People Like Them

People will no doubt be familiar by now with the uproar caused by the Labour MP, Emily Thornberry, tweeting a photograph of a house in Rochester; which had several England flags draped over its front, and a white van parked outside.

The reaction to this was extraordinary, in several ways – but primarily because of what it indicates about political debate surrounding the subject of English identity and social-class at present; not least of all given the association of the image, and all of its potential connotations, with an entire background of people who appear to represent a crucial cornerstone for the political fortunes of the next general election: namely, white working-class men.

In response to the Tweet making headlines, Thornberry’s party leader – who peremptorily accepted her resignation – was quoted saying:

“Respect is the basic rule of politics and I’m afraid her tweet conveyed a sense of disrespect. There is nothing unusual or odd, as her tweet implied, about having England flags in your window. That is why I was so angry about it and that is why I think it is right she resigned.”

The Prime Minister was more fulminant still:

“Emily Thornberry is one of Ed Miliband’s closest allies and aides. Effectively what this means is that Ed Miliband’s Labour party sneers at people who work hard, who are patriotic and who love their country, and I think that is absolutely appalling.”

More convoluted were the words of John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw; who contended that Thornberry had insulted voters: “It is the juxtaposing of the white van and the England flag … It is normal life for many of us. It is normal Labour values.”[1]

It’s a matter of opinion whether there is something odd or significant about displaying several national flags in your window – especially in the middle of an election. Flags are not a feature of most, let alone every, working-class household’s facade. They do not appear of their own accord on buildings – people hoist them to make statements. If such a sight really were as normal as asserted, it would hardly have caught anybody’s eye in the first place.

More to the point, however, there was no commentary of any kind accompanying the picture – whether or not the photo was intended to communicate contempt is impossible to know. The fact that Thornberry promptly left her ministerial post disproves that her party leader approved of the exploit. Moreover, if a Labour politician tweets a picture that supposedly documents the values held by normal people, it simply does not add up that she must therefore resign for doing this. Clearly, what the image itself was taken to symbolise is what these various reactions actually related to. People saw what they wanted to see; and applied their own meaning to it.

Firstly, let’s set the record straight for present purposes; because the tweet did not say anything derogatory – it was just a picture, accompanied by the words “image from #Rochester”[2]:

Emily Thornberry's #Rochester Twitter image Car number plate has been pixelated

Unless onlookers possess clairvoyance, it is simply impossible to gauge the meaning of this photograph. While a picture may be worth a thousand words – and generate them accordingly – actions speak louder still. Thornberry’s voting record indicates something quite different from the ascribed contempt for those who are poor/working class[3]. For example, she “voted very strongly for raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices”. Moreover, she “voted very strongly for spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed”. Thornberry also “voted strongly against allowing employees to exchange some employment rights for shares in the company they work for”. Supporting benefits, job-creation for the unemployed, and the protection of employment rights for workers, all speak clearly enough for the MP’s priorities. Furthermore, Thornberry had previous form on tweeting photographs of a house bedecked in England flags – describing the sight in question, unambiguously, as “great”[4].

But ultimately this was not really about Thornberry or her tweet. The teacup-storm which followed this incident was one feature of a local election, in which the UK Independence Party were – correctly – expected to win; and gain a second member of parliament at the expense of the Conservative party. However, as a white, working-class man, it was difficult not to take notice of the particular furore surrounding attitudes towards a supposedly archetypal white, working-class man. What proved particularly noteworthy in the commotion surrounding Emily Thornberry’s tweet were the sentiments directed at working-class people by those who are not from this background; and who generally condone the present economic circumstances which have created so many problems for people on low-incomes: namely, poor job-prospects, low job security, high-unemployment, and major increases of poverty. This is the broader political context of what was, ultimately, a trivial incident – which yet brought the subject of class-consciousness into open scrutiny. The hypocrisy of political attitudes towards the economic situation of people who are poor is what this really revolved around.

However, it is not merely politicians who have grown increasingly vociferous on this subject since the recession of 2008, and the subsequent onset of austerity policies delivered by the coalition government from 2010 onwards. On the contrary, the same media outlets which made so much capital out of Thornberry’s tweet – and the putative image it contained of ‘the white working class man’ and his supposed predilections – have arguably played a far more fateful role in fostering negative attitudes towards working-class people. At a time of in-work poverty and workless-hardship increasing to record levels, it was striking to hear journalists who consistently and determinedly defend the status quo, making such a fetish of those primarily failed by it.

In fact, among the numerous responses to Thornberry’s tweet, was a series of quite remarkably contrived articles by the Daily Mail; which demonstrate that their avowed concern for the wellbeing of working-class people had no basis in reality. Their themes were monotonous, and centred primarily on the Labour party being “out of touch” with white people on low incomes. For example, “these metropolitan liberals are allergic to the ideals of patriotism and the self-reliant family”[5]. Yet curiously, while this article bewails Thornberry and “her rich High Court judge husband” living “a gilded life, utterly segregated from hard-working, working-class voters”, due to them living in a house “worth around £3 million”, an article the Mail published only two days beforehand lamented that, on the contrary, Labour politicians were divorced with social reality precisely because “£2 million houses in London (that is the threshold at which Labour’s mansion tax would kick in) are quite common, relatively modest”; and that to suggest otherwise was the politics of “class envy”[6]. Not that this prevented the Mail on Sunday publishing a Rogues Gallery of “elite” Labour Party figures, and the properties they lived in – all of them owning houses worth around £2 million[7].

More pointed, and repetitive, was another Daily Mail article castigating: “the party of vested interests and snooty metropolitans” with its “moneyed, London-centric” members; and wondering “when did a modest terrace house, a white van and the flag of England become symbols of contempt for the Left?”[8]. Yet another Mail piece quoted the former Conservative – and subsequently Ukip – MP, Mark Reckless, bemoaning the elitism of the Labour party: by way of permutation, claiming that “the Labour Party now represents only the public sector elite” – whatever that may comprise; presumably it does not include highly-paid public servants such as Reckless himself – while proclaiming that “the radical tradition, which has stood and spoken for the working class, has found a new home in Ukip”, which now purportedly “represents the concerns of most working men and women” in Labour’s stead[9]. In reality Ukip intends to eradicate employment protection rights, abolish the minimum wage, end maternity pay, allow employers to discriminate against whomsoever they please; and proclaims that it will “put an end to most legislation regarding matters such as weekly working hours, holidays and holiday, overtime, redundancy or sick pay etc”[10]. It also regards people in receipt of social security as a “parasitic underclass of scroungers”[11]; while the party itself is bankrolled by the very elites its various charlatans rail against[12]. The point can be left there.

However, reading these pieces, and their repetitious sentiments, it is clear that the Daily Mail’s focus herein was not really working-class people – but instead, it was merely citing them in order to denounce the Labour party. It is worth considering what the Mail’s view of working-class people actually is, therefore, when it’s not feigning an interest in their well-being in order to serve their ulterior, party-political aims. In recent years, the Daily Mail has published a veritable directory of articles on the topic of low-income workers and poor people in general – which reveal how laughably insincere the publication’s solicitude for working-class people really is.

In fact, only two weeks beforehand, the Mail itself had been denouncing British workers for their supposed indolence when the food factory chain, Greencore, had chosen to recruit its workforce from Hungary, rather than the local area of Northampton – contending that “Britain’s generous welfare system has created a generation unwilling to work”[13]. It elaborated on this theme the following day, complaining that: “British firms are forced to hire foreign staff because workers here are too lazy”. Moreover, they “find it easier to live on benefits” because the welfare system is “so generous that it encourages Britons to choose a life on benefits over full-time work”[14].

In reality, Greencore has an appalling track record of employee mistreatment; not to mention a total contempt for the findings of Court tribunals in relation to employment law. During 2010, employees at Greencore’s factory, here in Hull, agreed to temporarily suspend their premium pay-rates in order to help the company during a difficult financial period. However, the company subsequently refused to revert back to the workers’ original terms of employment – and failed to compensate its workforce – despite a marked increase in company profits[15]. Moreover, far from being unable to find employees in Northampton, the company seemed to be consciously unwilling to employ local people: opting instead to bypass the UK’s minimum-wage legislation by contracting Eastern European staff through an agency, which then pay their workers at a significantly reduced rate[16]. In fact Greencore had itself benefited from £107 million in government funding designed specifically to create more jobs for the people of Northamptonshire[17]. It has also profited from another form of government funding – namely youth contract payments[18]. Perhaps more to the point, given the accusations of languor among Britain’s working-class, the Mail’s article also failed to see the significance behind the fact that these jobs would not actually be available until the middle of 2016.

All told, this was a company actively seeking to undermine the terms and conditions of the lowest-paid workers in society – yet the Daily Mail’s affected concern for working-class people was eschewed in favour of dismissing them as idle. As goes without saying, the reality of unemployment in Britain is quite different – with no end of examples documenting the huge number of applications advertised vacancies receive[19]. Any reference to poor-wages and meagre employment conditions were conveniently omitted from the Mail’s articles, however; as was any mention of corrupt, law-breaking company practices.

The Daily Mail’s reference to the supposed generosity of ‘welfare’ is significant, in regard to the other aspect of its real attitude towards working-class people and their putative culture – namely the increasing requirement for social security among those who are poor: whether unemployed, under-employed, or – in increasing numbers – working. Both the language and the substance of this publication’s articles on the subject of social security evince a very visceral derision of those who are poor. For example, one article bemoans “feckless couples who have children and expect to live on state handouts”, along with “workshy claimants”, while citing an unnamed government source (speaking in an identical idiom to that of the named Daily Mail journalist), thundering that: “decent folk are fed up with the increasing abuse of the welfare system. Responsible people who work damned hard, often on low incomes, to support themselves, are sick and tired of seeing others do nothing and live off the state”[20].

This envy-inducing division of people on low-incomes into struggling workers and torpid benefit-claimants was made more vivid in another article; characterising people variously as the “hard-working majority” in contrast to “the work-shy”; elucidated further as “scroungers who refuse to work”, and – turgidly – as “spongers”, “benefit spongers “, and “lifelong spongers”, whose “idleness” of “choosing to spend a lifetime on benefits” demonstrated “the evil of benefits dependency”. As the Mail opined, “decent” people “see their neighbours lie about all day and get benefits while they are working their socks off”[21]. Strikingly enough, in light of Labour politicians objecting to Thornberry’s tweet being disrespectful towards working-class people, the Mail’s sentiments here were delivered on behalf of Labour politicians deriding those who are poor.

