Art imitates life: Coalition ‘welf’ policies get comic-book treatment


Judge Dredd: The Cop. Script by Al Ewing; art by Ben Willsher.

Sometimes, when you’re a blogger, an article comes along when you think you’re doing something else – for example, catching up on a little light reading.

Yes, even hard-nosed political bloggers like This Writer have to kick back and have a little ‘me’ time now and then – in this case, with the Judge Dredd Megazine, issue 356, dated February 17, 2015.

In the lead story ‘The Cop’, we see title character Judge Dredd’s domain – the Mega City One of a future North America – struggling to cope with the effects of a disaster. Already you can see parallels with the Great Recession of 2007 onwards.

Citizens are encouraged to help clear damage from buildings, making them usable again, in return for food rations. No effort – no food. This is actually described in the story as a ‘Work Programme’!

Then the story focuses in on “those adults who are unable to work”; one such person is thrust out of the line of workers by a classic bully-type character. Ordered to explain what’s going on, the character – clearly in bad shape, his body withered and weak – states that he has a condition in which half his body doesn’t function properly. He explains that he reported for ‘disability testing’ (a Work Capability Assessment).

“I waited six hours an’ then they told me to come down here!” the pitiful creature, named Carmody, explains. “Said if I could wait that long, it meant it couldn’t be that bad–”

Captions provide us with Judge Dredd’s reaction: “More than credible. He’s heard stories like it a thousand times.” How many times have we heard or read similar stories about so-called healthcare professionals and their assessments?

“Admin call it ‘creative bureaucracy‘ saving… by the cold application of red tape and the occasional Catch-22. In the current climate, ‘criminal negligence’ might be more appropriate.” In comics, you see, there’s no space for diplomacy or political correctness; they say what they see. Criminal negligence is as good a description of Coalition Government policy towards the sick and disabled as any This Writer has seen.

The Judge decides that the sick guy has a good case and makes provision for him to receive food anyway. What happens next is something that would make the right-wing press proud.

“HE’S FAKIN’ IT!” screams a man in the crowd. “I seen that guy yesterday pullin’ the same scam! He’s a fake!

The caption points out what we already know: “The accusation’s obviously false. Dredd doesn’t need a lie detector to know that. But the mob hears what it wants.” Another parallel with the UK of the present-day.

The result? Instant riot – put down with rubber bullets – for which the Mega-City always has enough money: “Maitland in accounts had … made the budget adjustments. Feeding the cits was all well and good, after all — but first things first.” Boris Johnson’s water cannon, anybody?

Getting back to Carmody – who’s been injured and is just about to be carted off in an ambulance – it turns out he recognised the man who started the riot: “Suh-sure. He tuh-tried to sell me… I dunno, he cuh-called it insurance.”

And haven’t we just learned that the Tories want to introduce private health insurance into British industry?

Back to the captions: “The cits are angry, resentful, looking for someone to blame— anybody will do. So whisper in the right ear— make an accusation at the right moment that some poor sap’s not pulling their weight— and you’ve got a whole city ready to do your legbreaking for you.” As the right-wing press have been working hard to demonstrate over the last few years.


Of course, this works equally well with the ‘chequebook euthanasia’ argument that has been put forward in this blog. Whisper in the ear of someone who’s depressed that maybe they should take the easy way out; relieve the burden on their relatives/friends and the taxpayer – and they’ll probably top themselves while the balance of their mind is disturbed. Isn’t that right, Iain Duncan Smith?

“Meanwhile, your own hands stay clean– an incitement rap at the very worst. It’s some smart thinking, all right. Organisation thinking.”

Okay, in the story, the bad guys are known as ‘the Organisation’. It’s a comic-book. In the real world, they mean the Establishment; the neoliberals whose thinking informs the government’s. As this blog has noted previously, the government’s hands stay clean if an ESA claimant goes out and commits suicide after a Work Capability Assessment – at least, that’s how ministers would like us to see it. “An incitement rap at the very worst.”

And in the meantime, down goes the benefit bill.

The script for this mini-classic is by Al Ewing. It seems clear that, like another comic scriptwriter called Al – Alan Moore – he knows the score.

It’s one of the great things about the comics counter-culture. It isn’t monitored and censored anything like as heavily as mass cultures like TV.

So comics get to say what people really think.

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  1. TomMagenta March 28, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Funny you should mention comics tackling political issues – I came across an action comic about “immigration enforcement” yesterday. I didn’t give it a proper read, sadly – nor could I afford it. I’m sure it’s just as parallel as the Judge Dredd story you described here.

  2. [email protected] March 28, 2015 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    Actually, Mike it is rather the comic writers are allowed to say what the powerful do not want the public to hear. As then they may think about what’s happening as it really is and not how the rich want it to appear.

    • Mike Sivier March 29, 2015 at 12:25 am - Reply

      I’d agree with that. It’s such a small medium, in comparison to the others, that nobody bothers to monitor it.

  3. Michelle March 29, 2015 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Comics, cartoons and cynical, intellectual comedy quiz shows on TV are in a similar genre, some even get laughs to cleverly mock the establishment, very sad that it’s actually not very funny, especially for those suffering under those mocked policies! The comic extract above is all too clear; graphic to say the least, thanks Mike.

  4. Gazza March 29, 2015 at 11:24 am - Reply

    And in other news on Sunday, ConCons latest Expose’ is on the Fast Backtrack to “no not policy”, “I believe ….” [hearing that from GeorgePrentious Smith you know we’re going into Fantasy again], the usual gumf before the knife is stuck in in a different way.
    Be warned though that with the ConCons they might be brazen enough to turn round and say – after an internal enquiry though – that actually these measures are needed… we are all in it together after all.
    One bit of other news is that two disabled people reported this Gov to the UN.

  5. christian dabnor March 29, 2015 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Dredd has always had a pop at the Tories. There’s the Sons of the Iron Lady, extremist Judges who oppress those who believe in democracy.

  6. Jonathan Marsh March 29, 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Yep. Just think of ‘Charley’s War’ dealing with various unmentionable and often previously unmentioned aspects of the First World War.
    That was under Thatcher!

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