Dave Stood On The Burning Deck…

I don’t normally pay any attention to polls* but it’s awfully tempting to begin this post with “On a day when a Populus poll shows the Tories to have lost three points to the Lib Dems over Christmas…” so I will.

On a day when a Populus poll shows the Tories to have lost three points to the Lib Dems over Christmas, it comes as no surprise to hear once again the whining sound of David Cameron’s fingernails as he desperately scrabbles to cling on to the pitilessly vertical deck of the HMS Frothing Tory:

Benefit claimants will lose a month’s worth of state handouts for the first job they turn down, three months’ of payments for the second “reasonable offer” and a third employment refusal will be punished with a bar on unemployment benefits for up to three years.

Needless to say, “reasonable offer” is not defined. Now, this is a deeply undeserved digression but I do wonder sometimes whether politicians of every stripe might do well to be bolder about this sort of thing. It’s so easy to slag off the Tories for this little gem it actually bores me to petulant tears.

If Cameron had said, oh, say, “Now, don’t quote me on this, because we haven’t done our research, but I’m defining reasonable here as being a job that pays at least 80% of the average salary level in the area and which complies with all relevant regulations as regards paid holiday, sick leave, breaks and so forth and has a formal contract of employment providing protection for the employee whether temporary or permanent. Go on, bite me.” and then we could at least have engaged. Said things like, you’re totally missing the point about what makes a decent living-wage job, you stupid plummy thumb-man. Or, oh right, so you’d condemn people to a miserable, unsuitable position just to get them off your stats with no thought for their long-term welfare or, by extension, that of the economy, would you?

Stuff like that. Of course, had he said any such thing, he would have been quoted, and soundly pilloried for any departure from it following said further research (assuming, which I charitably will, that there are at least three people in the Conservative party who do Reading and Writing).

cameron.jpg

Cameron: increasingly resembles a thumb

We’re oddly adolescent as a political society, aren’t we. We can’t cope with the idea that our authority figures might change their minds. “But you said!” we yelp in furious injury, and flounce out slamming the door. So they tiptoe round us. And one literally has no choice but to fall back on to background knowledge to work out what they might mean, an information strategy which somehow never seems to serve the Tories particularly well. Poor blossoms.

* No, the lady doth not protest too much, I really don’t pay much attention to them – unlike those of you who bluster furiously along similar lines and then furtively minimise seventeen Excel windows whenever anyone comes into the room. You dirty dogs.

8 Comments

  1. Stopping benefits for three months. That should help address obesity levels among the feckless poor.

    I liked Spike Milligan’s version of the poem:

    ‘The boy stood on the burning deck
    When all but he had fled.

    Pillock.’

  2. It’s all rather predictable, isn’t it: Cameron does well, Cameron decides th get more right wing. Cameron slips slightly, Cameron lurches further to the right. He was saved by Gordon’s cowardice, now the clock has started ticking once more…

  3. “so you’d condemn people to a miserable, unsuitable position just to get them off your stats with no thought for their long-term welfare or, by extension, that of the economy, would you?”

    Isn’t this most Governments’ approach to employment/industrial policy?

  4. There comes a point when, really, we have to wonder whose side the politicians are on. Victimising the unemployed probably appeals to a certain small-minded section of the electorate who think that someone else’s suffering makes their own position seem better. But beyond that, the fact that the government ensures that some people are cracked down on merely lowers the expectations for the rest of society. Shouldn’t government be about trying to ensure that standards of living rise for all? (with the usual caveats about the extent to which the government should be trying to figure out what constitutes a good life).

    Withdrawing benefits makes life a bit more awful for people who are already in a difficult position. Is everyone else meant to enjoy this spectacle, thinking “well at least someone else is getting screwed, not me”? Would Britain really be a better place if we had more British jobs, when those jobs make use of a tiny fraction of the talents of the people doing them?

    The problem is the dichotomy between “proper” employment (Having A Job) and unemployment (Not Having A Job). Can’t we have a society where people do more than one job, perhaps where we reward many of the other undervalued things that people do for their communities, families and so on? It’s not like this idea is completely whacko, and the sums are not totally crazy. Instead, we’re in a situation where you’re either on the inside pissing out, or on the outside being excoriated by Tory toffs and Stalinist Labour goons.

  5. “Is everyone else meant to enjoy this spectacle, thinking “well at least someone else is getting screwed, not me”?”

    It worries me that the answer to this, having read Stumbling & Mumbling’s latest (below; no, I don’t know how to embed links😦 ) is possibly yes. I suppose the trouble is that the (admittedly rather unpleasant) twentieth century has so institutionalised in the West a belief that ornery people have all been totally screwed over that it’s now a societal commonplace to prioritise bludgeoning other people over improving the general lot. The Tories, I suppose, build their whole worldview on this – I’ve had Tory voters explain their politics to me in almost precisely these terms.

    To some extent, this is probably just a function of primitive human instinct, but then so is polygamy, mass consumption of saturated fat whenever possible and hitting people who anger you, and most of us restrain those instincts with varying degrees of success. So the belief that it’s foolish *not* to be cynical, selfish and shuffle the long-term unemployed through an abusive sausage machine can’t be altogether based on instinct – there has to be a cultural element, and getting people to let go of that is going to be as tough as getting them to conquer the instinctive part.

    Hm, are these the sums that are commonly agreed to underlie Citizen’s Income? Because, stupidly, it hadn’t occurred to me that CBI this would be at the expense of low starting income tax rates. I mean, obviously, we are talking about two entirely different systems – would income tax even exist in the kind of world we are discussing? – but I would let go of the notion of low starter/basic income tax very reluctantly, even in the furtherance of an ideal Grand Plan.

    http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2008/01/harrassing-the.html

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