Thursday, 4 April 2013

Submarine Welfare

The Tory spin machine was in overdrive today, with the Chancellor linking a fatal house fire to excessive social welfare payments, while the Prime Minister used the recent bout of North Korean toy-throwing as the kind of "extreme threat" that justifies Britain's entire nuclear submarine programme. Hell, why don't we just pay for Trident straight out of the welfare budget and be done with it?

Given the gravity of the UK's economic predicament, you might have thought our political leaders would be sticking to hard facts, rather than inciting moral panic. But you'd be wrong. Party politics is all about cynically exploiting fear and greed:
"while narrowly targeted policies will fail to draw on the strength of middle-class political pressure to defend welfare, policies with wider coverage actively recruit the sharp elbows of the middle class." Source: The Solidarity Society: why we can afford to end poverty, and how to do it with public support. Fabian Society, 2009
That's right, the Tories have been tearing pages out of the Left wing playbook, even if they're trying to work the same trick in reverse. Blame all bad stuff on the welfare state, so most voters will want to spend less on it.

Ironically, the Left seem to think they got this idea from the Right, as explained by Rhiannon Lockley in her “Red Book” essay on "Understanding the Psychology of the Working Class Right Wing": 
 "...the key achievement of propaganda is to make the belief being transmitted internalised to the point where its origin is lost and it is accepted as natural and self-discovered by the individual... The volume and diversity of negative messages about scapegoated groups in the right-wing media today does much to achieve this, and it is also supported by the factual style of reporting which presents arguments as definite rather than exploratory." 
The truth is, they're all at it... endlessly spinning and scapegoating instead of solving the root cause of real problems. And we're paying for it. Big time.

So how do we get these people to focus on the real issues? Where do we start?

I think we need to play them at their own game. And the best place to start is closest to home. We should link all our ills to government waste - not the welfare budget or the healthcare budget, but the £166bn that the public sector wastes on itself - nearly a quarter of the UK's entire annual exenditure. Every time a politician strays from a discussion of the hard facts in any area, we should ask them how he or she is going to spend less on travel or communications costs, or office space or, dare I say it, expenses.

Once they demonstrate an ability to get that basic level of waste under control, they can graduate to discussing how to control state taxation and spending in other areas. But the bizarre rants of North Korean leaders and random criminal acts, however tragic, should be a long way down the list.   

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