Unemployed? On a low income? Make sure you vote!

// 5 May 2010

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Please note that the following blog post only represents my own opinion and is not meant to be taken as “the official F-word view on the election”

I think the poster says it all. For all the hug-a-hoodie bluster and smooth talking about “compassionate conservatism”, it seems the Tories are still willing to go after anyone who isn’t already part of the elite or willing and able to play their game. What with hating on unemployed people being so very fashionable at the moment, the tough-talking slogan “Let’s cut benefits for those who refuse to work” is certainly an easy line to throw out there. It fits perfectly next to the template poster backdrop of Cameron in mid-flow, with his finger in the air as if he’s got some no-nonsense idea that just can’t fail. It matters little that the notion is nothing new. It makes no difference that benefit claimants are already being pitched against each other in the undignified flurry to have to show who is more “deserving” and who is “taking the piss” when they should be helped to support each other and fight for their rights. Because, of course, there are no rights in a climate where a beggars-can’t-be-choosers ethic seems to dominate popular thinking and it appears to be widely considered perfectly okay for an underclass who are seen to have failed to prove themselves to be forced to do the jobs those with enough capital to not need to claim benefits can refuse. Unethical employers can always find someone to exploit under such a regime. It’s business as usual.

In keeping with this predictable vibe, the Prime Ministerial debate in Bristol a couple of weeks ago saw Cameron making a total of seven references to people who “have done the right thing” and talking about such people apparently getting “penalised and punished” by the system:

“I want to make sure that when we see people going into old age, that if you have worked hard, if you’ve saved, if you’ve put money aside, you are not punished and that’s why we say as well it is not right that you should have to pay for your residential care and someone who didn’t do the right thing gets the whole thing paid for free, that’s not fair and we are going to change that.”

The values are clear: look after high earners and those who tow the line and “do the right thing” according to Conservative values, while those with enough privilege not to need to are home and dry anyway, regardless of how they conduct themselves. People living in poverty who fail to make ends meet despite trying or -worse still- dare not to bother to wear themselves out in some attempt to be seen to be Doing the Right Thing can forget it.

And what exactly is “doing the right thing” anyway? For example, I’m frugal and try to save money when I can. Does this mean I should feel some sense of smug satisfaction when someone who hasn’t is left to fend for themselves? Others might have worked all hours in jobs they hate and live for the day they retire so they can get a decent pension but what about those who didn’t, for whatever reason? What about someone whose career plans didn’t work out? What about people who lacked privilege and failed to pull themselves up by the bootstraps like a good Tory is supposed to, regardless of circumstances? To hell with them eh Cameron? What happened to the concept of dignity for all? Are we going to admit defeat and say it died along with old Labour?

I would say those of us who still believe in such concepts need to prove it hasn’t by making sure we vote for whoever can beat the Tories in our areas. I realise the other options are not necessarily ideal but those of us who will be most negatively effected by the Tory regime need to make our voices heard.

Photo of Conservative campaign poster sourced on Flickr through the conservativeparty profile. Please go here if you come to this page and find it is no longer up.

Comments From You

Elmo // Posted 6 May 2010 at 7:39 am

I saw this slogan in their broadcast and couldnt believe it-seriously, *seriously* what year do they think we live in?

I wonder if they all assume they deserve their inherited millions.

Voting for first time today.

It wont be tory

Jen // Posted 6 May 2010 at 9:04 am

But we already DO cut benefits for those who refuse work!

Look at his horrible smug face. Eyuck.

childerowland // Posted 6 May 2010 at 9:07 am

The conservative council in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has a terrible record where homeless people are concerned – closing down shelters in winter and not helping a pregnant woman who was homeless on account of fleeing from dometic violence. Apparently the council has been praised by David Cameron for its ‘compassionate conservatism’!

Amy Clare // Posted 6 May 2010 at 9:15 am

I agree whole heartedly with this, Holly.

Anyone who is unemployed for reasons of illness or disability would also have an extremely tough time under the Tories. I wonder whether David Cameron’s conception of ‘doing the right thing’ extends to not getting ill or becoming disabled? Because that’s under people’s control, right?

