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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Playing the Blame Game

Its been quite some time since I addressed UK politics in my blog, but its safe to say that I am sufficiently incensed that a good old Cranky Pants style rant is in order.

The Brits amongst you, whether residing in the Motherland or overseas will, I am no doubt sure be aware of the changes to the benefit systems and also the decrease in the top tax rate from 50% to 45% (as failure to close tax loopholes meant that people were able to get away with not paying it either by backdating their money or holding it over until the new tax rate came into play). Now even with this very cursory and none too detailed description you can probably already work out that these changed were very much skewed in favour of the haves at the expense of the have nots.

In terms of the benefits, several measures have come in such as the much derided "Bedroom Tax' whereby those in social housing who find themselves with a spare bedroom (because maybe one of their children was lucky enough to be able to actually afford to move out) will see their benefits cut by around 16%. The idea behind this ridiculous attempt at hurting the poor is that those living in larger houses can move into smaller ones thus freeing up larger houses for families. Okay, works in theory. Except that in actuality it doesn't work at all. There are absolutely no where near the number of single dwelling homes needed to shift people out the homes they currently live in so even if people wanted to leave their homes they couldn't and the reduction in benefits further punishes them for no greater crime than being poor already.

In addition to this many of those on sickness and disability benefits are losing their benefits and pushed into training schemes and before you rush to say that many of them are fakers anyways (as undoubtedly some are, but probably nowhere like the percentage the like of Osborne and the Daily Fail would like to have you believe), its worth bearing in mind that 1700 disabled people died last year within weeks of being found 'fit to work'.

Alas for the already poor and downtrodden of Britain the case of Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead was tried this week and both were convicted of killing six of their children in a house fire intended to frame Philpott's estranged girlfriend. Rather than focusing on the reality of this case, six innocent children who lost their lives in the perfect storm of poverty and domestic violence, the case has been politicized and Philpott, as practically the poster boy for 'benefit scroungers' (multiple children to multiple partners, criminal convictions and an appearance on the Jeremy Kyle show to boot), has been used by Osborne and the Tory lap dogs at the Mail to highlight everything they see as being wrong with 'poor people'. They have claimed that rather than the culture of domestic violence and extreme control that pervaded the lives of the Philpotts and eventually led to the tragedy that unfolded, that the fact this family largely lived on benefits was reason for this atrocity. And to me this link between being poor and criminal is not only grossly unfair to the majority of those on benefits (and its worth bearing in mind that not everyone receiving benefits are long term unemployed, or even unemployed at all, and of those who are long term unemployed only a small percentage of those are so through choice), unfair to the victims of domestic violence (be they adult or children) as there is the insinuation that it is a crime of the poor when quite clearly evidence presents to the contrary.

Shamefully, the Philpott children and lives and deaths have now become a footnote in this new Tory era of blaming the less well off for societies woes. Given a further excuse to make the lives of the most vulnerable even worse. When I worked in inner city Manchester I came across families in dire need, families where children came to school hungry, I know more than one colleague who actually used to buy toiletries and school uniforms for their pupils and I don't know a teacher in the whole school I worked in who hadn't fed a student at least once. And it is these children and families that are at risk. Most of these families are not in that position because of Mick Philpott esque parental figures, but because there just wasn't enough money to go round. Younger brothers and sisters got first priority when it came to being fed and a lack of jobs coupled with low levels of education coupled with lack jobs created a vicious circle of poverty that few of those children could escape from.

But if Osborne has his way, this hardship, this national shame that is going on all around us already and which will be significantly compounded by this latest round of cuts and people will be encouraged to look away because like, Philpott who hopefully will spend the rest of his days behind bars, he would have us believe they deserve all they get.

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