Discursive Construction of Out of Work Social Security Benefit Claimants

‘Scrounger’, ‘workshy’ and ‘skiver’ are among the labels frequently applied by the mass print media and political parties to people who claim out of work Social Security benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance and disability based benefits. The discourse involving the poorest members of UK society creates a constructed reality in which issues of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor are foregrounded and provide a basis for the stigmatisation of individuals and whole classes of the population which in turn provide the justification for ideological attacks on the concept of the existing social security system.

The topic of Social Security benefits and the welfare system is a deeply contentious political issue. Even the naming of the subject is fraught with linguistic issues. In a private conversation with Professor George Lakoff and Baronness Lister of Burtersett (commonly known as Ruth Lister) at a Trade Union Congress seminar on October 4th 2013, I asked them whether opponents of the government and tabloid trend of referring to social security benefits in the UK as ‘welfare’ should resist this usage. The response from them was a resounding “Yes”. Their explanation of this position demonstrated that the use of ‘welfare’ demonstrated an attempt to invest previously established frames of reference from the American Welfare debate into the UK debate. The major difference is that the UK system of benefits is an entitlement, not a charitable act. This essay will therefore refer to out of work social security benefits and its associated systems and frameworks using ‘benefits’ and the ‘benefits system’ rather than ‘welfare’.

The newspaper articles examined were selected because they demonstrated features which were considered to be typical of the sector of the press that demonised those who received benefits. Although only a small selection of data is examined in this essay, according to Baumberg et al it is consistent with the general pattern of reporting in which “the Sun, Mail and Express, are often accused of promoting ‘scrounger rhetoric’ with regard to claimants.” (Baumberg et al., 2012). However, the final article analysed demonstrates discourse usage that attacks the hegemonic position.

The opening paragraphs of the first newspaper article (Hall, 2012) examined were analysed for lexical choice, and the way in which the author used these to create an ideological square to stigmatise those in receipt of benefits as an ‘undeserving other’

Figure 1- Online report from The Express (Hall, 2012) (see appendix 1 for full text)

Figure 1- Online report from The Express (Hall, 2012) (see appendix 1 for full text)

The article (Figure 1) uses a headline with a war metaphor in ‘Tories to wage war’. Although the subject of the attack is absent, the conjunction ‘as’ rather than ‘on’ is used in the subheading, which shows that this metaphor refers to the ‘government’s war on scroungers’

The subheading also uses the pejorative label ‘scroungers’, framing the discourse to utilise the rhetoric of ‘undeserving’ claimant to homogenise those receiving working age benefits as in some way undeserving.

The author also uses the word “handouts” in referring to benefits received by the low paid, jobless and teenagers in paragraphs one and two. This moral-metaphorical framing places these people as recipients of government largesse or charity, rather than people who have an entitlement to receive these social benefits. This lexical choice, with its association to Victorian era charity, frames the moral aspect of benefit claimants in that historical context, where recipients were seen as morally defective for requiring help (Rimstead, 1997).

Paragraph three, however, makes it clear that “pensioner’s universal benefits will be protected from the cuts”. Although universal benefits are age related (Age Concern, 2013), rather than means tested, the government’s protection of these benefits has no negative connotation attached by the author.

In paragraph four, the author uses a reference to “millions of hard working families” to create a structural opposition between “hard working families” and the “workshy”, although neither of these labels is defined. It is left to the reader to presuppose what these labels mean, although the use of ‘workshy’ rather than ‘scrounger’ leaves little doubt of the article’s opinion of those receiving benefits. The use of aggregation in “millions of hard working families” also works to reinforce the idea of a deviant ‘other’ out of those receiving benefits and provides the moral rhetoric that the “hard working families” are supportive of this action, in the absence of any facts to support this position.

These lexical choices serve to reinforce a ‘them and us’ attitude in the reader, which creates an ideological square (Van Dijk, 1998, p. 267), where those benefit recipients are seen as the enemy as a result of the war metaphor. ‘They’ are morally defective ‘workshy’ ‘scroungers’ who are receiving ‘handouts’ while ‘we’ are representative of moral ‘hard working families’ who are under attack from deviant ‘others’. The reader is left with the impression that something must be done by the government to prevent these implied abuses of charitable support of the ‘others’.

Analysis of an article from The Telegraph (Porter & Winnett, 2010) reveals the use of presupposition of the ‘workshy’ and ‘scrounger’ rhetoric to reinforce this message, as well as framing benefit recipients in an assumed position of ‘non deserving’ claimant.

Figure 2- Online article from The Telegraph (Porter & Winnett, 2010) (see appendix 2 for full text)

Figure 2- Online article from The Telegraph (Porter & Winnett, 2010) (see appendix 2 for full text)

This article uses presupposition in its use of the phrase “life on benefits”. The article also reinforces the deserving/undeserving poor paradigm discussed earlier, but omits what defines the clauses and conditionality of “those capable of returning to work’ and ‘if you can work”.

By repeating this message in paragraphs five and thirteen, the authors reinforce the government’s presupposition that a ‘life on benefits’ is a choice, rather than a result of lack of jobs or genuine illness. This grants agency to those affected where there, in reality, may be none. If the presupposition is not challenged, benefit claimants can be shown to be agents of their own poverty, having a choice where there is none, and ultimately responsible for their own position. According to Lakoff and Wehling, this Conservative Neo-Liberal viewpoint illustrates the ‘strict father family model’ in which the individual ‘…is the model of individual, not social, responsibility—responsible for himself and his family but with no responsibilities to outsiders and no major dependency on them’ (Lakoff, 2012). The presupposition that subsistence on benefits is a lifestyle choice is a significant enough strategy that is has been researched and challenged (Shildrick et al., 2012), but still remains a powerful rhetorical device.

In contrast to articles previously examined, the following article (Moss, 2013)demonstrates the use of metapropositional expressives (Coulthard, 1994) and quoting verbs by a newspaper that is opposed to the government’s ideology to position the opposition Labour party as being responsible for showing that the government is guilty of obfuscation and implicit guilt.