In the last debate (broadcast on the BBC) Cameron talked about incapacity benefit and how people were on it for years, and how he was going to ‘get them off’ said benefit and into work… How does he plan to do that, I wondered. By curing long-term illnesses and magicking away people’s disabilities? Because even if he decides that it’s not ‘the right thing’ for people to be off sick from work, and he moves the goalposts and herds sick and disabled people onto Jobseekers’ then forces them to take a job, the physical reality is still the same. It is still just not physically possible for some people to work, and when forced into a job, these people will not manage to do it, will make their illnesses worse, will have to use more NHS services, and so on. With all the consequences that brings for one’s mental and physical state.

Sick and disabled people haven’t exactly had the best time of it under New Labour, but the Tories would undoubtedly make things worse.

coldharbour // Posted 6 May 2010 at 10:56 am

I’ll be voting for the Green Party for a number of reasons;

(1) A %50 tax band for those earning over £100,000.

(2) A policy of subsidizing and investing in public transport (which is used disproportionately by those on low incomes).

(3)Halt spending on the national identity register (which costs approximately £10bn).

(4)Abolish student fees and re-introduce free higher education.

(5)State funding to create a million new public sector jobs to regulated waste and emissions.

(6)Halt the privatization of the NHS, increase funding and bring back public sector control.

I don’t think the Green Party are perfect by any means but policy wise they are miles ahead of the mainstream parties. As much as I dislike our electoral system I will be voting today.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 6 May 2010 at 12:27 pm

Where are these ‘jobs’ which unemployed women and men are supposed to find? I’ve been unemployed and I know how hard it is to find work.

Cameron and all the other politicians – unemployed women and men do not have access to ‘parliamentary benefits’ such as expenses etc.

How are you going to create work when reality is such work isn’t available unless an unemployed woman/man wishes to undertake work wherein the pay is below poverty level. Single person’s unemployment benefit is £64.20 approx. a week which is less than £10 a day. Now compare this to state pension which is approx £95 a week single person and there are pension credits available which means a single person receives approx £132 a week.

Ah but ‘work’ will lift everyone out of poverty so says Cameron et al – except it is never that simple. Scapegoat the unemployed and this ensures voters’ minds are conveniently diverted away from the real issues – the bloated salaries paid to white males holding powerful corporate positions etc.

sianmarie // Posted 6 May 2010 at 12:39 pm

well said holly. you finally got to say it!

what is ‘doing the right thing’? i was unemployed for a chunk of last year. i didn’t refuse to work, but the jobs weren’t there. they tried to get me to apply for a job a 2 hour drive away.

my idea of the ‘right thing’ probably pretty much is not the tory idea! in the same way my idea of family values is pretty much different to them to.

it’s just soundbites! it doesn’t mean anything. it doesn’t take into account the different lives of people, the different pressures, the problems that people have.

i am so depressed!

Holly Combe // Posted 6 May 2010 at 12:50 pm

@Sian. You remembered! (Sian and I attended the Radio 5 debate at the Watershed during the Prime Ministerial debates in Bristol on 22 April.)

I know what you mean about feeling depressed… But, hey, you never know what today might bring (make sure you vote, everyone!) and, if the worst happens, I’m sure we’ll cope. After all, we had to before 1997 and, of course, New Labour turned out to be bad enough anyway. All ammunition I guess!

Hannah // Posted 6 May 2010 at 1:05 pm

Clearly this poster is stupid – as another commenter pointed out, we already cut benefits for people who refuse to work. But Cameron is hitting a raw nerve in the country with this poster – most people have some experience of people who are on benefits that don’t want to work (for me, it’s the kids who got EMA to disrupt my A level classes and boasted about spending the cash on cigarettes and alcohol). And it’s not right wing or reactionary to feel frustrated that some people get care in their old age for free, whilst people who have worked have to pay full care home fees. Feelings of unfairness are natural, but it’s not right to play on them as Cameron does, without giving any sense of their nuances. There’s no way to tell between people who ‘don’t want to work’ and people who are desperate for a job, whilst even my parents who moan about the cost of my granddad’s care wouldn’t want to see people who couldn’t afford it dying on the streets. As everyone’s saying, the Conservative campaign is so painfully oversimplified, but we shouldn’t condemn people straight away for feeling like things somehow aren’t fair. They’re not fair, but no-one would want the alternative.

The big problem with this poster is that it stirs up underlying social tensions, but can’t actually be blamed for creating hatred because it doesn’t specify any person as the offender. As you say, Jennifer Drew, it scapegoats the unemployed as a vague mass.