Conservative politicians plied the same trade, in the same publication’s pages, however: citing the deaths of six children in a notorious arson case, to bemoan “welfare becoming a ‘lifestyle choice’”[22]. In fact, the Mail itself had previously attributed the crime directly to the benefits system; blustering that the man responsible was a “vile product of Welfare UK”, having “bred 17 babies by five women” to “milk” the benefits system[23]. This characterisation featured in other Mail articles, bemoaning “Chavs”– that is, “single mothers of five in council houses, expecting the state to pick up the bill for their irresponsible lifestyles”[24] – along with “stay-a-bed families” who survive on “welfare handouts”[25]; or “claimants wasting taxpayers money on alcohol or gambling”[26]; along with “thousands of feckless families” who “live comfortably on benefits” furnished by “working people”[27]. In at least one case, even using the term “workshy” to describe people in receipt of incapacity support, who had been declared fit-for-work[28]. All of this adds up to the core theme of a putative ‘benefits culture’ among the poor; which both the Mail and politicians of varying allegiances condemn: contending that “generations languish on the dole and dependency” as a consequence of an unidentified “culture that said a life on benefits was an acceptable alternative to work”[29]. This fictitious way of life is cast, variously, as a “sickness”, a “disease”, or a “cancer” – all in need of a cure[30].

It is therefore perfectly clear how these articles portray people who live on low-incomes – what is more oblique is how this extends to the working-poor, despite the Mail’s various sleights-of-hand indicating the contrary. This becomes transparent in light of benefits being available to people who work, and live in hardship[31]. In fact, the benefit system has become increasingly important especially to the working-poor, since the recession of 2008. Of the 13 million people in Britain who live in poverty, the majority work. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation note, “in-work poverty is the most distinctive characteristic of poverty today. For the first time, it outstrips the levels of poverty in workless households”[32]. Around 3.8 million children live in poverty in the UK; and 61% of them have at least one parent in work[33].

Benefits and tax credits exist for people in work[34] – who evidently need them in increasing numbers, in an era of severe wage-decline. Another example being the significant increase of working people making housing-benefit claims[35]. Moreover, both job-loss[36] and thereby job-insecurity have increased since the onset of economic recession in 2008[37]. As a result, unemployment support in the form of Job Seeker’s Allowance is imperative for people who currently work, as well as people unable to secure employment. Wage reductions make income support and tax-credits the more important. Disability support is also available to people who work. In fact, Job Seeker’s Allowance itself is available to people who work less than 16 hours per week (as is the other main out-of-work benefit, Employment and Support Allowance). Therefore the Daily Mail’s division of people into working tax-payers and non-working benefits-recipients is patently false, because there is simply no clear distinction between these groups of people.

However, as with the media, politicians have exploited a deeply cynical division of people on low-incomes into benefit-recipients, pitted-against those who work, in order to justify policies which subsequently damage the interests of both simultaneously. At the Conservative Party Conference of autumn 2012, the Chancellor – George Osborne – opined:

“Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits?”[38].

His sentiments were an echo of the then Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, Liam Byrne, speaking at the Labour Party conference of 2011; proclaiming that “many people on the doorstep at the last election, felt that too often we were for shirkers not workers”; and that “if you can work, and won’t – we have to say, we will ban a life on welfare”[39].

These intimations are divorced from reality. At any given time, approximately half of the UK’s population receives income from at least one social security benefit[40]. Nowhere is the deceit behind political rhetoric on this subject more clear than in the Welfare Up-rating Bill of 2013; which detached benefits from inflation – thereby reducing them. Abetted by The Sun, the Prime Minister – David Cameron – bemoaned the “crazy situation where you earn more on benefits than you do at work”; announcing that “tomorrow, we are putting up most benefits by just one per cent – rather than in line with inflation – because it is not right that they continue to go up and up while many people in work are seeing their wages frozen or cut”[41]. The Prime Minister was exploiting popular misconceptions; and misleading the public herein. The notion that people are ‘better-off on benefits than working’[42] is overwhelmingly untrue. For the vast majority of families, taking a paid job would leave them significantly more prosperous than merely being in receipt of benefits. As Turn2Us outlined, back in 2010:

  • A single person working 30 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage would be £2,270 a year better off than on benefits, an income gain of 66 per cent.
  • A single parent with two children working 30 hours a week would be £4,605 a year better off than on benefits, an income gain of 45 per cent.
  • A couple with two children in which one partner works 30 hours a week would be £3,651 a year better off in work than on benefits, an income gain of 30 per cent[43].

Additionally, while most people thought that this reduction would mainly affect unemployed adults[44], it was actually in-work benefits[45] that were the primary target of this Bill. Out of 2.8 million workless households of working-age, 2.5 million would see their social security support reduced by an average of about £215 a year in 2015-16. However, of the 14.1 million working-age households, with at least one person in work, 7 million would have their benefits reduced, by an average of c. £165 a year[46]. Notably enough, prior to the onset of recession in 2008, over a third of the expenditure on the benefits affected by this Bill was already going to people in employment[47]. Among the benefits set for the one percent uprating, more than half the growth in expenditure between 2007/08 and 2010/11 had been accounted for by working families[48]. Consequently, as the Resolution Foundation noted: “far from hitting only the out of work, 60 per cent of the value of the £3.7 billion cut would fall on in-work households”[49]. Needless to say, those people the Prime Minister cited to justify his policies, who have seen their wages decline, are the ones who would be most badly affected by the benefit-cut. They had also had their wages frozen in the first place because of his policies.

The Welfare Up-rating Bill had nothing to do with economic necessity[50]: it was little more than an underhand ploy, designed to reduce the support that low-income families of all kinds receive. It was sold to the public on the basis of casuistry. The amount of dishonesty embedded in Osborne and Cameron’s public statements on this Bill remains simply confounding. They took financial support away from families and children – and called it ‘fairness’[51].

The crossover effect of welfare reforms, taking a toll on working people, is not limited to this instance of chicanery: Universal Credit will see sanctions apply to people who work, and receive benefits. In return for this support, people who are already employed must continuously seek longer hours and better-paid work. Those most adversely affected by this will be low-paid, part-time workers; who tend to be mothers of young or disabled children – and will be penalised for not seeking full time or additional work. The DWP’s treatment of lone parents is notoriously callous[52] – and both the coalition government and its predecessor increased the conditionality of benefits paid to single parents. Sanctioning benefits for these adults is not merely deleterious for them, of course, but has a damaging impact upon children as well[53].

Universal Credit also poses a less immediately apparent problem, however; as anybody who is in work but loses their job will have to wait a minimum of five weeks before receiving financial support[54]. Conditionality under this scheme is also more severe for all recipients than under the previous system[55]. As the DWP’s own impact assessment stated, it is:

“estimated that up to 1 million extra claimants will be brought into conditionality under Universal Credit. For example, people currently claiming only Housing Benefit or Child Tax Credits are currently not subject to any work search requirements”[56].

Despite repeated ministerial denials, league tables and targets exist for benefit-sanctions[57]. Jobcentre staff-members have repeatedly been caught conniving people into getting themselves sanctioned[58]. These will now draw working people into their scope.

The societal context of these reforms is worth bearing in mind, therefore. Paid work has become more precarious and insecure since 2008; while increasingly failing to guarantee a decent standard of living for people. There are at least 583,000 people currently on zero-hours contracts[59]. These kind of insecure, non-guaranteed, positions have moved outward from their origins in casual, part-time labour; and are encroaching into jobs that only a generation ago would have provided secure, full-time work[60]. Approximately 3 million people are underemployed, being unable to gain sufficient working-hours[61]; while, one in every six adults in employment now lives in poverty[62]. Average salaries have also fallen in real terms[63]. Between 2013-14, weekly earnings fell by 1.6%; continuing a trend since the recession of 2008[64]. Contrary to claims made by the Prime Minister, the minimum wage has remained static in its material value[65]. Worse still, many people in work do not even receive minimum pay – three out of ten apprentices are paid less than the legal minimum-wage[66]. At least one-in-five – and as many as one-in-three – interns are estimated to be exploited through unpaid work[67]; while people aged 16-24 who have been put onto Mandatory Work Experience placements similarly receive no salary at all[68]. By contrast, from the onset of recession until the present day, executive pay levels have burgeoned exponentially[69]. This dichotomy is consistent with the overall effect of tax/benefit reforms undertaken by the Coalition government: while those with the lowest incomes have seen their financial circumstances deteriorate, the affluent overwhelmingly became more prosperous[70]. Furthermore, despite their blandishments about the ‘hard-working’, the government’s true attitude to people in work is reflected by their plans to make mass-redundancy easier and significantly more profitable for businesses[71]. It is more vivid still in the policies they have pursued to undermine the pensions and wages of public sector workers – approximately two-thirds of whom make less than the median wage – while terminating 400,000 public-sector jobs[72].

It is clear, all told, that during a period when the social security system has become progressively more essential to working-class people of all kinds, the Daily Mail and the politicians it cites have been actively encouraging them to support its dismantlement – quite contrary to their own interests. People who are poor are presented either as paragons of virtue, or the epitome of unbridled decadence – as and when it suits the Daily Mail’s agenda; depending on what it happens to be lying about at any given time.

This hypocritical attitude towards the working-class is not limited to the Mail. Equally cynical was the Daily Express. While bemoaning “Labour’s utter contempt for ordinary people”[73], and the snobbery of the “metropolitan elite”[74] supposedly evinced by Thornberry’s tweet; it had previously been keen to treat the self-same ordinary people with disdain of its own – virtually identical to that of the Mail in its themes and vulgarity: variously complaining about the “fecklessness” and “irresponsibility” of “benefit scroungers” and “skivers”, as opposed to “hard-working households”; while objecting to the imaginary “farce where jobless scroungers could live in multimillion-pound London mansions at public expense”, and blustering that “spongeing on the dole is still a lifestyle choice” for “the incorrigibly workshy”, such as “jobless teen mums”[75]. Not merely them, of course – but millions of “shameless families on the fiddle up and down the country”[76]. As with the Mail, the Express was content to quote political figures expounding on this theme – in this case David Cameron declaiming “people who get up at six, go to work at seven and walk past rows of houses with the curtains drawn where people choose not to work”[77].