Figure 3 - Online Article from The Mirror (Moss, 2013) (see appendix 3 for full text)

Figure 3 – Online Article from The Mirror (Moss, 2013) (see appendix 3 for full text)

In the following quotes from the text the quoting verbs are underlined.

“…Labour’s analysis of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement cutbacks reveals.” (para. 3) portrays the Chancellor as having hidden something within his Autumn Statement, and that the Labour Party’s analysis has discovered and shown this to unsuspecting readers. This in turn allows the author to use the matalinguistic verb accused in “…Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has accused Mr Osborne” which reinforces the impression that the Chancellor has been guilty of wrongdoing (para. 6). In paragraph ten we find, “Experts warn more families will be hit…” and “Critics have pointed out the unfairness…”  used, both of which serve to add to the impression that there will be consequences to families, rather than to the implied transgressor, the Chancellor. The final quote; “…Labour countered claims it was soft on shirkers…” (para. 12) is used in order to place the Labour Party rhetorically as answering the charge in a way that satisfies the populist charge that benefit claimants are ‘shirkers’.
The images used to portray George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, also serve a discursive purpose:

The image in Figure 1, from a newspaper that is widely considered to support Conservative ideology and policies uses an offer image, with the Chancellor shown with a level gaze, looking off frame. This invites the reader to imagine what he is thinking (Machin & Mayr, 2012:p. 71) and so creates empathy between reader and subject. In this image, George Osborne is also framed using a medium shot and with a hand extending toward the viewer. The framing presents him in a conventional manner for a serious politician, and the extended hand works in the same way as the gaze to create a connection between subject and viewer. Conversely, in the image (Figure 3) from The Mirror, a traditionally left-wing newspaper, George Osborne is shown closely cropped, with his mouth open with a gaze which is insufficient for either a demand or offer image. This leaves him looking slack jawed and shifty.
The reality constructed through these discursive strategies presents a world which varies dependant on the newspapers read. To a reader of Right Wing newspapers, reality is that hard-working families are being attacked by workshy welfare scroungers who choose a life on benefits; whereas the perspective from the Left is that the government are untrustworthy and guilty of wrongdoing in their financial dealings. These realities result in direct stigmatising effects in the attitudes toward those in poverty.

 

Bibliography

Age Concern (2013) Older People’s Universal Benefits – Q&A, Available from: <http://www.ageuk.org.uk/money-matters/claiming-benefits/older-peoples-universal-benefits—qa/&gt; [Accessed: 10 December 2013]

Baumberg, B., Bell, K. & Gaffney, D. (2012) Benefits Stigma in Britain, Available from: <http://www.turn2us.org.uk/PDF/Benefits%20stigma%20Draft%20report%20v9.pdf&gt; [Accessed: 6 December 2013]

Caldas-Coulthard, C., (1994) ‘On reporting reporting: The representation of speech in factual and factional narratives’, in Coulthard, M. (ed.), Advances in Written Text Analysis, London: Routledge

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Fairclough, N. (2012) Political Discourse Analysis, New York: Routledge

Hall, M. (2012) £10bn Welfare Cuts: Tories to Wage War as Jobless with Big Families Lose Benefits | UK | News | Daily Express, Available from: <http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/350773/10bn-welfare-cuts-Tories-to-wage-war-as-jobless-with-big-families-lose-benefits&gt; [Accessed: 10 December 2013]

Jones, O. (2011) Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, London; New York: Verso

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live by, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

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Machin, D. & Mayr, A. (2012) How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis: A Multimodal Introduction, Los Angeles: SAGE

McKee, A. (2003) Textual Analysis: A Beginner’s Guide, London; Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications

Moss, V. (2013) George Osborne ‘Strivers’ Tax’ Will Leave 7.9 Million Working Families £1,152 Worse off – Mirror Online, Available from: <http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/george-osborne-strivers-tax-will-leave-1521341&gt; [Accessed: 10 December 2013]

Potter, J. (1987) Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour, London ; Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications

Porter, A. & Winnett, R. (2010) Benefits Shake-up: Work-Shy to Lose Benefits for Three Years – Telegraph, Available from: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8124769/Benefits-shake-up-work-shy-to-lose-benefits-for-three-years.html&gt; [Accessed: 10 December 2013]

Rimstead, R. (1997) Subverting Poor Me: Negative Constructions of Identity in Poor and Working-Class Women’s Autobiograpies, in Riggins, S.H. (ed.) The Language and Politics of Exclusion: Others in Discourse, Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications

Shildrick, T., MacDonald, C., Webster, C. & Garthwaite, K. (2012) Poverty and Insecurity: Life in ‘Low-Pay, No-Pay’ Britain, Bristol; Chicago, IL: Policy Press

Titscher, S., Meyer, M., Wodak, R. & Vetter, E. (2000) Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis, London; Thousand Oaks [Calif.]: SAGE

 

Appendix 1

£10bn welfare cuts: Tories to wage war as jobless with big families lose benefits

GEORGE Osborne today stepped up the Government’s war on scroungers by announcing an extra £10billion in welfare cuts.

By: Macer Hall

Published: Mon, October 8, 2012

The Chancellor used his speech to the Tory conference in Birmingham to confirm that handouts to the jobless and low paid need to be further squeezed to save more cash for repaying the Treasury’s record deficit.

A key part of the crackdown will be on teenagers who leave school and do not go into training, further education or a job who will find their access to handouts such as housing benefit severely curtailed.

But Mr Osborne made clear that pensioners’ universal benefits will be protected from the cuts.

Senior Tories believe the move will be popular with millions of hard-working families who are fed up with workshy scroungers ripping off the benefits system.

Mr Osborne’s announcement today signalled that the Treasury has won a Whitehall battle with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was resisting further cuts to his budget. The new £10billion of cuts, to be implemented by 2016-17, come on top of £18billion in welfare cuts previously announced by the Coalition.

Those who make the greatest effort will get the greatest rewards

George Osborne

Treasury sources say many of the savings will come from squeezing housing benefit and the budget for the new universal credit, which is replacing a complex string of handouts.

Mr Osborne and Mr Duncan Smith confirmed their truce in the cuts row with a joint article supporting the £10billion cuts.