I really hope they don’t get in today!

Carrie // Posted 6 May 2010 at 1:44 pm

Well exactly, what does “doing the right thing” mean anyway? And who determines whether whoever is being judged has been given any chances to do the right thing? It’s relatively easy to do the right thing when you’re provided with a good start in life and a good social background…

Apart from that, the notion of “doing the right thing” seems laughable in this recession anyway. I always worked hard, did well in my degrees, stayed out of trouble blah blah blah…worked throughout my degrees both in term-time and during holidays to gain experience and earn money and be debt-free, I have a research degree, speak a couple of languages etc etc and there are no jobs to get, not even low-paid ones. I’m still living off savings so I don’t have to go on benefits and ruin my future credit rating in case I ever want to own anything. The jobs I have so far interviewed for were all over an hour on public transport with 3 bus changes despite me living in a relatively big city, and one turned me down for “being too good a candidate”. It’s a joke. It makes you wonder why you ever bothered to make an effort in anything! Anyway, personal rant over ;)

I mean, who’s fault is it that the majority of jobs out there are about selling people crap they don’t need, and the profitability of everything, and people have to commute like there’s no tomorrow with less time for family and life, while doing so much overtime that no one cares to compensate for? It’s miserable. (Conservative) capitalism has no ethics or ideals, it goes to bed with the highest bidder.

Sorry for the anger – I just saw a times article on how sending 16yr olds to war (proposed Cameron policy) is a good thing, apparently, to make them face real life. Stupid testosterone-fuelled misguided romanticised campfire idealism! Anyway, I digress…

saranga // Posted 6 May 2010 at 1:45 pm

i ddi a blgo post aboutt hsi poster recently..


that poster is spreading disinformation and (near) lies. it makes me so angry.

Rose // Posted 6 May 2010 at 2:18 pm

I’m unemployed, I do technically volunteer for charities though, and keep an extensive vegetable garden, and help out on my fathers farm, I plant trees, and try to encourage the local wildlife populations. I’m also doing a part time Open Uni degree, and don’t claim any benefits….. now, am I a bad person, or a good ‘non-claimant’?

I’ve had friends forced off benefits to work for effectively 2.50 an hour, after paying for bus fares.

I also had a friend forced off incapacity benefit, with depression, put into working in a factor, who responded a week later with a suicide attempt.

When I was 18 I was on benefits for a while, but they didn’t seem to understand that the only jobs going were either too far away, or doing something which I found morally questionable, (working in a shop that sold loads of porn, or in a pub where alcoholics with shaky hands were being congratulated for their loyalty to the pub).

In the end I had to get a travelling job, meaning that I lived with different people in a different part of the country every week, barely earning minimum wage. Only allowed to take a small bag of belongings and not having friends/family/home in my life.

I really don’t think that the Tories want that sort of life for their own socio-economic group, but in the Tory world, us commoners can sod off back to the gutter.

@Coldharbour, hell yeah, I voted Green too – I like their crazy ideas about equality and respecting the environment!

Holly Combe // Posted 6 May 2010 at 2:27 pm

I mean, whose fault is it that the majority of jobs out there are about selling people crap they don’t need, and the profitability of everything, and people have to commute like there’s no tomorrow with less time for family and life, while doing so much overtime that no one cares to compensate for? It’s miserable. (Conservative) capitalism has no ethics or ideals, it goes to bed with the highest bidder.

Well said, Carrie. I really like what the Greens have to say about choice in how we want to use our time. I’ve no idea if it would work though because, quite frankly, today’s political climate makes it sound like a fantasy.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 6 May 2010 at 4:16 pm

There is also a myth being proposed here that *if* you work your whole life that you will have savings, a pension, a house and money to look after you in your old age. Plenty of people do work their whole lives and don’t have any extra money at any point!

It is just such sickening class privilege to imagine that being middle class is an act of will or hardwork. Even those of us who came from working-class backgrounds and made it into the middle class recognise that it took a lot of support (emotional if not financial) from our families and sometimes success just came down to pure good luck. Plus, we can’t be middle class without people working in shops, emptying our bins, preparing our food- and yet the people who enable our class privilege- even if they work their whole lives- can’t afford to buy their own houses or have savings or pay into a private pension. And it is bullshit to say otherwise.