Ploughing the same furrow was The Sun; which responded to the Thornberry tweet by taking the man at the centre of its consequent teacup-storm, and door-stepping Emily Thornberry’s house, demanding an apology; while its front page bewailed the “Snob Labour MP’s” supposed “sneer”, along with her party’s “ugly, snobbish prejudices”[78]. Typically enough, The Sun’s ulterior motive here was its political antipathy towards the Labour Party[79]; and its form on working-class people is evidently as insincere as that of the previous two newspapers. In fact it has arguably proven the most obnoxious and aggressive of the three towards one particular group of people who are poor – namely those who live on low-incomes, and are disabled.

Back in October 2011, the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, and the Glasgow Media Unit, published their joint report ‘Bad News For Disabled People’ – analysing the way British newspapers reported on disability issues, and covered the impact of government reforms to the disability-support provided by the social security system[80]. At first sight this may not seem a socio-economic issue as such; yet disabled people are disproportionately affected by poverty – both when in work, and while unemployed. Disabled people are less likely to be in employment to begin with; and when they are working, remain more likely to be low-paid, or occupying only part-time positions. As of 2012, the poverty rate for disabled adults of working-age was significantly higher than among their non-disabled counterparts: 31% compared to 20% respectively[81]. Furthermore, in 2011-12, people in families with at least one disabled member made up 33% of those living in Poverty[82]. The extra needs and costs incurred by disability are precisely what disability benefits – specifically Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment – are designed to compensate.

While none of the news publications analysed were perfect, The Sun was in a league of its own in terms of its open hostility towards disabled people who live on low incomes; and in its use of pejorative language: some of which was simply inimitable in its boorishness – “Hacking off the head of the welfare monster” being illustrative[83]. Needless to say, at no point in its coverage of this issue did The Sun provide any context; instead it dismissed such people as “scroungers”, “cheats”, and “work-shy”[84]. In fact, during this period, it even increased the proportion of its articles which defined disabled benefit-recipients as ‘undeserving’ of support: from 18.8% during 2004-5, to 26.9% in the same three month period of 2010-11. It produced more articles on this theme than any other tabloid publication[85].

The number of articles it published on the subject of disabled benefit-fraud also increased markedly – way out of proportion to the true level[86]. In actual fact, disability-benefit fraudulence has the lowest percentage among all benefit-types. This did not prevent The Sun asking readers how they would like “a £91.40 inflation-linked ‘grant’ every week for the rest of your life, just for sitting on your backside?”; though it omitted to ask them if they would also like the disabling conditions which go with it – opting instead to berate disabled people for ostensibly using “fake backaches, drug dependency and fantasy depression as excuses to sit around with their hands out”[87]. As the Strathclyde report summarises “there is no debate of the social reality of disabled people’s lives or the political context in which people have come to be drawing this benefit, or indeed whether it is objectively high given the economic context and prevalence of discrimination”[88]. It is the removal of these issues from reality which indicates what this publication and its peers really think of people who are poor – perhaps even more than the grossness of their idiom[89].

The Sun’s true attitude towards those who occupy a modest economic position is not selective on the basis of disability, however. As with the other aforementioned tabloids, when it suits, it is no less willing to castigate people who are unemployed, or living on low-incomes, as “feckless benefits claimants” who exploit Britain’s “shambolic handouts culture”; ultimately characterised as “hundreds of thousands of scroungers in the UK”, who are “robbing hard-working Sun readers of their cash”[90]. When not berating “benefit cheats” and “fiddling scroungers”[91], it laments “benefit ghettos”, wherein “up to eight out of ten people live on State handouts”[92]. It does not, of course, explain that most of these people will be either working, disabled, unpaid carers, or pensioners.

For The Sun to bemoan snobbery is therefore positively absurd. Its complaints about elitism are equally devoid, however, given the close and corrupt working links between its owning corporation, News International, along with members of the police force, and high-profile political figures in the British government. These were brought to light in the phone-hacking scandal unearthed by the Guardian newspaper during the period 2009-2011; and examined in detail by the subsequent Leveson Inquiry. The whole sordid saga therein has been documented in detail elsewhere[93]; suffice to say, for present purposes, the criminal activity of News International personnel was going unchecked precisely because of the patronage it enjoyed, as part of the elite it affects to scorn. Its victims in many cases were very much ordinary people.

All told, between these publications, who is kidding whom about condescension, elitism, and the politics of envy being factors behind their outlook on society? In fact, the abovementioned articles were mostly published during the period of 2010-11; while the coalition government was readying its Welfare Reform Act – which was finally forced through Parliament in 2012. During this period, these publications were receiving press-briefings from the Department for Work and Pensions; which were duly incorporated into articles[94].

However, this relationship between politicians and media outlets is not limited to the print-media – despite being equally eager to quote political figures berating Emily Thornberry’s supposed snobbery and lack of respect for working-class people[95], the ostensibly neutral BBC also has a very problematic track-record on the subject of poverty, benefits, and people who work for low-incomes. One instance was the interview of Shanene Thorpe on Newsnight, back in 2012 – which resulted in Thorpe having been wrongly accused of being unemployed, and simply choosing to claim housing benefit for reasons of self-indulgence; when in reality she worked for Haringey council, and was one of many people in employment who needed support to help with housing costs[96].

This was not an isolated case of a supposed journalist ambushing an interviewee who was in receipt of benefits, however[97]; nor was it the first time that the BBC’s portrayal of benefits-recipients and government reforms broke its own guidelines on fairness and accuracy. Equally egregious was the BBC’s programme ‘The Future State of Welfare’[98], broadcast during October 2011; and which – true to form – presented benefits-receipt as a lifestyle choice, born of a dependency/entitlement culture among the workless[99]. In reality, the BBC’s own Trust received a complaint from the Child Poverty Action Group; and c. two years later, adjudged the programme to have contained inaccuracies, which breached impartiality[100]. In the slightly more forthright words of CPAG “the programme broke rules on accuracy and impartiality in ways that fundamentally misled viewers and favoured the government’s controversial positioning”[101].

One of the more predictable figures praising Humphry’s programme was the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith[102]; who cited the broadcast as evidence of a “‘shift in culture’ from people who had got used to two, maybe three generations out of work and no longer wanted to go into work”. This particular piece of apocrypha has never been substantiated – in fact, even Smith himself has previously admitted that no evidence exists, in a Freedom of Information response[103]. However, several studies have not only discredited the notion of widespread intergenerational worklessness, but also found that far from creating a ‘culture of dependency’, or an antipathy to work, parental unemployment actually leads to augmented views of paid-employment[104]. What actually underlay intergenerational joblessness was not personal attitudes, but the economic factor of living in areas of high-unemployment, from one generation to another: for families where successive generations struggle to retain stable employment, it is local labour market conditions which play the crucial role[105]. The key factor herein is disadvantage, which develops consequent problems, as it:

“makes young people from deprived families the most marginal workers at the back of the queue for jobs when local employment is scarce. If unemployment persists, eventually young people begin to turn away from employment and find other means of existing. Whilst these individuals might be on welfare, it’s not necessarily the reason that they turned away from work in the first place. The lack of opportunities available to these young people leads to the detachment”[106].

In other words, socio-economic problems underlie this circumstance; not lassitude. Government Ministers have nonetheless persistently exploited the myth of indolence being the cause of unemployment, in order to justify reforms which have increased destitution among unemployed adults. Under the banner ‘Choosing a life on benefits is no longer an option’ the Department for Work and Pensions inaugurated a draconian new system of sanctions in October 2012[107]. They also purposely increased benefit-delays – to a minimum of 21 days; or under the Universal Credit scheme, 5 weeks[108].

One consequence of these reforms has been a record upsurge in food-poverty. The national foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust, have cited the high incidence of people needing their assistance as a result of benefit delays, and – increasingly – sanctions[109]. Accordingly: “913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14 compared to 346,992 in 2012-13″; while 83% of their foodbanks “report ‘sanctioning’ is causing rising numbers to turn to them”[110]. There is abundant evidence substantiating these claims[111]. A report co-authored by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty, and the Trussell Trust, leaves little doubt that benefit delays, sanctions, and social security reforms as a whole, have contributed to a discernible rise in the number of people now needing charity, simply in order to feed themselves. From the onset of reforms in 2012, to the end of 2013, the figure more than doubled:

“The Trussell Trust (the biggest provider of food banks in the UK) has reported that more than 350,000 people turned to their food banks for help in 2012–13, almost triple the number who received food aid in the previous year”[112].

The Trussell Trust are not alone on this[113]. The manager of a Salvation Army foodbank, based in Darlington, was quoted in his local newspaper, attesting that c. “70 per cent of the foodbank users on his register have been sanctioned”. In one particular instance:

“One man worked most of his life and had to claim benefits when his workplace went under. He was in hospital with a chest infection and missed a job centre appointment, was sanctioned and came to us. Weeks later, he died of a heart attack – we have no proof sanctioning caused it but his friend said it was the stress and shame of having to use a foodbank”[114].

Food poverty is not limited to people who are unemployed, however, any more than the impact of social security cuts have been. Low wages, coupled with cuts to in-work benefits,[115] and the increased costs of fuel, have all left many working people in similar circumstances. The Trussell Trust cite “a survey of 2,178 working families conducted by Netmums in March 2014”, which established that “one in five working parents have had to choose between paying an essential bill or putting food on the table in the last 12 months”[116]. As with redundancy, it goes without saying that government ministers have repeatedly blamed people in these circumstances for their own problems[117] – the basic reality, however, is that welfare reforms and economic insecurity have left hundreds of thousands of people unable to afford food.

Poverty is not the worst consequence of sanctions, and benefit cuts or delays, however. As with destitution, these reforms have hit disabled people with inexcusable severity[118]. The level of disabled people living in poverty has increased at a record rate following these reforms; with 400,000 to 500,000 people sinking into absolute poverty[119]. The government reduced support to disabled people on low-incomes via the transference of Disability Living Allowance recipients onto Personal Independence Payment[120]. Moreover, anybody who appeals against decisions to end or decrease their benefits will be subject to Mandatory Reconsideration, wherein they receive no financial support of any kind, for an unfixed period[121]. Sanctions are applicable to people in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance, who have been place in the Work Related Activity Group – the largest proportion of which are people with mental health problems[122]. Moreover, people who fall into this category can be subject to indefinite Mandatory Work Placements – that is, compelled to work without pay, under threat of being sanctioned, despite being found incapable of working [123]. According to the DWP itself, there were:

“ a total of 105 thousand decisions to apply an ESA sanction (i.e. an adverse sanction decision) between October 2008 and March 2014, including 41 thousand under the new sanctions regime, introduced in December 2012”[124].