“We are united in our determination to deliver universal credit, the most fundamental reform of our benefits system for a generation, on time and on budget,” the two Cabinet ministers will say.

“We are both satisfied this is possible and we will work together to find savings of this scale.”

They will argue that the cuts are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that cutting Britain’s deficit is “fair”.

The only alternative to welfare cuts would be cutting investment in the economy, slapping more taxes on middle-income earners or hiking borrowing even higher, the pair will say.

And they repeated Mr Cameron’s pledge at the last election to preserve age-related universal benefits including winter fuel payments and free bus passes, prescriptions and TV licences.

Tory sources said the new welfare system will require “those who are out of work to make the same kinds of choices as those who are in work”.

A spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Every family is facing huge pressure on their budgets, those in receipt of housing benefits should not be immune to making the same choices everyone else is.

“Most young people in work share, so there is no reason for younger people on housing benefit not to do the same.”

In his conference speech today Mr Osborne insisted that the Tories are in touch with what the British people mean by fairness.

He said it means to back aspiration and ensure “that those who make the greatest effort get the greatest rewards”.

He insisted that, under the Coalition, the rich are being made to contribute to deficit reduction through higher taxes.

But also argued that it is an economic “delusion” to think the budget can be balanced only on “the wallets of the richest”. Mr Osborne said that it is wrong to have a welfare system where those on benefits can be better off than those with a job.

He went further to anger the Lib Dems by repeating his opposition to their proposal for a “mansion tax” on the largest properties. The decision to go ahead with the extra cuts is bound to enrage the Lib Dems after Nick Clegg pledged that the Coalition would not cut the deficit “on the backs of the poor”.

A report yesterday claimed that benefit cheats are living “millionaire lifestyles” with taxpayers fleeced by widespread organised scams. The damning dossier, written by a cross-party panel of councillors in Conservative Westminster City Council in central London, reveals cases of alleged fraudsters with more than £100,000 in the bank as well as people claiming housing benefit while living overseas and subletting UK property.

In another twist yesterday, the Royal Mail sparked anger over its scheme to sell cheap stamps this Christmas to those claiming benefits. The controversial plan is not offered to millions of hard-working families who will have to pay the increased postage following a price hike earlier this year that saw first class stamps rise to 60p and second class to 50p.

Britain’s deficit hit £98billion in the last financial year and City experts fear it could soar to more than £120billion next year.

Appendix 2

Benefits shake-up: work-shy to lose benefits for three years

Unemployed workers will be barred from claiming benefits for up to three years if they repeatedly refuse job offers under radical plans to reform the welfare system.

By Andrew Porter and Robert Winnett

11:21PM GMT 10 Nov 2010

Anyone claiming unemployment benefit will have to sign a “three strikes and you’re out” contract setting out punishments for the work-shy. Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will announce a “claimant contract” which will set out the sanctions against those refusing to take up offers of work.

Those who fail to accept a job offer, or refuse to apply for a position recommended by an employment adviser will, on the first occasion, lose their £64-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance for three months.

If they do it a second time their benefit will be halted for six months. If they refuse for a third time they will lose the benefit for three years.

Those who refuse to take part in unpaid community work, which will become mandatory as part of the Government’s new welfare-to-work plans, will be subject to the same penalties.

Last night, David Cameron said a “life on benefits” would no longer be an option for those capable of returning to work.

The sanctions are part of a radical raft of reforms being proclaimed as the biggest changes to the welfare state since it was set up more than 60 years ago.

The wide array of benefits currently offered to those out of work will be replaced by a single “universal credit” from 2013.

This will ensure that those returning to employment will always be better off than if they remained on benefits.

At the moment, people returning to work can lose up to 95p in benefits for every £1 they earn, but this is expected to be limited to around 65p.

Ministers believe the change will mean that about 2.5 million people will be better off.

Mr Duncan Smith hopes the measures in his welfare White Paper will cut the number of workless households by 300,000 by ending the current “perverse system”.

The new system will be administered by HM Revenue and Customs, leading to fears of potential administrative problems.

Last night, speaking in South Korea, Mr Cameron said: “The message is clear. If you can work then a life on benefits will no longer be an option.”

He added: “If people are asked to apply for a job by an adviser they will be expected to put themselves forward. If people can work, and they are offered work, they will be expected to take it. This is the deal. Break that deal and they will lose their unemployment benefit. Break it three times and they will lose it for three years.”

Downing Street aides insisted the measures were not simply about appearing to be tough on “scroungers”. Instead, they claimed Mr Cameron was in no mood to listen to a host of “tired excuses” about people who did not attend job interviews or accept jobs. Details of the proposed sanctions may be met with some scepticism as previous attempts to penalise those refusing employment have often failed. Ministers will be reluctant to approve anything that leads to families losing their homes or being unable to afford food and other basics.

There are fears that malingerers may accept offers of work and then behave badly so that they are quickly dismissed. Well-placed sources said that the scheme was designed to deter those “milking the system”.

“Very few people will actually lose their benefits but this is to stop people transgressing,” said a source. “Most unemployed benefit claimants want to return to work with the right support and help.”

The Coalition’s measures are aimed at helping to cut the soaring welfare budget. Britain has one of the highest numbers of workless households in Europe, with 1.9 million children living in homes where no one is employed. About five million people rely on out-of-work benefits, including incapacity benefit.

Since 1997, the welfare budget has risen by more than 40 per cent, after inflation, from £63 billion to £87 billion. The system currently penalises some people returning to work with high marginal rates of tax which the new proposals are designed to address.

Mr Cameron said: “It simply has to pay to work. You can’t have a situation where if someone gets out of bed and goes and does a hard day’s work they end up worse off. That’s not fair and it sends entirely the wrong message — both to those on benefits and to the hard working majority who are being asked to support them.”

Last night, Douglas Alexander, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “If the Government gets this right we will support them because of course we accept the underlying principle of simplifying the benefits system and providing real incentives to work.

“But the government will not get more people off benefits and into work without there being work available.”

Appendix 3

By Vincent Moss

£1,152 worse off: George Osborne will clobber almost 8 million working families with “Strivers’ Tax”

Shock figures show Chancellor will squeeze £9billion from grafters

George Osborne’s “Strivers’ Tax” will leave working families £1,152 worse off over the next five years.

