The other day I woke up to hear the news headlines on Radio 4 and it mentioned how David Cameron wanted to tackle Britain’s something for nothing culture. I presumed he was talking about fat cat bankers and traders taking huge bonuses and salaries when their company was loosing money, or tax dodgers like his many Etonian buddies….but predictably, no he was referring to those living on benefits. Or in other words, he was simply engaging in that favourite of Tory hobbies kick the beggars and screw the poor.
Now while yes there are a small number of shameless types whose profession one could describe as professional drinker or chav or Ned. But it is my experience that the vast bulk of the unemployed are none of the above and certainly not in such a position by choice. They are there because a bunch of wankers in power (that would be Cameron and his buddies in Parliament) screwed over the economy and made it impossible for them to get a job, especially if you are a recent graduate.
I mean would anyone actually choose a career of being constantly skint, struggling to make ends meet every week, constantly having to beat a path to the door of the welfare office, take part in various pointless government vanity schemes (including the new Welfare Chain Gangs) and not being able to do anything special, such as take a long holiday abroad – versus working and earning.
I was unemployed for a while at the beginning of the recession and it was not fun and games. I was too busy trying to fill out lots of forms and getting a new job to enjoy not having to go to work. And every time I visited a welfare office, I found it full of people, actively using the job search stations, clearly intend on getting a job. I know people who’ve been unemployed for quite awhile who, while they have gone through periods of depression and stopped searching, they are still actively looking for work, even downgrading and being prepared to move long distances. So like I said, lets not punish the majority of those on welfare for the perceived failings of a small number.
Indeed, of those who are permanently unemployed, i.e. those living in those parts of the UK that are virtually welfare colonies….or Thatchervilles as I call them, I have some sympathy. Many of the areas we associate with these social problems, such as the Welsh Valleys, the East end of Glasgow, the former industrial suburbs of Coventry, Manchester and many other industrial cities of the UK, were once thriving industrial areas. At one time, near full employment was recorded in these areas.
However, successive Tory government, wedded to their neo-liberal economic theory and fearful of the power of labour unions, destroyed the industry of these areas, leaving many inhabitants stuck in a poverty trap. Consequently the Tory’s need to realise that there was an unexpected consequence of these Thatcher era policies – that of turning once thriving communities (where the bulk of people worked and paid their taxes) into virtual welfare colonies (where large number of people became welfare dependent) with huge social problems. And I mean some parts of the UK now boast statistics that would put the third world too shame (life expectancy in parts of Glasgow is around 50!). consequently its a bit rich them now complaining about people on welfare when they put’em there in the first place!
So before toff’s like David Cameron and his Tory friends start bashing those on welfare, they need to recognize why so many people are forced to live on it. While there are probably a small number who do so because their lazy good for nothing dossers (then again, anyone whose ever worked for a large company will know you get plenty of those types in employment, often it quite senior positions!). The bulk of those on benefits are not there by choice. They are there because of a failure of government economic policies. And it has to be said, it was largely Tory policies that were to blame. Its very easy to destroy an economy and create social problems, solving them is much harder.
And I’m labouring this point because there is a very serious risk apparent here, that of creating another generation of unemployed, another lost (or Thatcherised as I’d put it) generation.