This is provided people qualify for support at all, due to the highly problematic Work Capability Assessments they must undergo beforehand[125]. A catalogue of self-harm[126], premature deaths, and suicides, has followed in the wake of the government’s policies to cut disability benefits. Despite government officials repeatedly lying[127], and claiming that the Department for Work and Pensions does not investigate these cases – it was recently revealed that the DWP has covertly led investigations into 60 benefit-related deaths and suicides between 2011-14[128]. Two of the most high-profile – and harrowing – cases, were those of David Clapson and Mark Wood; both of whom died of starvation-related conditions, after their benefits had been stopped[129]. Only several days before the time of writing, Jacqueline Harris committed suicide after being declared fit-for-work, following her work capability assessment[130]. Tim Salter took his own life in almost identical circumstances during December 2013[131]. In September 2014, Trevor Drakard hanged himself after being placed in the ESA Work Related Activity Group[132]. Michael Connolly took a fatal overdose during October 2013, when forewarned that his benefits would be cut[133]. The Black Triangle Campaign group has catalogued at least 40 cases of people who died in these circumstances[134]. The link between disability benefit-cuts and suicide is undeniable. It is simply untenable to pretend otherwise.

Something not dissimilar has occurred to unemployed adults in general, however, since the onset of recession in 2008 – namely, an increase of suicide, particularly among men who lost their jobs in the wake of the financial crisis. This is one very real problem that working-class men suffer from, wholly out of proportion with any other group in society[135]. The relationship between economic hardship and people causing their own deaths is complex – suicide is almost invariably the consequence of combined factors; and it would be too simplistic to suggest that redundancy leads directly to an increase in people taking their own lives[136]. However, among men, there is a clearly defined link between unemployment, depression, and becoming suicidal[137]. One recent case in point is the death of 20 year-old Martin Hadfield; who committed suicide after several months of unsuccessfully seeking employment[138].

In fact, the suicide-rate had been declining steadily in Britain for 20 years before the recession began; but in 2007-2008, it rose by 8% among men, and 9% among women[139]. More specifically, the number of men committing suicide leapt from 3,229 to 3,466 respectively during this period[140]. Job-losses, in particular, saw the trend in evidence: each annual 10% increase in the number of unemployed men was associated with a 1.4% increase in the number of male suicides[141]. As the Guardian reported, between 2008-10:

“male unemployment rose by 25.6% in each of those years, while the male suicide rate rose by 3.6% each year. When male employment rates rose briefly in 2010, the suicide rate dropped slightly”[142].

Moreover, social position is a critical factor behind the overall suicide-rate among men; with the mortality rate highest among men aged 20–64 in the lowest socio-economic class[143]. Men in this group, and living in the most deprived areas in the UK, are 10 times more at risk of suicide than those in the most affluent group living in the wealthiest areas of Britain[144]. Women are not immune to this situation, of course. Although they are less likely to commit suicide than men, there have been documented cases of women losing their jobs, and being left unable to cope. Linda Knott was 46 when she was made redundant by Salford Council; and ended her life shortly afterwards[145]. Vicky Harrison was yet another woman who committed suicide; having made scores of unsuccessful job applications. She was twenty-one years old[146].

Despite socio-economic circumstances evidently aggravating personal problems, and coming with a very profound human cost, the government has significantly cut funding for mental health support-services[147]. Indeed, as recently as July of this year, the Coalition even hinted at its intentions to penalise benefit-claimants who are suffering from depression, yet refuse treatment[148]. Given that withdrawing benefits has repeatedly lead people to commit suicide, this is a recipe for disaster[149].

Since 2008, the problems of job-losses, wage-reductions, benefit-cuts, financial crises, and long-term poverty, have converged simultaneously on people who are least able to cope with these. All of these factors are beginning to affect growing numbers of people who work, as welfare reforms and economic circumstances increasingly blur the lines of unemployment and employment. The normalisation of poverty is not limited to those who have lost their jobs: on the contrary, increasing numbers of people face the prospect of working for low-pay; or losing their employment, and ultimately being compelled to work without any salary. People who are ill can be forced to work in these unpaid labour schemes indefinitely. Disabled people have been left to starve following benefit cuts. While exploitive employment conditions have grown, the protections working-people can rely upon during periods of economic difficulty have been purposely undermined.

The furore surrounding Emily Thornberry’s tweet seemed to be driven primarily by anxiety among the major political parties over the UK Independence Party’s minor increase in electoral popularity. It is significant, undoubtedly; but not in a way acknowledged by those objecting to the photograph she took. The same people who decried putative snobbery and elitism, are routinely the swiftest to typecast people on low-incomes in the most derogatory terms[150]. The Rochester by-election could have been written-up as ‘Defection to UKIP costs incumbent MP 7000 votes in by-election’; or ‘Minority Governing Party Loses Second MP To Rivals’. Instead a media and twitter-driven campaign of synthetic-outrage inflated a counterfeit sense of class-consciousness and resentment; for extremely cynical, partisan reasons. It is becoming disturbing how quickly a contrived non-story on twitter can come to dominate public discourse in a manner which is both deeply problematic, and ultimately misleading.

However, it is clear that the social divisions and poverty of the past have returned with severity in the present. There is a very real class-conflict at work in Britain today – it consists of the poor being made to pay for the continuation of an economic system which disadvantages them; and benefits those who are extraordinarily wealthy. The spurious type of class-war whipped-up by tabloid columnists and mainstream politicians in response to Thornberry’s innocuous tweet allows those who are responsible for waging a very real, persecutory campaign against people on low-incomes to posture as their saviours – namely politicians who lie, and ultimately defraud the public, on behalf of the very real elites who control the lives of ordinary people; with no shortage of journalists willing to aid and abet them in the process. Tabloid publications are a cornerstone of the privileged and influential in British life. Their articles have played a critical role in fostering a reality-bereft narrative on the subject of benefits and employment; and in so doing, helping to facilitate the circumstances which many people on low-incomes have been subject to in recent years.

People who work, and endure financial hardship, have been purposely misled, and encouraged to resent those even poorer than themselves[151]. The same individuals who are treated with the most unrestrained contempt by the Press, and by politicians, are then feted as somehow beyond reproach when it suits. White flags, white vans, and for that matter white men, are not symbols which epitomise the working class – half of whose members are female; many of whom are single mothers. A disproportionate number of people who live on low-incomes are disabled. These groupings have been hit more severely than any other by economic adversity and welfare reforms[152].

In the wake of a fairly short-lived increase of public attention on the consequences of his social security policies, the Prime Minister wrote a piece in the Telegraph, defending his reforms. This consisted of propagating the same myths and fallacies as before; bemoaning “a system where in too many cases people were paid more to be on benefits than to be in work”, and which penalises “those who work hard and do the right thing while rewarding those who can work, but don’t”[153]. He made no reference to sanctions or deliberately increased benefit delays – and the crises which follow; nor did he refer to the ruthless treatment disabled people have been subject to by his government. Instead, he disingenuously vowed to continue social and economic policies which have caused vulnerable people extreme distress and harm. This is the same man who cited the unlawful deaths of six children as an excuse to take financial support away from other families; and yet described a tweeted photograph, supposedly disrespectful towards patriotism, as “appalling”. One of the wealthiest countries in the world has a government that continues to mistreat its poorest people, on the most cynical pretexts imaginable. Patriotism remains the virtue of the vicious.


[1] See ‘Labour ‘founded for working people’, Miliband tells white van man’ by Nicholas Watt and Rowena Mason/Guardian (21st November 2014):

See also ‘Emily Thornberry’s tweet ‘patronising and jaw-droppingly condescending’; by Patrick Wintour/Guardian (24th November 2014):

There were a number of other politicians weighing-in, saying much the same. For example, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, described the incident as a “drippingly patronising thing to do – maybe it is what happens when you become MP for Islington”. The borough of Islington is one of the poorest in the UK, suffice to say. Basic logic indicates the falsity of this sentiment. See the Labour Market Profile for Islington:

Along with the borough’s in-depth poverty-profile:

A more likely motive for Clegg’s sentiment was the near total collapse of his own party’s vote in the by-election.

[2] The original message/photograph is currently still available on twitter:

[3] See Thornberry’s voting record on these issues via TheyWorkForYou:

[4] ‘Resigning Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeted about St George flags in Bristol too’ by Daniel Evans/Bristol Post (21st November 2014):

[5] ‘Emily is so at home in Islington luvvie-land, a metropolitan liberal allergic to the ideals of patriotism and the self-reliant family’ by Harry Mount/Daily Mail (22nd November 2014):

The article’s author opines that his “youth was spent living alongside those champagne socialists… like Emily Thornberry”. In reality, his youth was spent at an expensive boarding school; in contrast to the Secondary-Modern educated Thornberry.

[6] ‘Myleene Klass and a telling insight into the vacuity and class envy of Miliband’s Labour Party’ by Stephen Glover/Daily Mail (20th November 2014):

[7] ‘The Thornberry Set and their million pound homes… how Ed’s elite live cheek by jowl in leafy north London’ by the Mail On Sunday (22nd November 2014):

[8] ‘Ed’s snooty elite hates patriotism, says editor of left-wing journal that triggered Labour leadership crisis’ by Jason Cowley/Daily Mail (22nd November 2014):

[9] ‘Labour are party of public-sector privilege, says Ukip victor as he claims working-class now follow Farage’ by Tamara Cohen/Daily Mail (22nd November 2014):

[10] Ukip routinely make their electoral material vanish, as and when it becomes inconvenient. However, see ‘Ukip In The Workplace’ by Narmada Thiranagama/The Institute Of Employment Rights (29th May 2013):

See also ‘Ukip’ by Unions Together (3rd April 2014):

[11] As quoted in yet another Ukip pamphlet which vanished after drawing umbrage. See ‘UKIP’s Disappearing Welfare Policy: Claimants are “a parasitic underclass of scroungers”’ by Johnny Void (5th March 2013):

[12] ‘The publishers and knights bankrolling Ukip’ by FactCheck/Channel 4 (8th August 2013):

[13] ‘Is there no one left in Britain who can make a sandwich? Firm that supplies M&S and Tesco is forced to recruit 300 staff in Hungary’ by Louise Eccles/Daily Mail (9th November 2014)

[14] ‘You Britons are just too lazy! After Mail reveals sandwich firm that supplies M&S and Tesco has been forced to find staff abroad, the Hungarians tell us why’ by Louise Eccles and Paul Bentley/Daily Mail (10th November 2014):

[15] ‘Hull cake firm Greencore facing payout of up to £1.2m after refusing to lift pay freeze’ by the Hull Daily Mail (19th November 2012):

[16] ‘Sandwich maker goes ahead with Hungary hire drive’ by Rupert Neate/Guardian (10th November 2014):

[17] ‘Sandwich maker goes ahead with Hungary hire drive’ by Rupert Neate/Guardian (10th November 2014):

[18] See ‘DWP Payments: February 2014’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (11th November 2014):

Greencore had received a total of £29,575 in Youth Contract Wage Incentive payments.