His huge cuts to tax credits will hit 7.9 million families with at least one adult earning… and shock figures show the Government will have squeezed £9billion out of them by 2018.

They will bear the brunt of a £15billion package of ­welfare cuts, ­Labour’s analysis of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement cutbacks reveals. But the shake-up of working tax credits and child tax credits for families on lower wages is just part of Mr Osborne’s double whammy for millions of households.

Tomorrow, 1.2 million families will be worse off through the ­introduction of a means-testing system for child benefit payments which range from £13.40 a week to £20.30 for the eldest child.

The average loss will be around £1,300 a year of the £1,752 paid to a family with two children.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has accused Mr Osborne of forcing families to “pay the price for this Government’s economic failure”.

He also attacks his bogus claim that the measures target “scroungers”, adding: “The truth is two-thirds of the people being hit are in work and thousands of families on middle incomes will lose every penny of child benefit from tomorrow.

“Yet at the same time the Tories and Lib Dems are handing out a £3billion tax cut to the highest earners – worth an average of £107,000 to 8,000 millionaires.”

Any household in which someone earns more than £50,000 will no longer get full child benefit. It stops completely over £60,000.

Experts warn more families will be hit by the change as the threshold is expected to stay the same despite rising wages. Critics have pointed out the unfairness of a couple with a joint income of £100,000 a year being just under the threshold and not losing any benefit.

The row will be re-ignited on Tuesday when Labour votes against the Chancellor’s plan to limit most benefits and tax credit increases to one per cent for the next three years.

On Friday, Labour countered claims it was soft on shirkers with proposals for compulsory work for anyone jobless more than two years.

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Thoughts on the proposals for MP’s pay rise.

this one has nothing to do with language – just my thoughts on the proposals for managing MP’s pay.

So let me get this straight:

If I defraud the state payment system because I don’t feel that I can live on the amount given to me (despite my knowledge of and agreement to taking, that amount) the state will tell me I need to repay the money (which I am able to do, because, curiously despite my claims of insufficiency, I have this money available to pay back) , but I will later be given an increase in my money of over 10% more than others who also receive state payment.

The justification for receiving this increase is that I committed (at the very least moral) fraud, which proves that the original amount I was paid was unfair.

However, this only applies if you are an MP.

How does this work? If I had behaved in the same way in any other walk of life, the very last thing anyone would propose would be a pay rise in order to redress the perceived shortage of income. But apparently, being an MP is somehow different.

the answer to the MP’s salary issue is very simple. Take an arbitrary group of public workers (for example, nurses, firemen, teachers, policemen) and calculate the mean average of the pay rise that they are to receive. This is the maximum amount of pay rise that MPs can be given for that year. Let us not forget that they are Public Sector workers, and therefore any wage caps, freezes or reductions in the Public Sector must also apply to them.

This would reward politicians for when they are getting it right, and penalise them when they are getting it wrong.

Then, for once, they might be able to claim that we are all in it together.

Benefits or Welfare? – Why we must refuse to acknowledge the use of the term “Welfare”

This government has made a conscious decision to frame the debate on social security payments in the context of “Shirkers and scroungers”. In order to aid them in this ideological campaign, they have imported a phrase from the American social security arena – welfare.

The media, politicians and even people on the street glibly use this term when referring to U.K. benefit payments. Whilst the ignorance of common people can be understood, the compliance in its misuse by politicians and journalists needs to be challenged. The Oxford dictionary defines a benefit as : “a payment made by the state or an insurance scheme to someone entitled to receive it “ (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/benefit) The definition of “welfare” is telling: chiefly North American “financial support given to those who are unemployed or otherwise in need” (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/welfare?q=welfare)

The difference, although subtle, is enormous; benefit is an entitlement, whilst welfare is, in effect, a charitable payment. This country’s benefit system is not a charity. It is funded by taxpayers for the mutual benefit of all. However, by using language in this manner, and changing the noun from benefit to welfare, the government has been able to associate benefit payments with fecklessness, skiving, laziness and a whole range of other negative pejoratives, thus enabling an attack on the safety net of the benefits system. By complying with this misuse of language, journalists (who should know better) are aiding the government in removing the valid and justified feeling of entitlement for benefits, instead replacing it with the inference that benefit payments are received from the munificence of the authorities and are in some way an indication of moral weakness in the claimant.

This must stop. I call on those that should know better (i.e. professional writers, reporters and commentators) to stop being complicit with the attack on those that need to use this country’s benefits system and I also ask all others to use the correct term – i.e. benefit payments rather than welfare payments

Open Letter to George Osborne

This letter was written by Miss Sarah D Tomkins, who has graciously let me post it here:

Today’s letter is going to George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer…

17th April 2013

Dear George,

What a loyal little Tory boy you are, even to the point of shedding tears at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral. Tell me why did you cry? Is it because she was an inspiration? Because she was a great leader? Or because she died after the budget and really buggered your figures up?

I’ve a feeling after finding £10m out from nowhere you’ll be immediately accepted into the magic circle, because it was one hell of an illusion to give Dear Maggie such a lavish send off when, quite frankly Britain hasn’t got a pot to do the proverbial in. I’d like to direct you to a news article in The Telegraph, (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/household-bills/9403521/Paupers-funerals-increase-as-Government-rejects-half-of-welfare-applicants.html ) where the Government Funeral Payment system is turning down half the applications for assistance who just want to bury their loved ones respectfully, no pomp, no closed roads, no silencing Big Ben and no top 40 hit single. The poor – refused just like that, at one of their lowest points of their lives are left to try and take out loans, probably of the type that would leave them in debt forever.

How much did Maggie’s funeral cost by the way, not just here but in the places I’ve seen photos of on Facebook.. Edinburgh – where no-one watched it on the big screen, Bradford – where a couple of people glanced up at the big screen as they passed by, Leeds – where just two people watched it on the big screen and Grantham, Maggie’s home town, where you guessed it.. just two people turned up to watch it. Rumour has it, it was the same two people just trying to clock up their air-miles. It appears that maybe the Tory line on just how loved Baroness Thatcher was a tad out of touch, a bit like most of your party’s thinking so I’ll give you 10/10 for consistency at least.

