Tories are very good at making broad statements – claims that many people would support – and then using them to justify unreasonable policies.
Iain Duncan Smith gave a fine example of such behaviour in his speech yesterday.
He said disabled people should not be considered “victims to be sustained by government handouts” – and many people might accept this statement. We should not write anybody off automatically; everybody should take the opportunity to earn their own living, if they can.
What the Gentleman Ranker didn’t say was that his Conservative Party has been removing those opportunities, along with state support – so disabled people are being deprived of their benefits while also being denied any chance of getting a job. Does that seem fair to you? Does that seem reasonable behaviour from an organisation that is trying to re-brand itself as the ‘party of working people’?
Duncan Smith’s speech was riddled with falsehoods or false arguments based on selective observation.
“Almost half of people on ESA have been on the benefit for more than two years – this is despite the majority of ESA claimants saying that they would like to work,” he said – implying that people who say they would like to work must be able to do so. This is a false assumption. It assumes that these people have been wrongly classed as too ill to work, simply because they want to. They’ve been classed as too ill because they are too ill; whether they want to work or not is nothing to do with it.
Let’s also bear in mind that the work capability assessment system for ESA is fatally flawed and attempts to ignore medical evidence as much as possible in order to find as many people ‘fit for work’ as possible and clear them off the benefit books. Iain Duncan Smith ordered changes to the appeal procedure because the skyrocketing number of successful cases was an embarrassment to him and his department.
“The ESA has Labour’s essential mistake at its heart – that people are passive victims,” he babbled – but he did not provide any evidence to prove this. It’s just an unsupported claim.
“Of course if you treat people as passive that’s what they’ll become.” Oh really? What about all the people who’ll take offence at the implication and do the exact opposite?
“It’s no wonder, when the system makes doctors ask a simplistic question: are you too sick to work at all?” This is a flat-out lie, of course. While the benefit’s provision is based on whether a person is found to be ill, the finding is based on a large number of questions that are said to be intended to find out whether the claimant really is too ill to work (although, as already mentioned, the assessment system is fatally flawed). Medical evidence is also said to be taken into account, but this claim – by the Conservative Government – has been proved false.
“Conservative philosophy is rooted in human nature – not in Utopianism or in empty pity but in the yearning of people to make a better life for themselves and their children. That’s why we don’t think of people not in work as victims to be sustained on government handouts. No, we want to help them live lives independent of the state.” There is so much to be questioned here that one hardly knows where to start. Perhaps at the end, where he claims he wants people to live “independent of the state”. This is true – but not in the way he expects us to assume. Iain Duncan Smith wants to cut people off of the benefits they deserve, and leave them to manage in whatever way they can – it won’t be any of his concern.
That is why many thousands of people, cut off from incapacity benefits, have been dying of malnutrition, of their illnesses, or of despair – committing suicide because they cannot see a future for themselves under Tory tyranny.
So perhaps it would be more accurate for him to say: “We think of people not in work as victims to be culled by the deprivation of benefits.”
“The evidence of our reforms is that people respond to incentives. They take opportunities. They adapt to a changing environment.” This is argument by selective observation – a false argument that cherry-picks the ‘hits’ and ignores the ‘misses’. Never mind the thousands of deaths – a few people have been able to get themselves into jobs, for the relatively short period the DWP counts as a success. What is it, now? Six months? And what kind of jobs are they? Zero-hours contracts that don’t pay the rent? No comment on that from the Gentleman Ranker!
“Many people who are sick or disabled want to work. We need to help them find the work they can do.” Again he assumes – evidenceless – that they can work, just because they want to work. Not only is it a false assumption – it is homicidal, for the reasons listed above.
The speech went on to attack the relative poverty measure, starting with the lie that it was a Labour device (it’s actually the standard in most countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) – but, again, there are uncomfortable issues to be considered.
The use of tax credits to push working people above an arbitrary poverty line – as practised by the Blair and Brown governments – is questionable. It’s a stop-gap measure that doesn’t solve the main problem, which is that employers have been paying far too little to working people.
Let’s not hear any quibbling that the money isn’t there – we all know of employers paying themselves hundreds of times as much as employees, and the richest employers in the UK are now twice as wealthy as they were in 2009, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. That comes from taking more than their fair share – nothing more or less.
Is the Conservative Government, of which Iain Duncan Smith is a part, doing anything at all to encourage employers to pay a living wage? No. George Osborne’s re-branded minimum wage is a living wage in name only and will not cover workers’ costs, as we have all see in news coverage about the forthcoming tax credits cut.
So Iain Duncan Smith has attacked Labour for a policy that failed to address somebody else’s poverty measure, while failing to acknowledge that he is planning to make matters worse for millions of working people.
The really appalling aspect of this is that this article is now well over 1,000 words long and has addressed only a fraction of the Work and Pensions Secretary’s speech.
If he is to be congratulated on any part of it, it should be for managing to present a completely false summary of the situation facing the unemployed, sick and disabled – in a way that too many people will accept without question.