[19] Perhaps the most striking example to date is in ‘645 apply for single job at Hull charity’ by Catherine Lea/Hull Daily Mail (31st May 2013):

There are plenty of other articles reporting similarly. For example: ‘24,000 chase just 221 apprenticeships’ by Jamie Grierson/The Independent (16th August 2010):

‘Primark receives a staggering 4,000 job applications after advertising for just 193 posts’ by the Daily Mail (13th July 2010):

‘5,000 apply for 350 Newport store jobs’ by Jessica Best/South Wales Argus (27th August 2009):

‘Bradford’s new Toys R Us store hands out 5,000 forms for branch which opens soon’ by Will Kilner/Telegraph & Argus (11th September 2010):

There were only 50 vacancies at this store.

[20] ‘Cameron to axe housing benefits for feckless under 25s as he declares war on welfare culture’ by Simon Walters/Mail On Sunday (23rd June 2012):

[21] ‘Now Ed Miliband gets tough with onslaught against ‘evil’ of benefits scroungers’ by Simon Walters/Mail On Sunday (31st December 2011):

[22] ‘Cameron backs Osborne in benefits row, insisting case of arson dad Mick Philpott DOES raise questions about welfare becoming a ‘lifestyle choice” by Matt Chorley & Tim Shipman/Daily Mail (4th April 2013):

The two politicians were both exploiting this tragedy in order to justify their planned cuts to child-benefits.

[23] ‘Vile product of Welfare UK’ by Andy Dolan & Paul Bentley/Daily Mail (3rd April 2013):

[24] ‘Meet the middle-class benefits cheats who feel entitled to claim your taxes’ by Melissa Kite/Daily Mail (2nd March 2012):

[25] ‘Memo to Ed Miliband: Listen to your brother on benefits’ by Nick Wood/Daily Mail (2nd February 2012):

[26] ‘Benefits to be paid onto smart cards to stop claimants spending their money on alcohol or gambling’ by Matt Chorley/Daily Mail (29th September 2014):

[27] ‘Working families ‘betrayed by Labour’ over benefit cap: Miliband makes last-ditch attempt to derail proposals’ by Jason Groves/Daily Mail (2nd February 2012):

[28] ‘Workshy map of Britain revealed: Thousands of incapacity benefit claimants found to be capable of working’ by Amanda Williams/Daily Mail (4th May 2013):

[29] ‘Historic welfare reform ‘to end culture of benefits being seen as an acceptable alternative to work’ finally becomes law’ by Jason Groves/Daily Mail (2nd March 2012):

[30] See ‘A welfare disease that must be cured’ by the Daily Mail (27th May 2010):

Also: ‘MAIL COMMENT: Curing the cancer of welfare dependency’ by the Daily Mail (16th July 2012):

And: ‘Curing the sickness of welfare addiction’ by the Daily Mail (22nd February 2012):

[31] See a litany of such claims in ‘Why Britain’s fallen out of love with the welfare state’ by Dominic Sandbrook/Daily Mail (6th March 2012):

[32] ‘In-Work Poverty Outstrips Poverty In Workless Households’ by Aleks Collingwood/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (26th November 2012):

See the in-depth report ‘Monitoring Poverty And Social Exclusion 2013’ by Tom MacInnes, Hannah Aldridge, Sabrina Bushe, Peter Kenway, and Adam Tinson/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2013):

[33] ‘The Relentless Rise Of In-Work Poverty’ by Chris Goulden/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (14th June 2012):

See also: “In 2012/13, 6.6 million people in working families were living in poverty. This was almost identical to the figure living in workless or retired families, meaning that half of all poverty is found in working families. This has been the case for the last five years – since 2008/09, more than 45 per cent of poverty has been in working families.” (p. 30) in ‘Monitoring Poverty And Social Exclusion 2014’ by Tom MacInnes, Hannah Aldridge, Sabrina Bushe, Adam Tinson, and Theo Barry Born/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2014):

And ‘FactCheck: are child poverty and inequality falling?’ by Patrick Worrall/Channel 4 (11th June 2014):

It goes without saying that the reality of living in poverty is not as enviable as government ministers and tabloid journalists suggest. A long-term study of the impact welfare reforms had on residents in Newham can be read in the section ‘work’ on p. 6 of ‘Just about surviving’ by Ellie Roberts, Luke Price, Liam Crosby/Community Links (2014):

The actual lived-reality of poverty was also documented in ‘Life on a Low Income in Austere Times’ by Simon Pemberton, Eileen Sutton, Eldin Fahmy, and Karen Bell/Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (September 2014):

[34] See ‘Benefits and tax credits for people in work’ by the Citizens Advice Bureau:

[35] See ‘Are almost all new Housing Benefit claimants in work?’ by FullFact (27th June 2012):

Also: ‘The Growth of In-Work Housing Benefit Claimants: Evidence and policy implications’ by Ben Pattison/Building and Social Housing Foundation (2012):

There are several other resources on this, including: ‘Crisis Policy Briefing – Housing Benefit cuts’ by Crisis (July 2012):

Along with: ‘Housing benefit cuts in London push low-paid families into poverty’ by New Policy Institute (17th June 2014):

And: ‘Homelessness: housing benefit reform starts to hit home’ by Patrick Butler/Guardian (5th September 2013):

For a report on benefit-sanctions increasing homelessness specifically among young people, see ‘Young And Homeless 2014’ by Homeless Link (2014)::

[36] ‘Economy tracker: Unemployment’ by the BBC (12th November 2014):

[37] ‘Pressure and job insecurity felt by UK workers at 20-year high’ by Hilary Osborne/Guardian (20th May 2013):

[38] ‘George Osborne’s speech to the Conservative conference: full text’ by George Osborne/New Statesman (8th October 2012):

See also: “But fairness is also about being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits” in ‘Autumn Statement 2012: Osborne slashes £3.7bn from welfare’ by Tim Ross/Telegraph (5th December 2012):

[39] ‘Labour Party Conference: Liam Byrne’s speech in full’ by Liam Byrne/Telegraph (26th September 2011):

Paradoxically enough, Byrne then goes on to outline the very social and economic circumstances which have caused the benefit system to become so imperative in recent years; despite ignoring their significance. In fact, this was itself resonant of Osborne again, who had declaimed in 2010 that “people who think it’s a lifestyle choice to just sit on out-of-work benefits – that lifestyle choice is going to come to an end. The money won’t be there” in ‘Welfare spending to be cut by £4bn, says George Osborne’ by the BBC (9th September 2010):

Liam Byrne’s successor, Rachel Reeves, said much the same thing; namely “we are tough and will not allow people to linger on benefits” in ‘Labour will be tougher than Tories on benefits, promises new welfare chief’ by Toby Helm/The Observer (12th October 2013):

This type of derogatory language was recurrent among government figures during this period – pre-eminent was, of course, the most radical among them – David Cameron; quoted deriding “the welfare scrounger” in ‘David Cameron warns public sector over Budget cuts’ by the BBC (19th June 2010):

Cameron had himself claimed disability benefits for his late son, suffice to say. See ‘David Cameron: The five lessons I learned as father of disabled child – and intend to put into practice’ by David Cameron/Independent (16th July 2009):

Needless to say, out-of-work benefits are strictly conditional – as they always have been. They also constitute a very small minority of overall social security expenditure; and do not conflict with the interests of people who work. For composite disproof of the various ministers’ claims see ‘DWP admits benefits aren’t “lifestyle choice”’ by Don Paskini/Liberal Conspiracy (30th September 2010):

[40] See page 1 in ‘Welfare Trends Report’ by the Office for Budget Responsibility (October 2014):

[41] ‘Crazy situation where you earn more on benefits than you do at work ends NOW’ by David Cameron/The Sun (7th April 2013):

This is a claim made repeatedly during the coalition’s time in government; and it is wholly false. It relies upon public ignorance of the fact that benefits are available to people who work, as well as to people who do not; and that benefits such as tax credits ensure that employment almost invariably proves financially worthwhile. This falsehood is not limited to Conservative politicians. The aforementioned Liam Byrne complained about the way “thousands are better off on benefits than in work”; as quoted in ‘Better off on benefits than earning £15,000 a year?’ by Cathy Newman/Channel 4 (27th May 2010):

[42] For example, George Osborne in 2013, derided “benefits so generous, that people found they were better off on the dole than they were in work” in ‘Chancellor’s speech on changes to the tax and benefit system’ by George Osborne (2nd April 2013):

[43] ‘Read between the lines: confronting the myths about the benefits system’ by Turn2Us (November 2012):

[44] As noted by the Trades Union Congress, following a poll they conducted: “by a margin of three to one, people think the squeeze will mainly hit the unemployed” in ‘Voters ‘brainwashed by Tory welfare myths’, shows new poll’ by Andrew Grice/Independent (4th January 2013):

[45] ‘Benefits and tax credits for people in work’ by Citizens Advice Guide:

A further surreptitious cut to in-work benefits had been engineered via freezing Universal Credit’s ‘work allowance’. See ‘Work allowances – the nasty little cut in the #AutumnStatement’ by Richard Exell/Touchstone Blog (3rd December 2014):

[46] ‘Benefits in Britain: separating the facts from the fiction’ by The Observer (6th April 2013):

The benefits affected were: Jobseeker’s Allowance; Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; applicable amounts for Housing Benefit; Maternity Allowance; Statutory Sick Pay; Statutory Maternity Pay; Statutory Paternity Pay; and Statutory Adoption Pay. Every one of these – including JSA/ESA – are available to people who work. Child benefit was also cut from April 2013; as were Local Housing Allowance, and Universal Credit. See ‘Autumn Statement 2012 policy decisions table’ (5th December 2012):