And do not get me started on the fact that it was decisions by the Tories in the 1980s, that thought that it was better (cheaper) for the economy to have a continuous group of unemployed people in society than to support British industry. They actually did the math and thought that a certain level of unemployment was the better outcome for society. And, it is that economy we have lived with ever since- and now instead of saying we created this problem, what can we do to help- they blame the people who suffered by their decisions.

Shea // Posted 6 May 2010 at 10:23 pm

@ Feminist Avatar- Amen to all of that.

It was also the beginning of the transfer of public wealth (assets, industry etc) into private hands, which we are still seeing with the bank bailout and public sector cuts now.

Shea // Posted 6 May 2010 at 10:45 pm

I’d also like to echo the other posters in “where are these jobs going to come from” for people currently unemployed/on incapacity benefit?

“And it’s not right wing or reactionary to feel frustrated that some people get care in their old age for free, whilst people who have worked have to pay full care home fees.”

Actually I strongly disagree with this. I don’t have any problem with people who have sizeable assets being forced to sell or liquidate them in order to pay for THEIR care. Normally the Tories have no problem removing state support from people, but here when it is their key voting demographic they are proposing that care be funded by the state. How? If people won’t be forced to sell their homes to pay the care must be funded by taxpayers and that is a burden too far.

We are also talking about inflated house prices and illusory wealth from a housing bubble that has now burst. Why shouldn’t the people who have benefitted from favourable market conditions be forced to put these assets into use when need be. People who don’t have them obviously can’t do this. But it shouldn’t be the taxpayer funding care for the elderly so that they can protect an estate for inheritance purposes.

Holly Combe // Posted 6 May 2010 at 11:08 pm

And then we have this:

“One estimate suggests that 25,000 people might quit Britain to escape the 50% tax. Political leaders are divided over it. David Cameron says if it raises no significant revenue, it would be “painless” to drop it early in a Tory government”.

Nice. Let’s just take the money from people on benefits instead. They can’t afford it but never mind that. Keeping the nice rich people happy is just so much more important.

Horry // Posted 7 May 2010 at 12:32 am

I think there are lots of people who think that, since they work hard and are wealthy, anyone who works hard can be wealthy. It’s how massively privileged people justify their privilege to themselves, writ large in a way which will ruin the lives of so many others. It’s so desperately ignorant and simplistic it hurts. But I can see how it can appeal even to voters who lose out, since it would be great if it were true and we all had so much power over our own lives. And left-wingers are the ones who get accused of not living in the real world!

The really depressing thing is, I don’t think people always see how these things apply to them. For instance, my elder brother has never held down a job and has always been on incapacity benefits. He still reads the Daily Mail, hates left-wingers and thinks everyone else on benefits is a scrounger, just not him. David Cameron would love him (then take away his benefits all the same).

Elmo // Posted 7 May 2010 at 11:47 am

The thing that i highly doubt rich people ever consider is that there is actually a barrier on how hard *anyone* can work before they collaspe with exhaustion.

There are only so many hours in a day you can put in, only so many bricks you can lift, only so many forms you can fill in. And there are poor people right now using just as much time, effort and energy to do their jobs as the rich people (and more than many rich people, i suspect).

But the rich simply cant fathom that just because a job pays less, doesn’t mean it takes less effort. Often it takes much, much more. Especially if your daily life is already a stuggle.

I cant beleive we still live in a country where you are blamed for your poverty and circumstances, where people like firefighters and binmen and other people often completly disregarded, yet vital to society, get paid so little in comparison to those rich who contribute much less.

This makes me kinda mad

This wasnt really on topic, soz

FeminaErecta // Posted 7 May 2010 at 12:14 pm

Following on from what Elmo said, I once had a very long argument with a woman when I was managing a socialist stall in Leeds town centre. She was doing the usual ‘you just want to take everyones hard earned cash away’ saying ‘hard-working’ people shouldn’t be taxed all their money off them, I asked her to give me an example of a hardworking person and she said she couldn’t really, apart from herself of course, but they’d earned what they did because they worked so hard. I asked her if she thought that cleaners didn’t work hard, or care assistants or nursary school workers and she said ‘yes but they don’t count’.

I was so incredibly angry I had to restrain myself!

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