Wednesday, 18 August 2010

What's the difference between a scrounger and a benefit cheat?

I ask this question because the other day (Thursday 12 August) the Sun ran a "campaign" to get members of, what they usually term, the Great British Public to grass-up people who they suspected of falsely claiming benefit. Now I don't know if this is an example of the silly-season that traditionally runs in the British press at this time of the year but knowing the Sun as I do (a notoriously hate-filled rag) I suspect not.

There was a follow-up piece that evening on Newsnight. Now, I would hazard a guess that most of us would regard Newsnight as perhaps a more reliable source of journalistic information than the Sun. It must be said, I do quite like their football coverage and I understand their racing coverage is excellent - I couldn't really comment as I know next-to-nothing about the gee-gees.

So let's return to Newsnight. There is £5.2 billion wrongly paid out in benefit. Of that amount £1.5 billion is attributed to fraud. Now I can quite credit that £3.7 billion is wrongly paid out in benefit by the DWP. I think we all know they couldn't organize a proverbial piss-up....One of the more startling figures that was brought up that evening was the fact that there are £16 billion of benefits that go unclaimed! We've all heard about the little old lady who doesn't know what she's entitled to claim for and people who are too proud to ask for Government hand-outs, but £16 billion?

The Con-Dem coalition government (or whatever they are called, I never quite know how to refer to them) glibly claim, at every available opportunity, that what they are trying to do is sort out the appalling financial mess Labour left behind. Now I have no party-political axe to grind here, nor am I an economist in my spare time, but I was under the impression that the responsibility for this world-wide financial crisis lay, by and large, with the bankers. That is to say the roots of this recession lay in the shady dealings of the financial sector. In what Nick Clegg called in his article at the weekend (15 August-Observer) "reckless irresponsibility". You have to read deep into his Observer article to see his acknowledgement of this, get him on the telly and it's all Labour's fault. All over the planet an unfettered financial services industry have landed us all in an almighty mess, world-wide.

So how come, in order to rectify the situation, we start off by kicking the poor and then go on to slash services that huge numbers of the general public need and use? Mr Clegg put in the Observer: "this government doesn't expect anyone to reach their verdict after 100 days. We expect to be judged on what we have achieved in five years. That should be a relief." Well, all I can say is that after 100 days this government has scared the living daylights out of many, and that hardly counts as relief.

We cannot know for certain where the axe will fall because we have to wait until 20 October for the results of George Osborne's considerations. There's been enough signposting for us to know that all manner of things are on the list and some things have already fallen by the wayside.

This government seems to be lining up traditional old Tory targets, for starters what they call big government and the arts and then there's the poor and benefit cheats and scroungers, none of whom can be held responsible for the current mess. All this is being done with the active collusion of the Liberal Democrats, who should be ashamed of themselves as the people being lined up for cuts are people they have traditionally stuck up for in the past. One sniff of government and the Liberal Democrats seem to forget their principles. So as I say the government seems quite happy to pick on the poor and the jobless. I've heard no mention of taxation apart from vague noises about a banking tax which seems a sop when you consider that by their own admission HM Revenue and Customs readily acknowledge that there is £40 billion tax that goes unpaid.

While all this is going on what is the Opposition up to? Well instead of building some kind of coherent opposition to these vicious cuts, the Labour Party have been all wrapped up in their internal bickering over who they are going to elect as their new leader.