As Turn2Us note: “Overall, the out-of-work benefits account for under a quarter of all welfare spending. Benefits to pensioners account for 53% of all welfare spending. Even excluding pensioners’ benefits, nearly half of welfare expenditure is accounted for by benefits such as Disability Living Allowance that go to working and non working families, and by child benefit and tax credits to working families and Statutory Maternity Pay” in ‘Read between the lines: confronting the myths about the benefits system’ by Turn2Us (November 2012):

[47] See ‘There’s more to benefits policy than fairness’ by Declan Gaffney (11th December 2012):

[48] ‘The Double Lockout: How low income families will be locked out of fair living standards’ by Child Poverty Action Group (2012):

[49] ‘Resolution Foundation analysis of the 2012 Autumn Statement’ by Matthew Whittaker/Resolution Foundation (December 2012):

See also ‘Will working families lose out under 1% benefit uprating? Of course they will’ by Declan Gaffney (15th December 2012):

And the somewhat more blunt ‘George Osborne’s Benefit Bullshitting Hides His True Agenda’ by Johnny Void (9th October 2012):

[50] ‘Can We Afford to Uprate Benefits?’ by Jonathan Portes/Huffington Post (10th December 2012):

See also Chapter 3, again by Jonathan Portes in ‘The Double Lockout: How low income families will be locked out of fair living standards’ by Child Poverty Action Group (2012)::

[51] See ‘Plans to freeze working benefits leave poor children out in the cold’ by Barnardo’s (3rd December 2014):

Also: ‘Child Poverty in 2012: It shouldn’t happen here’ by Save The Children (September 2012):

And: ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues Team (2013):

This has not arisen merely due to the coalition – the Labour government before it were equally hostile towards lone parents. See ‘Fraught in a trap’ by Amelia Gentleman/The Guardian (24th June 2009):

Also: ‘Welfare Reform Act 2009 – a quick guide’ by Simon Osborne/Child Poverty Action Group (April 2010):

[52] Regarding over-referral for sanctioning, especially high-level sanctions, see ‘Single parents and benefit sanctions’ by Gingerbread (November 2014):

[53] See pages 7-10 in ‘Single parents and benefit sanctions’ by Gingerbread (November 2014):

This is a consequence of both Labour and Coalition government policies. Gingerbread’s report makes plain how abusive the DWP’s policies are on this point – in some cases, amounting to duress.

[54] ‘Universal Credit will create debt trap for claimants, says TUC’ by the Trades Union Congress (22nd October 2014):

See their more in-depth report ‘Universal Credit: the problem of delay in benefit payments’ by Carl Packman/Trades Union Congress (2014):

Also the government’s own assessment ‘Universal Credit Pathfinder evaluation’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (October 2014):

[55] ‘Universal Credit: the problem of delay in benefit payments’ by Carl Packman/Trades Union Congress (2014):

[56] See ‘ Universal Credit : Impact Assessment’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (December 2012):

See also ‘The weirdness at the core of Universal Credit’ by Declan Gaffney/Left Foot Forward (19th February 2011):

[57] ‘Jobcentre was set targets for benefit sanctions’ by Patrick Wintour/The Guardian (21st March 2013):

See also ‘DWP LEAKED DOCUMENT: Walthamstow Jobcentre Plus memo on sanction targets’ by John McArdle/Black Triangle Campaign (26th March 2013):

Even Easter egg rewards were on offer, at one point. See ‘Labour demands action over jobcentre targets’ by Patrick Wintour/The Guardian (22nd March 2013):

Also: ‘Government admits Jobcentres set targets to take away benefits’ by John Domokos/The Guardian (8th April 2011):

[58] ‘Government admits Jobcentres set targets to take away benefits’ by John Domokos/The Guardian (8th April 2011):

[59] ‘ONS: UK firms use 1.4m zero-hour contracts’ by the BBC (30th April 2014):

See also ‘Only one in every forty net jobs since the recession is for a full-time employee, says TUC’ by the Trades Union Congress (12th November 2014):

[60] ‘Zero hours, infinite anxiety’ by Jack Grove/Times Higher Education (13th March 2014):

[61] ‘Underemployment and Overemployment in the UK, 2014’ by Office for National Statistics (25th November 2014):

[62] ‘UK poverty study calls on Government to tackle rising deprivation’ by David Garner/University of York (19th June 2014):

See also ‘Record numbers of working families in poverty due to low-paid jobs’ by Gwyn Topham/The Guardian (24th November 2014):

[63] ‘NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE: Interim government evidence for the 2015 Low Pay Commission report’ by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (October 2014)

[64] ‘Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2014 Provisional Results’ by Office for National Statistics (19th November 2014):

See also ‘British workers suffer biggest real-wage fall of major G20 countries’ by Angela Monaghan and Alberto Nardelli/Guardian (5th December 2014):

[65] ‘Factcheck: The minimum wage has not been going up in real terms’ by Full Fact (15th October 2014):

[66] ‘Three in ten apprentices paid less than the legal minimum wage’ by Trades Union Congress (4th October 2013):

By contrast, “Employers who have not taken on an apprentice in the last year may be eligible to receive a £1,500 grant” as the government itself advertises:

[67] See ‘TUC fears as many as one in three interns are being exploited at work’ by the Trades Union Congress (25th March 2010):

The true proportion is unclear, however; as it varies markedly by age-group and industry type. It’s estimated to be at least 21%; and among graduates, 31%. See ‘Internship or Indenture’ by the Sutton Trust (2nd November 2014):

See also ‘Interns in the Voluntary Sector – Time to end exploitation’ by Charlotte Gerada/Unite The Union (May 2013):

[68] Mandatory Work Experience Placements – i.e. workfare – apply to people aged 16-24. The Coalition government drafted strictures which were purposely designed to trick people into being sanctioned. Subsequent to the Court of Appeal’s ruling on this, both the government and its nominal opponents, Labour, conspired to defraud unemployed young adults who had been illegally sanctioned, by rewriting the law, and thereby disavowing any reimbursement. The total sum therein amounted to c. £130 million. At no point has anybody accounted for what happened to this money. See ‘Graduate’s Poundland victory leaves government work schemes in tatters’ Shiv Malik/The Guardian (12th February 2013):

Also: ‘Court of Appeal Rules that the Government’s “Back to Work” Regulations are Unlawful and Must Be Quashed’ by Public Interest Lawyers (12th February 2012):

Workfare is now applicable to people of all ages, due to the Help-To-Work scheme. See ‘Supervised Jobsearch Pilots Provider Guidance’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (no date – c. 2014):

[69] See ‘Executive pay ‘180 times average’, report finds’ by the BBC (14th July 2014):

Also: ‘Directors’ pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report’ by the BBC (28th October 2011):

Along with: ‘The Great Pay Robbery’ by George Monbiot (23rd January 2012):

And: ‘Executive remuneration in the FTSE 350 – a focus on performance-related pay’ by the High Pay Centre (October 2014):

[70] Finance was redistributed from the poorest 20%, to the middle class, and the top 1% – see page 19 in ‘Were we really all in it together? The distributional effects of the UK Coalition government’s tax-benefit policy changes’ by Paola De Agostini, John Hills, and Holly Sutherland/London School of Economics (November 2014):

[71] See ‘Collective Redundancy Consultation – Government Response: Impact Assessment’ by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (the date is unclear – presumably 12th January 2013):

Also: ‘Press Release: Boost for business as government sets out plans to update employment legislation’ by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (18th December 2012):

And: ‘Redundancy talks period to be cut from 90 to 45 days’ by the BBC (18th December 2012)

[72] See ’10 July: Why public service workers are taking strike action; by Matt Dykes/Touchstone Blog (8th July 2014):

Also: ‘Local Government Earnings Survey 2013/14’ by Local Government Association (5th March 2014):

[73] ‘Proof of Labour’s utter contempt for ordinary people’ by Stephen Pollard/Express (22nd November 2014):

[74] ‘Ed Miliband says he ‘respects’ White Van Men after sack of snob MP leaves Labour in chaos’ by Alison Little/Express (22nd November 2014):

[75] ‘Time for action on benefit scroungers’ by Leo McKinstry/Express (25th June 2012):

[76] ‘Mansions for scroungers: we pay £16m a year to keep families in luxury’ by David Jarvis/Express (21st February 2010):

[77] ‘David Cameron: Workshy will lose benefits’ by Macer Hall/Express (21st April 2010):

See also ‘David Cameron: we’ll help the strivers, not welfare claimants’ by Patrick Hennessy/Telegraph (30th December 2012):

[78] The front page can be seen via ‘Emily Thornberry: How one tweet led to her resignation’ By Adam Donald/BBC (21st November 2014):

Significantly enough, the mock-outrage on behalf of the man at the centre of this furore was promptly deflated by his own words: his self-styled ‘Danifesto’ was so risible in its crude and pompous prejudices that it simply confirmed derision would have been perfectly valid in the first place. See ‘White Van Dan Reveals ‘Manifesto’ In The Sun After Emily Thornberry ‘Sneer” by Charlotte Meredith/Huffington Post (22nd November 2014):

Also: ‘Man who lives at house in Thornberry tweet hits back’ by Christopher Hope/Telegraph (21st November 2014):

And: ‘Comment: Working class people are the victims of kneejerk prejudice’ by Symon Hill/ (21st November 2014):

[79] The Sun head headlined the incident “How to lose a by-election”. In reality, the incumbent Member of Parliament, Mark Reckless, had transferred his allegiance to the UK Independence Party – experiencing a significant decline of support in the process. Quite how this incident was deemed to cost Labour a by-election is mystifying – the constituency of Rochester and Strood was created in 2010, and has always been represented by Reckless. See the BBC’s data on the constituency:

[80] ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[81] ‘Disability, Long Term Conditions And Poverty’ by New Policy Institute/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (July 2014):

[82] ‘Disability, Long Term Conditions And Poverty’ by New Policy Institute/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (July 2014):

[83] Page 30 in ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[84] Page 11 in ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[85] Page 9 in ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[86] Page 10 in ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[87] Pages 41; 51 in ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[88] Page 42 in ‘Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability’ by Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit (2012):

[89] The Sun was not alone with this, however. According to the Secretary of State for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith: “We’ve seen a rise in the run up to PIP. And you know why? They know PIP has a health check. They want to get in early, get ahead of it. It’s a case of ‘get your claim in early’” as quoted in ‘Disabled benefit claimants flooding welfare system to ‘get ahead’ of test, warns Iain Duncan Smith’ by Tim Ross/Telegraph (8th April 2013):