But now I have a question, watching you cry leads me to believe you may possibly have such a thing called a heart. Is this true? And if it is I’d like you and your heart to work together for the rest of my letter. This George is where I get serious and where YOU need to listen.

I want you (and your heart) to read the following list. And then I want you to cry, I want you to pass this letter on to your cabinet colleagues and I want them to cry too. I want you all to hear the names of people who deserved much much better from the Government and got treated so appallingly for the sake of a few £££’s here and there. I want you to read ‘Calum’s List’ http://calumslist.org/ The list is currently 30 names long. I will share a few in this letter…

Richard Sanderson, 44, (May 2011)
An unemployed dad stabbed himself twice through the heart when his family faced losing their home to housing benefit cuts
http://www.courtnewsuk.co.uk/?news_id=26081

Paul Willcoxen, 33, (April 2011)
A man with mental health problems who was worried about benefit cuts killed himself. A suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which he expressed concerns about Government cuts. http://www.thisishampshire.net/news/9095159.Jobseeker_took_own_life/

Elaine Christianson, 57, (July 2011)
Found in a storm drain near her home. She died from drowning, despite having more than ten self-inflicted cuts on her wrists. The inquest was told she had been worried about attending a medical appointment to assess disability benefits. http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/Woman-drowned-drain-upset-health-check/story-12927176-detail/story.html#axzz2QkM6KrLZ

David Groves, 56, (May 2011)
Died of a massive heart attack the night before his medical as he scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement. He had claimed incapacity benefit for three years after doctors ordered him to stop working following a heart attack and several strokes.
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/stress-of-tory-benefits-tests-killed-129934

Mark Mullins and Helen Mullins, (Nov 2011)
Found dead in their home laying side by side. They struggled to access the correct benefits – leaving them living “hand to mouth” on food handouts from a Coventry soup kitchen which they walked five miles to each week.
http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/2011/11/08/bedworth-suicide-pact-couple-found-lying-side-by-side-92746-29739580/

Stephen Hill, 53, (Dec 2011)
Had suffered heart problems for around two years and was awaiting major heart surgery but was deemed fit for work following a ten minute Atos assessment. He died of a heart attack a month later. http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/local/fit_to_work_dad_had_heart_attack_1_4228295

These people died because YOUR Government refused to support them as people and treated them as statistics. You in your infinite wisdom thought the bankers, the big corporations and all you greedy politicians were more entitled to ‘support’ than those really in need. You decided a dead ex politician who got sacked by her OWN party, deserved the money more than the sick and dying. Because of the decisions you and your colleagues made people have died. I read a quote today that said “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about change..” Well let me tell you something.. the tide IS turning and people ARE angry. We are bringing about a change.. a big one.. Make sure in your next financial flowchart you make provision for Kleenexe, because like your Idol Maggie, you will soon be walking away from Downing Street in tears. And not a moment too soon.

Today is dedicated to Richard, Paul, Elaine, David, Mark, Helen, Stephen and all those who have lost their lives through the greed of the Government.

Ding Bloody Dong!

Miss Sarah D Tomkins

What’s in a word?

Recent days have seen frantic attempts by the government to re-frame the debate about the so-called “bedroom tax”. These attempts to regain control of the debate in the government’s favour can be witnessed in the seemingly pedantic efforts of Iain Duncan Smith to force people to stop referring to the “spare room subsidy” as the “bedroom tax”. While a diverse range of people, from the clergy, people on the street and even other Tory Members of Parliament are attempting to force the government into debate in order to justify this, and other so called “austerity” measures, by trying to engage debate around the rationality, practicality and even legality of the welfare reforms, the government seem to be making the naming of these welfare reforms into a major focus of their defence. The government accuse the opposition of “scaremongering” by the opposition’s insistence on calling it a “bedroom tax” and have even gone to the effort of writing letters to the BBC complaining about their use of the phrase “bedroom tax”, and providing a definition of the word “tax”, stating that the “phrase[bedroom tax]  is innately political and indeed, factually wrong,” and that it is not the “job of the BBC to use misleading terms and promote the views of the Labour party“. Ian Duncan Smith provided a dictionary definition in the form of “compulsory contribution to state revenue taken from workers’ pay or business profits — or added to the cost of goods and services”. (yahoo.com, 2013)

While Ian Duncan Smith is indeed semantically correct to point out that the “spare room subsidy” is not a tax, he fails to gain the moral high ground on this issue from a linguistic perspective. Let us, for a moment, examine the terms that the government prefers to use, in order to reveal the duplicitous nature of the governments own use of language. Ian Duncan Smith is fond of referring to the “spare room subsidy”, although local authority websites, such as Eastsussex.gov.uk, state that “The official title of the new rule is the under-occupancy penalty” (eastsussex.org, 2013). Indeed, Standard Note HC SN/SP/6272 in the House of Commons Library uses the term “under-occupancy penalty”. In accepting the government’s own use of dictionary definitions, the same semantic arguments that the government use against its opponent’s use of “bedroom tax” can be used to show that the government’s framing of the welfare adjustment is also “misleading” and “innately politically and indeed, factually wrong”.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidy as:

noun (plural subsidies)

  1 a sum of money granted by the state or a public body to help an industry or business keep the price of a commodity or service low:

Of course the problem that the government is trying to avoid, is the negative connotation of the removal of the so-called “spare-room subsidy”. By not actually adding or using the word removal in their narrative about this welfare reform, the government are framing the argument to make it sound as though their actions are positive; the word “subsidy” (without describing what is actually happening to the “subsidy” – i.e. it is being removed) implies that something is being given, rather than the truth, which (through insertion of the omitted word “removal”) can be seen in its true light; as a term with negative “spin”, in terms of taxation rhetoric . Additionally, the avoidance of the correct term, “under-occupancy penalty” is a transparent attempt to disguise this welfare reform for what it, in actuality, is: a penalty. That is, not an incentive, not an encouragement, but a penalty. The Oxford English Dictionary provides this definition of “penalty”:
I. Punishment, disadvantage, or liability.

