miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
2015-05-29 12:17 pm
Entry tags:

On the political use of wording.

One of the big successes the Labour party had in the last government was the creation of the term "bedroom tax" for something which is not even a tax, and the blaming of the coalition government for it when it is something they started*. Labour are really good at blaming other people for things they started and/or wholeheartedly embraced - tuition fees, privatising the NHS, etc. - but what I'm really interested in is the use of language to fight a perceived injustice.

One of the most consistent trends of the last ten years (again, started by Labour) is the punishment of the poor for being poor. Benefit caps, having to jump through arbitrary hoops to continue receiving a meagre JSA, ridiculous work capability assessments, all of these are equally embraced by both Labservative parties. I was working at the CAB under Blair, and a huge amount of time was taken up by appealing disability benefit decisions, etc. And part of the reason these things are accepted by the general public is that they have swallowed the Kool Aid that people on benefits are scroungers - to the extent that even people on benefits, while they assert their own right to receive benefits, will none-the-less think everyone else on benefits is a scrounger.

The problem is that most benefits don't actually benefit the person in nominal receipt of them. The claimant doesn't see any gain from soaring housing benefit because it goes into their landlord's pocket, not theirs. Tax credits mainly help employers who either can't or won't pay decent wages. JSA conditional on workfare benefits all those employers who get subsidised to "employ" a free workforce rather than people they actually have to pay and train. So I propose a change of wording.

Housing benefit is easy. Housing benefit is Landlord's benefit. When you refer to it as Landlord's benefit you are calling it what it is. Tax credits, I propose, should be called "Exploitative wage top up". There's a whole raft of disability benefits which should be called things like "paltry amount grudgingly given to try and keep you out of hospital" or something similar.

What benefits do you think should be renamed?


* yes, I am aware that the LHA has some differences from the private sector version, but it's the same concept.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
2015-05-06 08:48 am

Politics is Show Business For Ugly People; press & politicians both collude to keep it that way

I am writing this as I listen to John Humphries pretend to interrogate the prime minister. Humphries asks questions in an aggressive way, he talks over Cameron, he words things provocatively... but he still lets Cameron avoid giving a single proper answer. Cameron is at this very second saying how he needs to address the big questions and not duck them while ducking Humphries' questions. It's show business for Cameron, because he gets to tell everyone he's submitted himself to a grueling Humphries interrogation; but it's also show business for Humphries because he gets to appear to be the fearless interviewer, speaking truth to power. It's all bollocks. Both Cameron and Humphries are dancing a choreographed dance around pre-determined limits, and neither of them strays for a nanosecond from the formal pattern.

David Cameron and George Osborne have both visited Calderdale more than once in this campaign. Nobody knew they were coming before they came except for the press and a select few in their own party and a few council officers. Each event was carefully stage managed. No ordinary people were to be allowed anywhere near. No inconvenient questions were to be asked. And it's not just the tories - Labour and my own party are as bad. Every top rank politician lives in abject terror of a Gillian Duffy Moment, so they allow the party machines to collude with the press in the Battle Bus culture in which pre-selected journos go to stage-managed photo calls in which only the most photogenic and meek ordinary people are even allowed into the building.

This isn't how politics should be. For a very few politicians it's not how it IS - people like Tessa Munt and David Ward haven't gone very far down this rabbit hole. But since being in government our leadership and leading figures have swallowed that this way of behaving is the way to do it - certainly it applied when Vince Cable came to Halifax. It's all so fake, and people can see it's fake, but when they tell politicians they detest the fakery politicians just stage-manage things all the harder.

And this, by the way, is yet another reason why Nicola Sturgeon is doing well this election - she has let the great unwashed come near, unlike any of the Westminster leaders.

Frankly, I don't care what either of the Labservative parties do because they are both as bad as each other, but I really really wish my party would stop doing this shit. And I swear to you, gentle reader, that I will do everything I can within the party to stop it happening.

If we can't have discussions with any ordinary member of the public, we don't deserve political success, and if a Gillian Duffy Moment happens, if we can't deal with THAT we don't deserve political success either. A politician who has to be insulated from people who disagree with him unless they are carefully stage managed is no politician at all.