The Daily Mail made identical claims in ‘Last-minute rush to avoid tough new test for disability benefit as Iain Duncan Smith praises reform of ‘ridiculous’ system’ by James Chapman/Daily Mail (8th April 2013):

In reality, Smith and other DWP ministers repeatedly distorted the statistics on this; and misled the public. See ‘Government ‘manipulated’ DLA figures to try to justify cuts’ by John Pring/Disability News Service (1st March 2013):

Moreover, Smith lied when suggesting that Personal Independence Payment has a “health check” whilst Disability Living Allowance did not. In reality, it has a Work capability Assessment. Moreover, as outlined by the policy’s impact assessment: “To apply for Disability Living Allowance, individuals currently complete a lengthy DLA claim form which requests detailed information about the impact that their disability or health condition has on their ability to manage their care themselves and/or get around. The claim form is considered by a Decision Maker, sometimes alongside other evidence such as reports from the claimant’s General Practitioner (GP) or consultant. Currently, additional medical evidence is gathered in around half of all cases” in ‘Disability Living Allowance Reform: Equality impact assessment’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (March 2011):

[90] ‘Help us stop £1.5bn benefits scroungers’ by Jenna Sloan/The Sun (12th August 2010):

[91] ‘Help us to beat cheats’ by Grant Rollings/The Sun (14th August 2010):

[92] ‘Benefit ghettos’ by Graeme Wilson/The Sun (11th October 2010):

[93] See the archive on the journalist Nick Davies’ website:

See also ‘’An inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press: report’ – 4 volumes (29th November 2012):

Full Fact submitted written evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, concerning press-briefings from government ministers to newspapers. See ‘Full Fact Submission to the Leveson Inquiry’ by Full Fact (2012):

It is also worth reading the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s speech in Parliament, about his family being victims of News International’s hacking. See ‘House of Commons – Wednesday 13 July 2011’ (Column 397):

[94] ‘DWP answers PQ about press briefings’ by Full Fact (10th November 2010):

See also ‘Investigation ordered into DWP’s use of statistics’ by Shamik Das/Left Foot Forward (11th November 2010):

Press briefings were hardly necessary, however – with publications being only too willing to take false, misleading claims at face-value. One example among many concerned the reforms to Disability Living Allowance, as reported by Disability News Service in ‘McVey uses misleading DLA stats to ‘stoke up antagonism’’ by John Pring/Disability News Service (4th April 2013):

The Minister’s warped statistics had been duly reiterated by the Mail on Sunday in ‘I will go after bogus disabled… some of them DO get better! Ex-TV host who is our new Work Minister on the UK’s THREE MILLION claiming disability benefit’ by Simon Walters/Mail On Sunday (30th March 2013):–DO-better-Ex-TV-host-new-Work-Minister-UKs-THREE-MILLION-claiming-disability-benefit.html

The Mail had previous form on this subject, however. See ‘Disabled benefit? Just fill in a form: 200,000 got handouts last year without face-to-face interview’ by Kirsty Walker/Daily Mail (10th November 2011):

The DWP had released data on Disability Living Allowance on the same day – none of which corroborates the Daily Mail’s claims. See ‘DLA Award Values and Evidence Use for New Claims in 2010, in Great Britain’ by Helen Capocci/Department for Work and Pensions (10th November 2011):

[95] ‘Labour’s Emily Thornberry quits over ‘snobby’ tweet’ by the BBC (21st November 2014):

[96] ‘How Newsnight humiliated single mother Shanene Thorpe’ by Samira Shackle/New Statesman (29th May 2012):

See also: ‘Shanene Thorpe: I felt judged and victimised by Newsnight’ by Shanene Thorpe/Guardian (31st May 2012):

And: ‘How Newsnight demonised a single mother’ by Chris Banyard/Liberal Conspiracy (25th May 2012):

[97] ‘“Demonising the government”: Sue Marsh v Chris Grayling (and Emily Maitlis)’ by Alex Hern/Left Foot Forward (13th January 2012):

[98] ‘The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys’ by the BBC (27th October 2011):

[99] Humphry’s corresponding article in the Daily Mail expanded on this theme, omitting any reference to the existence of in-work benefits; instead dividing recipients into “people who are desperate for a job – any job” and “people for whom idleness is a lifestyle choice and are quite happy to admit to it” in
‘JOHN HUMPHRYS: How our welfare system has created an age of entitlement’ by John Humphrys/Daily Mail (8th August 2013):

[100] See page 23 in ‘Editorial Standards Findings: Appeals to the Trust and other editorial issues considered by the Editorial Standards Committee – June 2013’ by the BBC Trust (July 2013):

[101] ‘BBC Trust: ‘Age of Entitlement’ programme on welfare reform broke accuracy and impartiality rules’ by Child Poverty Action Group (30th July 2013):

[102] Smith has repeatedly been caught disseminating false and misleading claims about the benefit system, in order to justify dismantling the protections it affords. For example, see the letter from Andrew Dilnot to Smith regarding DWP statistics (9th May 2013):—correspondence/correspondence/letter-from-andrew-dilnot-to-rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-090513.pdf

Also: ‘Iain Duncan Smith used false statistics to justify disability benefit cuts’ by Adam Bienkov/ (16th May 2014):

And: ‘Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Statistical Foul Play’ Exposed For Fourth Time In Year’ by Asa Bennett/Huffington Post (6th March 2013):

[103] As Smith declared “My statement was based on personal observations. Statistical information on the number of UK families in which three generations have never worked is not available”. The photograph of his letter can be accessed at:

Not dissimilar was Smith citing the notorious Benefits Street show, in Parliament, in order to justify his policies:

“Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Has the Secretary of State managed to watch programmes such as “Benefits Street” and “On Benefits & Proud”? If so, has he, like me, been struck by the number of people on them who manage to combine complaining about welfare reform with being able to afford to buy copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos, and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television? Does he understand the concerns and irritation of many people who go to work every day and pay their taxes but cannot afford those kinds of luxuries?

Mr Duncan Smith: My hon. Friend is right: many people are shocked by what they see. That is why the public back our welfare reform package, which will get more people back to work and end these abuses. All these abuses date back to the last Government, who had massive spending and trapped people in benefit dependency” in ‘House of Commons – Monday 13 January 2014’ (Column 579):

These sentiments were echoed by the Daily Mail in ‘Cutting benefits is a moral mission like ending slavery, Iain Duncan Smith claims in vow to end Britain’s welfare ‘ghettos” by Matt Chorley and James Chapman/Daily Mail (23rd January 2014):

Philip Davies’ Parliamentary-expenses demonstrate his personal hypocrisy here adequately enough for present purposes; as can be seen in ‘Shipley MP heads local claims list’ by Ben Barnett/Telegraph & Argus (31st March 2009):

As far as Duncan Smith’s sentiments go, it’s always easy to reach conclusions of this kind when you’re in the habit of making things up as you go along. It is of course poverty which traps people – benefits are the lifeline, as outlined in: ‘Welfare Benefits – A necessity not a lifestyle choice’ by the Trades Union Congress (No date – c. 2010):

The claims made by the Daily Mail were equally baseless. See ”Benefits Street’ and the Myth of Workless Communities’ by Robert MacDonald, Tracy Shildrick, and Andy Furlong/Teesside University; University of Glasgow; University of Leeds (26th April 2014):

See also: ‘James Turner Street exists: Benefits Street doesn’t’ by Declan Gaffney/Left Foot Forward (23rd January 2014):

[104] ‘The ‘welfare scrounger’ is exposed as myth by new report’ by Teeside University (13th December 2012):

For the report in question, see ‘Are ‘Cultures of Worklessness’ passed down the generations?’ by Tracy Shildrick, Robert MacDonald, Andy Furlong, Johann Roden, and Robert Crow/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (December 2012):

The report makes it very evident that attributing the subjects’ unemployment to their outlook amounts to nothing more than victim-blaming.

[105] ‘“Never working families” – a misleading sound-bite?’ by Lindsey Macmillan and Paul Gregg/Inequalities Blog (21st February 2012):

[106] ‘“Never working families” – a misleading sound-bite?’ by Lindsey Macmillan and Paul Gregg/Inequalities Blog (21st February 2012):

See also: ‘Justifying ‘Never-Working Families’?’ by Lindsey Macmillan/Inequalities Blog (15th April 2013):

And: ‘Measuring the intergenerational correlation of worklessness’ by Lindsey Macmillan/Centre for Market and Public Organisation (December 2011):

[107] ‘Choosing a life on benefits is no longer an option; by Mark Hoban MP/Department for Work and Pensions (22nd October 2012):

See also the DWP’s webpage ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance sanctions’, which collates the data on sanctions:

The new sanctions-system was inaugurated on 22nd October 2012; and came into effect during December 2012. In reality, sanctions have existed as part of the benefit-system since the 1980’s; and nobody has ever been able to choose a life on benefits. See ‘Sanctions in the benefit system: Evidence review of JSA, IS and IB sanctions’ by the Social Security Advisory Committee (February 2006):

See also: ‘Inquiry into the Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system – JSA Sanctions and Disallowances’ by David Webster/University of Glasgow (no date – c. 2014)::

[108] ‘The Social Security (Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance) (Waiting Days) Amendment Regulations 2014 (S.I.2014 No. 2309)’ by the Social Security Advisory Committee (September 2014):

Also: ‘Making people wait longer for their benefits: The government admits it’s going to hurt vulnerable people, but are they bothered?’ by Richard Exell/Touchstone Blog (4th September 2014):

[109] For a broader discussion of the impact sanctions have on women, see page 4 in ‘The impact of benefit sanctions on people in Coventry’ by Coventry Law Centre, Coventry Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Coventry Women’s Voices, and the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick (September 2014):

[110] ‘Latest Foodbank Figures Top 900,000’ by the Trussell Trust (2014):

[111] ‘Written Submission From South Lanarkshire Council’ by Kay McIntosh/South Lanarkshire Council (April 2014):

[112] See page 5 in ‘Walking the breadline: the scandal of food poverty in 21st century Britain’ by Niall Cooper and Sarah Dumpleton/Church Action On Poverty and Oxfam (May 2013)

See also: ‘Big rise in UK food poverty sees 20m meals given out in last year by Jonaid Jilani/Oxfam (9th June 2014):

[113] In addition to foodbanks, the Red Cross also launched a food parcel campaign, in October 2013.