  1. 1.       Liability to be punished or penalized, esp. in the event of failure to comply with a command, law, condition, etc.; risk of suffering punishment or loss. Chiefly in under (also on, †in, †upon) (the) penalty of ——  , freq. followed by the specified punishment. Cf. pain n.1 1b. †upon one’s penalty: at one’s peril (obs.).

So, we can see that, when framed using the correct terminology and words, the government is unable to frame this welfare reform in a positive light. They are therefore obliged to attempt to reframe it in a more positive light in order to reveal the true nature of the change.

As a consequence of examining this seemingly small linguistic matter, the government reveals the degree to which it utilises facets of what Owen Jones, writing in “The Independent” describes as “shock and awe” tactics in framing the discourse of austerity, through the use of omission and misleading phrases, in order that the actions described by the government become more palatable in the eyes of the individual.

The government has, on the whole and up to a point, been able to control the discourse on this matter, but it also reveals how fervently it wishes to control all aspects of the discourse through its fervent, almost pedantic, attempts to wrest back the naming of the reform. Without the power granted to the government through its ability to frame the argument, its own influence becomes weakened, allowing other parties and individuals the opportunity to force discussion of the welfare reforms outside of the narrowly prescribed structure that the government would like to keep the discussion.

When the government starts to scream about seemingly unimportant semantic details, we can be sure, as this illustrates, that it is in fact a matter of crucial importance.

This analysis represents a very small example of the rhetorical tactics used by the government to retain agency (control) within discourse on welfare reforms. Therefore, it is vital that attention is paid to not only what is said, but also what is not said, and the reasons for both insertion and omissions within the government’s discourse.

References

East Sussex County Council (2013) Changes to Housing Benefit for social housing tenatns – East Sussex. [online] Available at: http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/community/benefits/housing/default.htm [Accessed: 12 Mar 2013].

The Independent (2013) How the People’s Assembly can challenge our suffocating political consensus – and why it’s vital that we do. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-the-peoples-assembly-can-challenge-our-suffocating-political-consensus–and-why-its-vital-that-we-do-8547507.html [Accessed: 1 Apr 2013].

Yahoo! News UK (2013) War of words: IDS slams BBC for using ‘bedroom tax’. [online] Available at: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/war-words-ids-slams-bbc-using-bedroom-tax-103820928.html#AleWl84 [Accessed: 1 Apr 2013].

Fairness: The government lie of punishing the poor in the name of fairness

When challenged about the spare room subsidy, the U.K. government claim that it has been imposed on the most vulnerable in British society in the name of fairness. Somehow, by penalising the poorest, the disabled and the vulnerable in the SRS – Social Rented Sector (i.e. council and housing association properties)  by making them exist (having to choose between heating and eating is not living) below the level that DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) letters state is the minimum that the law requires them to live on, because they may have a room which the regulations deem as spare, without matching the benefit scheme to the benefit of those in the PRS (Private Rented Sector) is “unfair”.

There are several themes that the government use in vilifying the poorest in our society that not only strike me as ridiculous but also demonstrate that the authorities are using language to construct a reality in which those that are poor, vulnerable and disabled are somehow demonstrated to be the cause of the ills perpetrated on this society by corporate banks, governments and  the greed of private landlords: the price of private rents are not the fault of the group of people that are being demonised and stigmatised by this government’s rhetoric; The collapse of the capitalist banking system world-wide is not the fault of this group either; The lack of investment in the young and their consequent lack of opportunities is not their fault either.

1)      The Housing Benefit Bill: The majority of the expenditure of the benefit system on housing benefit is paid to private landlords. Surely, a system such as that shown by social housing, which is more cost effective, reliable, governed and of better standard than those in the PRS should be held up as a model for dealing with a housing crisis (albeit one that must be one of the most belatedly noticed crises in history, ignored as it has been since the dismantling of social housing started under the Thatcher government in the 1980s). Research by the Scottish Federation of Housing Association showed that “in the past ten years the cost of housing benefit spent on private tenants across the UK has increased 153 per cent, compared to a 21 per cent increase for council and housing association tenants.”(Paskini, 2012 and insidehousing.co.uk, 2012). This is due to the fact that, with no economic justification other than greed, the PRS charges rents around 100% higher than those in the SRS, often for an inferior product. This situation could be remedied, if the political desire were there relatively simply and in a more “fair” way than by attacking the innocent.

2)      The global banking crisis: This collapse of the banking system, underpinned as it was by the manipulation of, gambling on and trading in, debts cannot be attributed to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. The fact that advanced linguistic and rhetorical techniques in terms of advertising and marketing, as well as the persistent cross-party government message that taking on debt that will take you a minimum (in most cases) of twenty five years to repay, were used to create the U.S. sub-prime market, which many agree caused the domino effect which caused the “bubble” to burst must surely make these organisations: the governments, the corporate and high street banks and the myriad middle-men in the form of estate agents and financial advisers culpable for the overextending of credit which in many cases, by the financial world’s own guidelines, had very little chance of ever being repaid. However, the global banking crisis, which serves as a veil behind which politicians attempt to dismantle the safety net of benefits for the people at the other end of the financial spectrum, doesn’t seem to be affecting everybody fairly. Indeed, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, the wealthy in the UK are wealthier now than they were before the financial crisis, and have set new financial records (BBC News, 2012)

