Sunday, 30 August 2009

Portillo, The New Hannan?

Has Michael Portillo (or the Times) been regarding Hannan's recent headline notoriety with envious eyes? Hard-wired Labour advocates will have an aneurism over certain snippets in his well-argued assessment of the inherent failings in our benefits system.

Idle young should be entitled to nothing

Yep, you read that right. Nothing.

At best, the unrealisable hope of winning the lottery or appearing on Big Brother has supplanted the traditional appetite for qualifications and careers.

He forgot to include X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, but you get the idea.

But perhaps, at least, we ought to assume that fit young people are not entitled to anything. If a few young men from sink estates are now heroes in Afghanistan, why should we presume that all the others are capable of nothing useful at all?

Wow! If Hannan had said this, LabourList would be snapping in fury already.

The Times have given this quite a prominent place on their home page - they have no doubt jealously observed the attention gained by the Telegraph from Hannan's musings in the past month or so.

Unfortunately, Portillo doesn't believe such radical reform is possible. In fact, he argues that future administrations won't be gutsy enough to halt the current system of rewarding the feckless and indolent. Looking at Cameron's Tories, one has to agree.

To achieve any dent in the comfort zone of those who happily pitch up and take from the state without ever feeling the need to do anything for it, a seismic shift in the mould of 1979 would be required. It would be messy, it would be confrontational, it would cow the sensibilities of all but the thickest-skinned of politicians ... which is why Cameron's lot won't bother.

Portillo quite rightly highlights the main attitudes that need to be changed. The long lost stigma of having to go cap in hand to the DSS needs to be reinvented, for a start. Labour have shown that it is possible to stigmatise whole tranches of society based on what they eat, drink and smoke, yet still treat those who habitually dodge work, as victims. If the approach for the former works on the sheep, why not the same for a much more worthy cause?

Society today is very different. Stigma has been abolished. To live on benefits has become a lifestyle choice. In many families there is no memory of anyone working. Ours is a culture of entitlement, a word coined to minimise shame and maximise claiming.

We're all nodding, Michael. It's clear to everyone where the problem lies. It's just that there are so many fucking morons who, for some reason or another, have a vested interest in perpetuating a failed system which is ripping the guts out of our country.

Last week the Conservatives raised a hue and cry against the government for its welfare failures. But it is unclear how brave a Tory government could be. While I served in Margaret Thatcher’s governments, we made no progress in reducing dependency while lobby groups howled that we were destroying the benefits system.

And there you have it.

If the Tories are serious about ending this idle reliance on the state, the very first part of the current set-up they should be tackling is the web-like plethora of quangoes, government-funded charities, and salaried bleeding hearts who object like stink to every reform which is proposed by those who pay their wages.

After that, some serious money to bolster the police would be needed because, sure as buggery, we'd need a police force not bogged down with targets, surveys and PC to react, once the feckless realise their easy ride is over.

Still. This is all hypothetical anyway. Cameron et al can bluster as much as they like about reducing the benefits bill, but unless they are holding meetings now planning policy for years into the future, it's quite simply not possible. And I can't see it myself, can you? This isn't Thatcher and Joseph we are talking about here.

Interesting thoughts from Portillo, though. I wonder if Prescott will be having an apoplectic rant about this, too.


Witterings from Witney said...

"It's just that there are so many fucking morons" and the great majority have been elected to the House of Commons!

".....but unless they are holding meetings now planning policy....."

Planning policy = oxymoron where DC and his fellow comedians are concerned, DP.

Portaloo as another Hannan? - sorry DP, he's too 'left of centre', although a Tory, to be another Hannan - remember the old football chant? 'There's only one Hannan!'

Mark The Skint Sailor said...

Of course, MPs missed the opportunity to take the lead on reducing claims on the taxpayer, so cannot take the moral high ground.

Claiming a living from the taxpayer has become endemic at all levels of society, not just among the underclass.

Whether its MPs, quangos, faux charities, or chavs, the burden on the taxpayer has to be reduced.

But with such a significant number of people dependant on the public purse, would there ever be a government brave enough to break the cycle?

I very much doubt it. They would rather let the wretched hulk run onto the rocks and then sort the resultant mess out than be proactive and lose friends.

subrosa said...