See ‘Red Cross and FareShare tackle hunger in the UK’ by the Red Cross (10th October 2013):

It was initiated in response to austerity policies, and subsequent cuts to social security budgets and services, throughout Europe. See ‘Think differently Humanitarian impacts of the economic crisis in Europe’ by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (2013):

Of particular note is ‘Table 4. Consumer price index and average wages, 2008-2011’ on page 26, which demonstrates how the cost of living had increased, while incomes declined.

[114] ‘Cruel benefit sanctions are a return to Victorian England, according to a foodbank manager’ by Joanna Morris/Northern Echo (5th October 2014):

[115] ‘Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill: Impact Assessment’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (January 2013):

See also: ‘Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill (HL Bill 78 of 2012–13)’ by Nicola Newson/House of Lords Library (6th February 2013):

[116] ‘Latest Foodbank Figures Top 900,000’ by the Trussell Trust (2014):

This is true in Scotland, as well as England. For the demographics of people using foodbanks and crisis type/ reasons for referral see paragraphs 2-4 in ‘Written Submission From South Lanarkshire Council’ by Kay McIntosh/South Lanarkshire Council (April 2014):

Foodbanks are not necessarily adequate, of course. Here in Hull, the situation has proven especially perilous. See ‘Food bank forced to turn hungry north Hull families away’ by Katy Forrester/ Hull Daily Mail (11th May 2013):

See also ‘Food theft on rise as Hull families struggle’ by Jenna Thompson/Hull Daily Mail (17th June 2013):

And ‘Mums ‘selling sex to feed their children as benefit cuts hit Hull’s poorest” by Jenna Thompson/Hull Daily Mail (13th August 2013)

[117] David Freud and Michael Gove, respectively; as quoted in ‘Food Bank Demand Driven By Cuts And Sanctions To Benefits, New Report Finds’ by Jessica Elgot/Huffington Post (19th November 2014):

In reality, people on low-incomes are very good at managing their finances – Ipsos Mori and the DWP itself have conducted research which outlined this. See ‘Work and the welfare system: a survey of benefits and tax credits recipients’ by Trinh Tu and Steven Ginnis/Department for Work and Pensions (2012):

See also: ‘The impact of Universal Credit’ by Caroline Booth/Ipsos Mori (28th September 2012):

[118] ‘Hitting The Poorest Places Hardest: The local and regional impact of welfare reform’ by Christina Beatty and Steve Fothergill/Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University (April 2013):

[119] ‘Households Below Average Income An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2012/13’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (July 2014):

[120] ‘Disability Living Allowance Reform: Impact Assessment’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (May 2012):

[121] See the government’s own advice on how to ‘Appeal A Benefit Decision’:

See also: ‘Mandatory reconsideration in employment and support allowance’ by Citizens Advice Bureau (13th June 2014):

[122] ‘Employment and Support Allowance: Reasons for Assignment to the Support and Work Related Activity Groups by Primary Health Condition Category’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (25th January 2013):

For the DWP’s data on ESA sanctions see ‘ESA Sanctions Official Statistics’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (February 2012):

See also: ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance sanctions: decisions made to March 2014’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (13th August 2014):

And:   ”Shocking increase’ in ESA sickness benefit sanctions’ by the BBC (13th August 2014):

[123] This was outlined in an extremely convoluted write-up. See ‘People on sickness benefits now able to take part in voluntary work experience to help them move towards a job’ by Mark Hoban/Department for Work Pensions (30th November 2012)::

While the expectation was two weeks, it notes “There are currently no plans to set a fixed minimum or maximum length for a work placement.” This is despite openly acknowledging that these people are incapable of working. For a critique of this scheme, see ‘Anger as government adds disabled people to workfare scheme’ by John Pring/Disability News Service (6th December 2012):

[124] See ‘DWP Quarterly Statistical Summary’ by Katie Dodd/Department for Work and Pensions (13th August 2014):

Page 14 explains that: “Over three-quarters (83 per cent) decisions to apply a sanction were made because of a failure to participate in work related activity (this includes failure to participate in the Work Programme), with the remaining due to a failure to attend a mandatory interview”. These, of course, are people that the DWP knows are incapable of working; being sanctioned because they did not participate in a scheme designed to place them in work.

[125] For example ‘Man with terminal brain cancer told he’s ‘fit for work” by Ian Dunt/ (12th November 2012):

Working people are also subject to something very similar, by virtue of Occupational Health Professionals in workplaces. See ‘Fit For Work’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (2nd October 2014):

See also: ‘New support to tackle long-term sickness absence’ by David Freud/Department for Work and Pensions (17th January 2013):

[126] ‘Rethink Mental Illness: New GP survey shows Government welfare test is pushing vulnerable people to the brink’ by Rethink Mental Illness/ (4th September 2012):

See also case studies in ‘GP experience of the impact of austerity on patients and general practices in very deprived areas’ by David Blane and Graham Watt/GP’s At The Deep End (March 2012):

[127] ‘DWP contradicts its own position on benefit-related deaths… again’ by John Pring/Disability News Service (17th October 2014):

[128] ‘DWP admits investigating 60 benefit-related deaths since 2012’ by John Pring/Disability News Service (14th November 2014):

[129] ‘David Clapson’s awful death was the result of grotesque government policies’ by Frances Ryan/Guardian (9th September 2014):

Also: ‘Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut’ by Amelia Gentleman/Guardian (28th February 2014):

[130] ‘Half-blind UK widow commits suicide after incapacity benefit cut’ by Reuters (28th November 2014):

[131] ‘Benefit cuts blind man committed suicide after Atos ruled him fit to work’ by Luke Traynor/Mirror (28th December 2013):

[132] ‘Man with brain damage and ‘uncontrolled’ epilepsy hanged himself when DWP threatened to cut benefits’ by Jeremy Armstrong/Mirror (22nd September 2014):

[133] ‘Father from Hendon took fatal overdose after benefits were cut’ by Chris Hewett/This Is Local London (14th May 2014):

[134] ‘UK Welfare Reform Deaths ~ Updated List ~ October 21st 2014’ by John McArdle/Black Triangle Campaign (21st October 2014):

[135] ‘Suicides in the United Kingdom, 2011’ by the Office for National Statistics (22nd January 2013):

Also: ‘Suicides in the United Kingdom, 2012 Registrations’ by the Office for National Statistics (18th February 2014):

And: ‘Preventing suicide in England – A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives’ by the Department of Health (September 2012):

[136] For a discussion of the complexity herein, see ‘2008 Recession Linked To Thousands of Suicides, Study Finds’ by Amir Khan/Everyday Health (17th September 2013):

[137] ”Expect suicides’ with recession’ by the BBC (8th July 2009):

[138] ‘Tottington man committed suicide after being turned down for up to 40 jobs’ by the Bury Times (21st May 2014):

[139] ‘Rise in suicides blamed on impact of recession’ by Sarah Boseley/Guardian (14th August 2012):

[140] See page 15 in ‘The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness’ by the University of Manchester (July 2013):

This was actually 846 male fatalities higher than expected. The level of suicide among women was also higher than had been predicted. See ‘Rise in suicides blamed on impact of recession’ by Sarah Boseley/Guardian (14th August 2012):

[141] ‘Suicides associated with the 2008-10 economic recession in England: time trend analysis’ by Ben Barr (et al)/British Medical Journal (14th August 2012):

For the international evidence, see ‘Impact of 2008 global economic crisis on suicide: time trend study in 54 countries’ by Shu-Sen Chang/British Medical Journal (17th September 2013):

[142] See ‘Rise in suicides blamed on impact of recession’ by Sarah Boseley/Guardian (14th August 2012):

The Guardian was citing ‘Suicides associated with the 2008-10 economic recession in England: time trend analysis’ by Ben Barr (et al)/British Medical Journal (14th August 2012):

[143] See page 8 in ‘National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England’ by the Department of Health (2002):

For a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between gender, socio-economics, and suicide, see ‘Men, Suicide And Society – Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide’ by the Samaritans (September 2012):

Also: ‘Men And Suicide – Why It’s A Social Issue’ by the Samaritans (No date – c. 2008):

And: ‘Suicide Statistics Report 2014 – Including data for 2010-2012’ by Elizabeth Scowcroft/Samaritans (March 2014):

[144] See page 4 in ‘Men, Suicide And Society – Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide’ by the Samaritans (September 2012):

[145] ‘Devastated Salford mum killed herself over redundancy blow’ by Ben Turner/Manchester Evening News (25th August 2011):

[146] ‘Job seeker, 21, with 3 A-levels and 10 GCSEs, kills herself after she was rejected for 200 jobs’ by James Tozer/Daily Mail (23rd April 2010):

[147] ‘England’s mental health services ‘in crisis” by Michael Buchanan/BBC (16th October 2013):

See also: ‘The impact of cuts on mental health services: Good mental health in Leicester?’ by Jim Dooher and Liz Rye/Mental Health Nursing (2013):

Along with: ‘We are going backwards: mental health cuts exacerbate a growing health burden’ by Mental Health Foundation (14th August 2014):

Also: ‘Cuts leave NHS mental health services ‘dangerously close to collapse” by Charlie Cooper/Independent (14th August 2014):

And: ‘Mental health care cuts drove my daughter to suicide, claims vicar’ by Nicola Harley/Telegraph (19th August 2014):

[148] ‘Tories discuss stripping benefits claimants who refuse treatment for depression’ by Tim Ross/Telegraph (12th July 2014):

[149] See ‘Benefits withdrawal led to man’s suicide’ by Karen Darley/Gazette & Herald (17th April 2013):

Also: ‘Southfields dad committed suicide after housing benefit cut’ by Omar Oakes/This Is Local London (25th August 2011):

[150] ‘What have booze, fags and TVs got to do with benefits?’ by Frances Ryan/Guardian (3rd September 2013):

[151] ‘See what they did there?’ by Declan Gaffney (18th November 2012):

See also: ‘One and half cheers for Lib Dem opposition to Osborne’s benefit cap’ by Declan Gaffney/Left Foot Forward (17th May 2011):

[152] See ‘Cumulative Impact Assessment: A Research Report by Landman Economics and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for the Equality and Human Rights Commission’ by Howard Reed and Jonathan Portes/Equality and Human Rights Commission (2014):

[153] ‘David Cameron: Why the Archbishop of Westminster is wrong about welfare’ by David Cameron/Telegraph (18th Feb 2014):