportion here compared to a place like Germany which has more generous benefits and in which you have a higher level of pay,” said the man this blog describes as RTU (Returned To Unit) or SNLR (Services No Longer Required).
“So just saying it is to do with benefits is quite wrong. What I do say is there are lots of other reasons lots of people go to food banks.”
It seems Iain has been misreading a blog by the London School of Economics, from 2013 – a year and a half ago.
In it, author Stefan Selke does say Germany feeds 1.5 million people via food banks, but does not stipulate whether this is weekly or annually – so the Work and Pensions secretary is already off-message. Was he intentionally misleading viewers? Hard to tell with a man as stupid as him.
Now look at this paragraph from the LSE blog article: “The main growth of foodbanks in Germany began 2005, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s government introduced the ‘Agenda 2010’ of tax cuts, and cuts to pension and unemployment benefits. Around the same time, a new form of unemployment insurance (‘Hartz IV’) was introduced, reducing previous benefit levels and the duration for which they can be received.”
Aren’t these exactly the same reasons people use food banks in the UK – problems caused by benefits?
In both countries, the conditions under which benefits are provided have become stricter; the amounts available have decreased; and new forms of benefit payment have been (or are in the process of being) introduced that reduce entitlement still further. In both countries, taxes have been cut, most probably justifying further cuts to public services (clearly Germany has also been Starving the Beast – a policy with which long-term VP readers should be intimately familiar). Would anybody be surprised to learn that Germany has embraced neoliberalism?
The only difference is that Germany started this process five years earlier.
Unsurprisingly, nobody at BBC News seems to have bothered to do their research on this (it took Yr Obdt Srvt less than five minutes with a search engine) so – yet again – the mass media have let the British people down by failing to do their job properly.
A worse problem is that Iain Duncan Smith has never done his job properly – and clearly wouldn’t know how to.
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