I read Portillo's article with interest, but will any politician take it on board? Never. This country is far too brainwashed to acknowledge anything sensible.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"Of course, MPs missed the opportunity to take the lead on reducing claims on the taxpayer, so cannot take the moral high ground".

Very good point, Delphius. It does kinda make it more difficult after the next GE, don't it.

"They would rather let the wretched hulk run onto the rocks and then sort the resultant mess out than be proactive and lose friends".

I make you right again. As I touched on, the planning that is needed has to be done now, and the first stages implemented on day one of a 5 year term, so that the signs of success will be evident by the time voters are next asked for their opinion.

Like you say though, we need brave politicians to do that, and that character trait doesn't appear to exist in the 'professional' ones served up to us on the modern ballot slips (see Cameron's panic over Hannan's comments).

Dick Puddlecote said...

Subrosa: Brainwashed indeed. It's been a long time in the making too IMO. This would be why an attack on the quangoes, fake charities etc would be the best start.

The kneejerk reaction of the public now is to see themselves as victims of every possible scenario. This hasn't come about by chance, there are a huge amount of bodies quite happy to convince us all of the fact that we aren't to blame, someone else is.

Without personal responsibility, how can a government possibly try to tell someone that they should be looking after their own future prospects instead of relying on others to provide it for them?

Two sides of the same coin, one might say.

Frank Davis said...

We're all nodding, Michael.

Not me. Not the author of Idle Theory.

In Idle Theory the primary purpose of any economy is to free people from necessary drudgery, so far as is possible.

If we now have a class of unemployed people, who live on state benefits, it's a testimony to how good we've got at freeing people from drudgery. We can now afford to keep a lot of people doing nothing. We couldn't have considered that a century or two ago. And when we get even better at it, we'll be able to keep a lot more. In the end we'll have 99.99% unemployment. We'll all be unemployed. That includes me. And you.

I do not think young people should be "entitled to nothing" in that world. Nor in this one.

Until we can distribute necessary work equally, we're going to need a benefit system.

I agree with pretty much everything you write most of the time, Dick. But I'm going to have to pass on this one.

Anonymous said...

Shut down the regulatory state and the BBC, destroy the quangocracy and defund the unions and the "charties". Then start thinking about what to do about the welfare state. My view is to "iron ricebowl" it - that is to fix it's funding at current absolute cash levels and let economic growth make it irrelvant over the long term.

I suspect we wont see this path and instead there'll be some sort of hard landing (infrastructure collapse, burning tanks in the streets of Birmingham, Juntas etc...).

Anonymous said...

@Frank Davis
We can now afford to keep a lot of people doing nothing.

Yes, but only on the money that taxpayers are contributing.
I'm prepared to pay to help the vulnerable and truly needy, but as for paying for people who have made a conscious choice not to work, forget it.

Dick the Prick said...

Frank - hee hee - good wind up. I think you're talking about the income substitution effect, but that's neo classical micro economics so using it as social engineering is err.. frankly bollox.

Cameron has stated that he wants to reduce MP's pensions, reduce ministerial wages and enact all recommendations of the expenses inquiry in order to be able to obtain some moral grounding for cutting the utter waste inherent in what I guess should be called public services but is probably public disservices nowadays.

It's a bloody tough call for the lad strategically - tell indolent twats you're gonna be cruel to be kind or just 'infer' it and hope they fall into the largest strata of the British electorate - the apathetic twats group. Toughie to be sure.

Frank Davis said...

I think you're talking about the income substitution effect,

I very much doubt it. I'm talking about the historical fact that we are able to provide the necessities of life with very much less effort than in the past. It is this which allows us, as a society, to support large numbers of idle people.

I do not object on principle to idleness in itself. I'm being idle whenever I go and sit in a pub and (as I used to) smoke a cigarette, and I think that's a fine and noble thing to do.

Whether those people who rely on benefits to survive should be supported in quite the way that they are is a separate issue. It would clearly be better if they were able to maintain themselves in some way. But if there is no work for them to do, I see no option but something like the present arrangement.

Anonymous said...

Damn...hook line and sinker...
You got me.

Anonymous said...

How many uneducated, illiterate chavs from sink communities does Portillo employ? Or Prescott for that matter? Or me? Or you, DP?

timbone said...

