I know it's fucking pointless to get worked about this. But I did a stupid thing. I read the post-election edition of the Daily Mail. Their conclusion was essentially that Gordon Mugabe had been kept (temporarily) in power by a conspiracy of Lazy Dolescum, Pampered State-Subsidised Public-Sector Employees and Immigrants. The terrible troika. Britain, they said, was divided into two tribes. Labour had the people who, in various ways, were dependent on state support. While, on the other hand, the most successful, wealth creating people, the ones who paid into the system, all went Tory in the most 'dynamic' parts of the country (ie the south east and south midlands, bar those nasty immigrant-filled cities).
In the words of one columnist (have mentally blocked out the cunt's name), Labour's supporters in the North were people who 'prefer to languish on benefits rather than take jobs'.
My subtle riposte to this point would be three words: WHAT FUCKING JOBS?
By the CBI and DWP's own latest figures, there's currently over six jobseekers for every job (2.5m vs 400k). That includes part-time jobs that wouldn't by themselves provide a living wage. What's more, that figure of one in six is a national average - in unemployment hotspots we could be talking about a ratio of ten to one, or twenty to one. And that's putting aside the important fact that (surprise!) not every jobseeker is qualified to do every single job. So the range of options is even more limited than the raw numbers suggest.
Oh, but wait, if we had any gumption, we'd be becoming entrepreneurs and starting our own fucking businesses, wouldn't we? Except, wait - to start a business you need two things. Startup capital and customers. We're in the middle of a recession, and banks aren't lending money to every crackpot who comes through the door with a business idea. And, we're in the middle of a recession, so people don't have money to spend on new products and services - or if they do, it will be at the expense of old ones, leading to hard times and job losses at those companies... and so it goes on. Deadly serious though. Recession or no recession, if you think there is demand for 2.5 million new products or services - if you think there's demand for anything more than a tiny, tiny fraction of that number - then you are a complete fucking fantasist.
Oh, and not to mention that a big chunk of small businesses end up failing and defaulting on their debts - which get piled right on top of, you've guessed it, the national deficit. Given that some of the most inexplicably lauded people in Business today - including Sir (possibly Lord by the time you read this) Alan Sugar - have presided over business collapses, and the difference between failure and success seems to my inexpert eye to be more down to sheer blind luck than any personal qualities, I don't really see how you're going to tackle that problem. Maybe pass some legislation requiring businesses to succeed? With the penalty of heavy fines for those that fail? That should be enough motivation!
The right-wing ideas men cling to the myth that anyone could find employment if they wanted to, because it justifies them blaming the unemployed for their own plight. Out of work? You must be lazy, or stupid, or unambitious. There's a positively toxic stereotype going around of the benefit-addicted family lounging around scoffing snacks and watching Jeremy Kyle all day, leaving the house only to collect their benefit cheques and free Playstations, and stopping on the way home to vote Labour for four more years on the gravy train. I say that this is a grotesque caricature, like a Hogarth etching (without the progressive social agenda), that bears no resemblance to the great majority of the unemployed in this country. That hard facts and statistics are shelved and ignored while this ridiculous stereotype influences public policy is a complete fucking joke.
For the bulk of unemployed people, I'd say that 'lack of motivation' wouldn't even make their top 10 reasons for being out of work. It is depressing and faintly ridiculous to have to restate such an obvious point, but; most of the unemployed cannot find jobs even though they want to. So passing a series of increasingly draconian laws to cut benefits, move the unemployed into hostels on starvation rations (thanks, Digby Jones), put the unemployed on forced labour schemes (workfare!) - is completely, almost comically, missing the point. The unemployed will always be with us, at least in the current economic climate, so can we just accept the situation, pay them the benefits they need to survive, and treat them halfway humanely?
One small irony is that a lot of the people who bemoan the size of the benefits bill (largely comprised of rising Housing Benefit, see my post of May 1st on this) are people who made money from property - either by trading or buying-to-let. The forces that turned their property into a goldmine and made them wealthy are also the reason why they have to pay rising taxes to house those unemployed people who cannot afford to pay their ever-rising rents. I guess what goes around comes around...
Whatever kind of administration eventually ends up in No.10, we'll see an agenda of public spending cuts that will throw even more people on the dole. Putting aside the question of whether this policy aim is right (I'm not saying there isn't a case to be made for cutting the deficit), there's a bit of a contradiction in deliberately, knowingly creating loads of unemployment with one hand, whole demonising and blaming those same unemployed people with the other.
And, of course, the tiny wee point I've avoided mentioning up to now - don't slag off public services for 'being propped up with state funding' when the most dynamic cut-and-thrust private sector industry of them all - banking - just had to be saved from self-inflicted implosion by the biggest injection of public funding IN BRITISH FUCKING HISTORY. Hey, here's an idea to cut the public spending bill in our Big Fucking Society - dismantle all of the fucking banks and have all banking services carried out by local voluntary co-operatives! The tellers and traders could be kids doing their National Citizen Service! Whaddayasay? Eh? Eh?