3)      Unemployment: Let’s make no mistake, unemployment is a tool used by governments to control inflation within an economy. If everybody is employed, pressure soon grows for the workers to have a larger share of the profits. If they are given pay rises, prices in the economy rise, to adapt to the increased spending power of the people who are spending money (the wealthy tend to put their money into long term investments, or send it out of the country to avoid taxes in the short term and to control markets, such as the private renting sector, whereas the poorer are more likely to spend their money on attempting to improve their quality of life: on things such as better quality food, clothing, socialising etc). It is therefore in the interest of the rich, and the organisations which represent their interests, to maintain high unemployment levels, so that people are so scared of losing their jobs that they are obliged to accept years of static salaries, and even cuts in their pay or hours of work. Of course, if they refuse to accept pay cuts or salary freezes which in real terms mean that they are worse off each successive year and lose their jobs as a consequence, they are immediately demonised and portrayed, by the rhetoric of the authorities, as scroungers and skivers. Bearing in mind that these are people who have no choice but to have National Insurance contributions deducted at source while working; a deduction which is designed precisely for these circumstances. The failure in creating jobs must be laid fairly at the feet of those that run our society, based on capitalist ideals. By dismantling the apprenticeship scheme in the 1980s and failing to replace it with anything that provides the same level of skills by all successive governments, governments have singularly failed a whole generation, if not several  generations of people entering the workforce. On top of this failure to invest, government has raised the retirement age for working people, thus further removing the possibility of meanwhile work from the youngest members of the employment of the workforce. The reason for this raising of the retirement age was because of a shortfall of funds to pay for pensions, attributed by politicians, rather simplistically as a result of people living longer. However, in 2006 Liam Halligan reported that, according to independent researchers, the actions of Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had reduced the value of retirement funds by “at least £100 billion”.  This is not something that the young school leaver (or the school leaver who is so scared of the debt involved that she won’t go on to university) should be blamed for. But, once again, it is apparently the fault of the “feckless”; those who are obliged to claim benefits, in which the young are not only included, but are actively targeted and discriminated against – reduced benefits rates, limits on housing benefit eligibility for the young are examples of these tactics. And then, to add insult to injury, they are accused of lacking “aspiration”, because they object to working for free for millionaire employers. This constant attack on the young not only affects self-esteem, morale and employability, it also has very real, and shocking, effects; the rate of suicide amongst young men, which was reported in 2008 to have “declined markedly in the past 10 years”, with reduction in key risk factors such as unemployment considered as “may be contributing to lower rate” (Biddle, Brock et al, 2008:336:539) has now become a source of concern as the charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably has highlighted, citing an average of three young male suicides in Britain every day caused by, “amongst other issues, insecurities around work” (Brady, 2013)

So, as we can see, despite what the government claim, that this is about “fairness”, the truth is that these policies, driven by greed and self-serving political ideologies, are not about fairness. They are instead about demonising, punishing and blaming those least culpable, for the country’s economic problems and sending out a strong message to those fortunate enough to be directly affected; it is their fault, we are only being fair!

Therea re many other examples of this political hijacking of the word fair: the benefit cap, which was justified on the grounds that it is unfair for public sector workers, who have had their wages frozen (by the government!) for several years to be denied pay rises while those on benefit see benefit rises (this, of course does not take into account that the public sector workers affected are themselves victims – the average wage for civil servants (once you take off the 1% of civil servants, like politicians, at the top) is below the national average wage. So, by their rhetoric, because they refuse to pay public sector workers a decent wage for the difficult and soul destroying job that they have to do, with insufficient investment into their working environments and infrastructure by the government, the poorest in society must be made to pay. This is the idea of fairness that politicians subscribe to.

Meanwhile, the stigmatisation does not seem to extend to all strata of society. Ministers, who fiddle their expenses, claim food subsidies, alcohol subsidies and accommodation expenses are not included in the general demonisation of those that, in most cases have no choice, claim benefits simply in order to be able to exist. Similarly, corporations that dodge tax liabilities, such as Starbucks, Amazon and Google (to name a few) are not included in government rhetoric which claims to want to put an end to a “something for nothing” culture. However, in a twist of irony, people from Eastern European countries who, with aspirational ideals of improving their quality of life by working in more affluent parts of the E.U, hope to work and live in Britain, are pre-emptively targeted with accusation of wanting to come here, simply to join in the something for nothing culture and bleed the coutry dry.

So, apart from spouting hateful racist bile, apportioning blame on the blameless, and indeed powerless, for our appalling financial situation, what else could the government possibly do to improve this country, in the name of fairness? Well, a start would be for them to remove themselves from this country, and thus relieve us of some of the biggest culprits of social and economic parasitism. Maybe without their reality and their greed, the people of this nation, praised for their work ethic, ingenuity, solidarity and cosmopolitan nature would find it a “fairer” place in which to live

 REFERENCES

BBC News (2012) Rich List wealthy ‘getting richer’. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17885570 [Accessed: 25 Mar 2013].

Biddle,L, Brock, Anita, Brookes,Sarah T, Gunnell,David (2008)  BMJ 2008; 336 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39475.603935.25 (Published 6 March 2008)

Brady, E (2013) ‘Huge Problem’ Of Male Suicide Rate In UK. [online] Available at: http://news.sky.com/story/1068998/huge-problem-of-male-suicide-rate-in-uk [Accessed: 25 Mar 2013].

Editor, B. (2006) Brown’s raid on pensions costs Britain £100 billion – Telegraph. [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1531448/Browns-raid-on-pensions-costs-Britain-100-billion.html [Accessed: 25 Mar 2013].

Insidehousing.co.uk (2012) SFHA: Benefit bill due to lack of social homes | News | Inside Housing. [online] Available at: http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenancies/sfha-benefit-bill-due-to-lack-of-social-homes/6524288.article [Accessed: 25 Mar 2013].

Paskini, D. (2012) Private landlords ‘to get £35bn in benefits’ | Liberal Conspiracy. [online] Available at: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/10/22/private-landlords-to-get-35bn-in-benefits/ [Accessed: 25 Mar 2013].

A Budget for Aspiration?

Definitions of aspiration include :

1.  strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations.
2. a goal or objective desired: The presidency is the traditional aspiration of young American boys.

Medicine/Medical .

a. the act of removing a fluid, as pus or serum, from a cavity of the body, by a hollow needle or trocar connected with a suction syringe.
b. the act of inhaling fluid or a foreign body into the bronchi and lungs, often after vomiting.