Benefits? what benefits? I was unemployed ten years ago, living in rented accomodation. Did I get housing benefit? nope. Council Tax relief? nope. Free prescriptions/Dental treatment? nope? Some financial help so that I could afford a pound for the meter and some tesco value sausages? nope. You see, I have a small occupational pension whihc I paid for which I got when I was 44. When you added together my rent, council tax, basic food and electricity, I did not have enough. So state benefits did not come my way!

Dick Puddlecote said...

Edgar: I don't know about Portillo or Prescott, but I reckon I've got a few ;-)

Dick the Prick said...

Frank - idle people have higher mortality rates. Make work for them - if we can remove the stigma from claiming other people's cash, why not go a little further and remove their stigma of community work? Work is fun, it ain't evil.

Frank Davis said...

idle people have higher mortality rates.

You mean, like smokers?

Work is fun, it ain't evil.

Yes, sometimes it's fun. Usually when not much work is being done. I've always preferred weekends. And bank holidays.

Dick the Prick said...

No seriously, especially blokes - if you've got nothing to occupy your mind (and I completely accept that work isn't the only means of keeping the old head working) then death comes quicker. There are studies out there and, me being a lazy twat haven't linked to them.

I've got a minor theory in that the above becomes especially true for blokes post retirement - it needs to be planned and populated with activities otherwise the veg hits quicker.

timbone said...

I was wondering about erasing what I said, seeing it maybe coming over as a self indulgent, irrelevant gripe. Let me explain.

The welfare state is in essence humanitarian and socially empathetic. That is how it was envisioned. What it has become is a quagmire where often those who deserve social help don't get it, and that does not include me, whereas, as the article was attacking, there are many who see it as an entitlement, a human right.

The small scenario about a temporary situation of my own is experienced by many, including retired folk. I was not saying that I was unable to get through it on my own. It is just irksome that through my own effort I did not qualify for any benefit, when there are what, millions? who have done fuck all and get there rent paid, council tax refund, free prescriptions and pocket money.

john said...

I see alot of sense in what Frank Davis says.
Ontop of this you have to recognise that it was Thatcher's government who did most to create this beast. Disability allowance used as a tool to reduce Unemployment figures, produced a whole new culture for not working.

You need skills and/or education to make a decent living these days.
The Tories wrecked the manufacturing industry, the mining industry,the docks etc etc etc.

Matt said...

The publication that caused a lot of this debate was the Labour Force Survey, and the notable increase in the number of workless households.
If you agree with Mr Portillo, I dare you, I double dare you, to actually look at the numbers from 79 onwards.
You might like to glance at channel 4's factcheck website, too.
But you probably won't bother to do either, I suspect.. Shame.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Matt: Links would have helped immensely, I'd love to read "79 onwards" but I ain't on Crystal Maze here. Gissa clue.

As far as the Channel 4 Factcheck is concerned, of course the Tories are embellishing. It's what the big three parties all do. It's why we are served by incompetent fuckwits - they wouldn't know the truth if it approached them with a baseball bat. Hardly news, but then I didn't quote any of his figures so the point is moot.

What I did say is that there are a hell of a lot of indolent, workshy fuckers taking the mickey.

Students and the retired don't fall into this category ... obviously. Nor do those who are desperate for work and would be willing to take employment.

Good grief.

Matt said...

My point, really, was that people are quick to anger about this kind of thing but not prepared to question what they are being told.

The reason I find Mr Portillo's article and the broadly positive reaction to it so amazing is that...

In 1979, 1 in 12 households were workless
By 1996, it was 1 in 5. FIVE.
In 2009 it's 1 in 6.

It would appear we went down the tubes in the 80's.
A generation ago.
Where was Mr Portillo then ?
Ah yes, in government.

Embellishing is one thing, bare faced lying is another. Still if you can get away with it (as you will when nobody applies any thought to your pronoucements) then why not. We get the politicians we deserve.

"The rise of the workless household"
into google, should you wish to research further. also has a wealth of information on employment rates and so on.
There isn't a 'workshy fuckers' table but you can just about work it out if you wanted to.

Fair enough there's a problem, but it's not a new one and it's a long way from 1 in 6 (which includes students, early retired, mothers, fathers, genuinely sick, disabled, and those between jobs)