I am a first year Joint English Language / English Literature student. I grew up on a council estate in West London during the 1970s and belong to the generation of British youngsters who grew up with the ideologies of Thatcher, Reagan and Marx all around them. Although the spare room subsidy (I prefer to call it what it is, a bedroom tax, but for the purpose of clarity will use the government’s term under protest), does not affect me directly, what does affect me is that it is is presented as a “fair” benefit adjustment It is only a small part of the massive attack on the benefits needed to exist in modern Britain, where paid jobs are elusive (although corporates are more than happy to take you on for free!). I was raised as part of  a single parent family, so am well aware of how a life of deprivation can feel to a child (despite my mother’s sterling efforts). This is the reason that I feel so passionately about this issue. I feel real moral outrage that the government shows no concern or humanity towards the blameless, but will keep feeding innocents to the flames of the economic sacrificial fire in order to feed their political ideology.

In his 2013 budget speech, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne declared that “This is a budget for those who aspire to own their own home; who aspire to get their first job, or start their own business; … a budget for our aspiration nation”. In his use of language, the chancellor reveals the contempt and lack of humanity that he and others of his ilk, with which he regards all of those unfortunate enough to have been born without the advantage of inherited wealth, by using the theme of aspiration, as if it were a choice.

Osborne’s statement in the House of commons, which conforms to the standard, bilious rhetoric used by his political class when discussing those who, most often, through circumstances not of their own making, seeks to reinforce the binary opposition of “them” and “us”, or “the haves” and “the have-nots”. In his narrative, the lack of any acceptance that poverty is not a lifestyle choice and his and this government’s ruthless lack of empathy toward the poor and vulnerable reinforces the Dickensian attitudes which many believed that this nation had discarded over a century ago. When comparing the attitudes toward the poor, for the majority of Queen Victoria’s reign, we are forced to acknowledge the similarities in social myth, which are becoming more marked as time progresses – unlike the humanitarianism of most politicians – in policies and ideology.

This creation of a “reality” is achieved through the narrative created by the discourse of politicians, acting through and supported by, the capitalist system of information dissemination and myth generation – the media. The myth that the poor are poor through choice. The statement illustrates this belief on the part of the coalition government. Rather than including the clause “and are able to” when discussing what makes for an aspirational member of society, Osborne labels, by implication, all members of society who receive working age benefits as being feckless, lazy, scroungers and skivers – rhetoric that we hear far too often from this government. In the vast majority of cases, people accept that in this capitalist society, one has to aspire to make wealth in order to have any quality of life. In Victorian England, this was also the prevailing attitude in society toward the poor. This resulted in a multitude of social injustices such as unpaid labour in workhouses, dependence on charitable donations of food for subsistence, polarisation and vilification of whole sections of society, the inevitability of alcohol and drug dependency in those at the very bottom of the economic and intolerance and lack of empathy toward those with disabilities.

A religious pamphlet, written in 1848 noted that

“Some boys laugh at poor cripples when they see them in the street. Sometimes we meet a man with only one eye, or one arm, or one leg, or who has a humpback. How ought we to feel when we see them? We ought to pity them”

Against this background of intolerance, encoded in the language of politicians, disabled people report a rise in attacks, both physical and verbal against them in recent times. Work programmes, involving work which is entirely unsuitable for the people who are obliged, under threat of having their meagre benefit entitlement sanctioned, to participate, are the modern day equivalent. The rise of food banks, used by not only those in receipt of benefits but also by many who work and live on a (by modern Western standards) barely subsistence salary and the inevitable rise in substance abuse and dependency as a result of financial insecurity and deprivation must be recognised not as causes of poverty, but as symptoms of the policies which continue to marginalise and attack the living standards of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

The erosion of empathy and support for those who are most vulnerable also manifests itself in the way that ostensible support infrastructures such as Housing Associations, Members of Parliament and the general public approach discussion about those in receipt of benefits. Despite the rate of benefit fraud being below that which statisticians accept as a margin for statistical error, at around 0.8%, the narrative has permeated the psyche of all levels of society into believing it to be much higher, and effectively forcing those who find themselves not only financially disadvantaged, but also stereotyped and vilified. This can be seen in the recent reports of Eastlands Homes newsletter to its tenants, which insultingly advised them to cut down on drinks, cigarettes, bingo and Sky TV. The assumption, of course, being that these tenants, many of whom are living on around £70 per week, were somehow “living the high life” on this meagre income and were incapable of budgeting without the aid of a patronising and condescending piece of so called advice from their landlords. Of course the penalty for their profligacy would be eviction.

This attitude has led to the creation of what will, no doubt, become David Cameron and George Osborne’s “Poll Tax”. This hideous piece of legislation is designed for no other purpose than to punish those unfortunate enough to be disabled, out of work, on a low salary, needing a carer that stays occasionally or to have some form of residential access to their children following a split up. In their eagerness to satisfy the right wing of his party, Cameron is satisfied to see the community fabric of British society torn to shreds, as he seeks to ghettoise the poor, by moving them to less desirable areas of the country (by the measure of employment opportunities, or in relation to distance from friends and family) – effectively foisting compulsory movement orders onto the most vulnerable in society. The spin that he and Osborne have applied to this issue has even seen working class people buying into the deception, and turning on “their own” in attempting to blame the most vulnerable for the damage caused by the most powerful.

Meanwhile, in his budget, Osborne displayed the absolute hypocrisy of providing a, as the leader of the opposition labelled it, “spare home subsidy” – offering financial incentives to people to make up the deposit on a new home, “to stimulate the housing market”. It would appear, then, that while the poor are a valid target for vilification, for gambling on Bingo, those who wished to pursue the activities which arguably led to the financial crash in 2008, by overextending their finances and taking on massive debts (for which they are unable to raise deposits) were not only applauded, but were aided by taxpayers money. All the while, Osborne and Cameron, despite the obvious hypocrisy, reject the idea of taking on debt as a nation, in order to invest in the future as if the suggestion were the ravings of a lunatic.

The government appears to be inconsistent in their economic policies – apparently, debt is good, indeed it is aspirational and something to which we should all aspire, if it is placed on the individual, but as an economic policy it is ridiculed.

In also giving tax incentives for business, the wealthy and displaying no desire to recoup the 90 billion pounds of tax revenue uncollected, the coalition demonstrate exactly whose side they are on: the wealthy individual, the corporate tax evaders and themselves.

Cameron famously and repeatedly uses the mantra for austerity – “We are all in it together”. I suggest that the only ones that are in it together in this respect are the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled.