Autumn of the Nasties
After one of the longest and most punishing summers in some years, it seems we have now gone full-tilt into a nastier autumn: the longer evenings are creeping in, and with them, the latest political vicissitudes to further indicate this nation’s nethermost spiral to date with the ‘election’ of Parliament’s first UKIP MP in the ex-Tory defector Douglas Carswell. Darker still, political pundits are now predicting the possibility of UKIP not simply picking a handful more seats at the general election next May, but quite possibly over 100!
That is, if current opinion polls indicating a tidal shift to UKIP from both the Tories and Labour (!?) are anything to go by. That the electoral rise of UKIP in the European and Local elections might be replicated to some extent in next year’s general election is nothing short of potentially apocalyptic for the political health of the UK. But a Tory-UKIP pact/coalition would be even more apocalyptic, since, depending on which policies one picks, both parties outdo one another in the ‘nasty’ stakes every bit as much as they outdo one another on the more ‘liberal’ ones.
For instance, while UKIP ‘takes no hostages’ when it comes to issues of Europe, immigration and mythologies of “benefit tourism”, they are, surprisingly, against the Tory bedroom tax! But both the Tories and UKIP are chomping at the bit to scrap the Human Rights Act. A pact between them would make such a move almost inescapable. Meanwhile, both UKIP and Labour support the Tories’ welfare caps. While the Lib Dems will say whatever it takes to try and convince the centre-left vote that they really are on the side of the underdog –just as they did in 2010 when they earned the unshakeable epithet of “vote thieves”.
Nick Clegg was of course completely correct to accuse the Tories of “beating up on the poor” with regards to George Osborne’s despicable announcement at the recent Tory conference that a further £3 billion a year will be snatched not only from the unemployed poor but also from the working poor each year in order to, in part, fund a tax break for the wealthier. And yet this is the same man who has been in coalition with the Tories for over four years now and supported most of their most heinous policies –the welfare caps, bedroom tax etc. – through Parliament. So I we supposed to seriously believe Clegg and his Orange Book compatriots are suddenly having genuine pangs of social conscience? If so, they’re Damascene moments too late for tens of thousands of victims of Tory austerity.
There is a true alternative, in the guise of the ‘fifth’ main party, the Greens –the only British party with one MP in Parliament (Caroline Lucas) which is actually left-wing (eco-socialist); the SNP and Plaid Cymru, both also essentially left-wing, are of course nationalist/regional parties. But if it’s up to the auspices of the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky, the Greens will be singularly and inexplicably excluded from next year’s televised leaders’ debates in the run up to May 2015, while UKIP’s Nigel Farage has been invited to partake in them alongside the three main party leaders seemingly on the basis of the recent surges in support for his purple-plush Chauvinist Club of a party, and, of course, its’ first MP, Douglas Carswell.
The fact that the Greens have had Caroline Lucas as an MP for over four years now doesn’t seem to have entered into our broadcasting media’s eligibility criteria for selecting party leaders for the planned debates. Anti-left sentiments aside –which we’ve come to expect form our under-regulated right-biased media establishment for some time now– it seems almost impossible to dismiss the other component here: that both the Green Party’s leader, and one sitting MP, are women. One only has to look at flush-faced laughing Farage to hit by the rhetorical question: Whoever said chauvinism was dead? With anti-immigrant, anti-European and anti-feminist attitudes on the rise in the UK today, no wonder Farage is always laughing. He can hardly believe his luck. He's certainly a man of his times.
The Recusant urges all floating voters and potential ‘UKIPpers’ reading this to please study in detail this deceptive party’s actual domestic and social policies before putting your crosses in the UKIP box next May. If Farage and his ‘gentrified fascists’ get anywhere near power next year then it’s potentially curtains for any hope of our turning back towards some semblance of social democracy –not only for another five years, but perhaps even for a generation. A Tory-UKIP pact would be the worst possible outcome in May 2015.
In spite of the received wisdom of many political pundits, The Recusant believes that a vote for UKIP is basically just a vote for a more right-wing manifestation of the Tories –Farage has even admitted this week that he would aim to form a coalition with the Tories if a withdrawal from the EU was on the cards. Who honestly thinks the Tories wouldn’t agree to that if it was the only way they could keep their grip on power? Of course they would.
'Lord' Freudian Slip No. 2: Freud the Repeat Offender Must Go
The Recusant was really not surprised to learn today of (Seth) ‘Lord’ Freud’s morally despicable remark that there are “some” disabled and mentally ill people who “are not worth the minimum wage”, the welfare minister then floating the figure of a pitiful £2 an hour for such incapacitated employees. How generous of the multi-millionaire property capitalist minister! Here is the full story on this latest ‘Lord Freudian slip’ from The Guardian (15 October 2014):
Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister, has offered a “full and unreserved apology” after Ed Miliband revealed that he told a fringe meeting at the recent Tory conference that some disabled people were “not worth” the minimum wage.
As the Labour party called for Freud to be sacked after he suggested that some people with mental disabilities could be paid as little as £2 an hour, the minister said it was “offensive” to suggest that anyone should be paid less than the minimum wage.
In a statement issued by the Department for Work and Pensions, Freud said: “I would like to offer a full and unreserved apology. I was foolish to accept the premise of the question. To be clear, all disabled people should be paid at least the minimum wage, without exception, and I accept that it is offensive to suggest anything else.
“I care passionately about disabled people. I am proud to have played a full part in a government that is fully committed to helping disabled people overcome the many barriers they face in finding employment. I am profoundly sorry for any offence I have caused to any disabled people.”
Freud issued his statement after Mencap called on him to consider his position and Downing Street distanced itself from the minister by saying there could be no exceptions to the minimum wage.
Esther McVey, a fellow DWP minister, said the remarks would “haunt” Freud. Speaking on the Daily Politics on BBC2, McVey said: “Those words will haunt him. I cannot justify those words. They were wrong. We have the minimum wage. Everybody has the minimum wage. We have done a lot to support people with disabilities.”
McVey spoke out after Miliband disclosed the remarks by Freud in answer to a question at the recent Tory conference in Birmingham about paying the minimum wage to disabled people. Around 100,000 disabled people are paid the minimum wage. The Labour leader quoted Freud as saying to his questioner at the fringe meeting: “You make a really good point about the disabled. There is a group where actually, as you say, they’re not worth the full wage.”
Asked by Miliband whether that was his view, the prime minister said: “No, absolutely not. Of course disabled people should be paid the minimum wage and the minimum wage under this government is going up and going up in real terms. It is now at £6.50. We will be presenting our evidence to the low pay commission, calling for another real-terms increase in the minimum wage.”
Miliband then quoted further from Freud, who added that he was looking at “whether there is something we can do if someone wants to work for £2 an hour”. Amid cries of “outrage” and “shame” from the Labour benches, Miliband said: “Surely someone holding those views can’t possibly stay in his government.”
Cameron, who was informed of Freud’s remarks shortly before prime minister’s questions, said: “Those are not the views of the government, they are not the views of anyone in the government. The minimum wage is paid to everybody, disabled people included.”
With his voice rising in anger, the prime minister added: “Let me tell you: I don’t need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people. So I don’t want to hear any more of that. We pay the minimum wage, we are reforming disability benefits, we want to help disabled people in our country, we want to help more of them into work. And instead of casting aspersions why doesn’t he get back to talking about the economy.”
Miliband said: “I suggest, if he wants to protect the rights of disabled people, he reads very carefully what his welfare minister has said because they are not the words of someone who ought to be in charge of policy related to disabled people.
“In the dog days of this government the Conservative party is going back to its worst instincts – unfunded tax cuts, hitting the poorest hardest, now undermining the minimum wage. The nasty party is back.”
Freud is likely to argue in private that the full exchanges at the fringe meeting show he was trying to help people with mental illness into the workplace. He is also likely to say that he was suggesting that the universal credit system could help people with “fluctuating conditions”.
But Labour said after the Commons exchanges that Freud should be sacked. Dan Scorer, the head of policy at Mencap, told The World at One on BBC Radio 4: “He needs to very seriously consider his position after making these comments … It is a very serious proposition to put forward and one we fundamentally disagree with.”
But Freud was offered some support when David Scott, a Conservative councillor from Tunbridge Wells whose question prompted his remarks, said that the discussion was about helping vulnerable people into the workplace.
Scott told The World at One: “I was wanting to explore [with Freud] how to help some very vulnerable people in the community and to find ways that these individuals could actually get greater self-worth and be introduced to the workplace to help them … The sentiment is quite clearly that he was concerned: how do we help these individuals to enter the workplace so they can feel they are adding something and gaining worth.”
In the full text, released by the Labour party, Freud was quoted as saying to Scott at the fringe meeting: “You make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through, and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the minimum wage.
“But we do have … you know, universal credit is really useful for people with the fluctuating conditions who can do some work – go up and down – because they can earn and get … and get, you know, bolstered through universal credit, and they can move that amount up and down.
“Now, there is a small … there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually…”
Scott had said: “The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.
“We had a young man who was keen to do gardening; now the only way we managed to get him to work was actually setting up a company for him, because as a director in a company we didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, we could actually give him the earnings from that. But trying to maintain his support and allow him to work, which he wanted to do, so to stay with benefits, and stay with some way of managing to continue on in that way. And I think yes, those are marginal areas but they are critical of actually keeping people who want to work supported in that process. And it’s how do you deal with those sort of cases?”
Freud has previous in this Malthusian/eugenicist line of ‘reasoning’: last year he blithely commented when questioned as to whether someone as privileged as himself could possibly understand the hardships faced by the unemployed: “You don’t have to be the corpse to go to the funeral”. It is no hyperbole at all to attribute his immoral and vindictive attitude towards the disabled and mentally ill as Malthusian and eugenicist, since that is what it is, it is implying quite explicitly that people with disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health issues are somehow ‘economic liabilities’ and therefore ‘sub-employees’, ripe for exploitation and discrimination.
That Freud laughably refers to this as somehow “helping” such persons “into work” and/or “into the community” is beyond the joke –it’s the disingenuous ‘argument’ of both hard and soft right: Arbeit Macht Frei (Works Makes You Free). But what kind of work? And what kind of freedom? Neither would be worth having and both would be punitive. Freud’s desperate comment subsequent to his insulting remarks, that he cares “passionately about disabled people” simply doesn’t sit well next a remark that some disabled people “aren’t worth the minimum wage”, no matter how he might try to spin it.
As for suggestions that Freud and his fellow minted Tories would consider state benefits topping up the sub-minimum wages of these perceived ‘sub-employees’, that’s hardly likely, is it, given their pathological hatred of both taxation and welfare? So Freud’s frankly risible ‘apology’ and attempt to flimsily slime his way out of the pit of prejudice and ignorance he’s dug himself in just a couple of tropes, is simply adding insult to injury. He must think we’re all fools.
Should Freud be sacked? One would think, morally speaking, that was a rhetorical question. But not in Tory La La Land! The Recusant thinks Freud should not only be sacked as a minister, but also stripped of his peerage, on the basis of such unacceptably inhumane and fascistic remarks (which even the likes of the truly awful disabilities minister Esther McVey has taken issue with –remarking that Freud would be “haunted” by his remarks from hence on really is quite something given her own ethically execrable record to date).
But nothing so forthright from our morally illiterate prime minister, who not for the first time resorted to the deeply cynical and debate-deflecting ‘emotional blackmail’ card of bringing up his late disabled son as some sort of Teflon-coated rejoinder to anyone who dares to try and hold this despicable government to account for its deeply reprehensible and immoral policies against the disabled through its accelerated Atos-facilitated regime of mass administrative manslaughter of approximately 40,000 incapacitated claimants in the past four years.
The Recusant commends Labour Leader Ed Miliband for quite rightly bringing the ‘Freudian slip’ issue up in Prime Minister’s Obfuscations –sorry, ‘Questions’– yesterday (15 October). On the matter of Cameron’s frankly deplorable response: “Let me tell you: I don’t need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people. So I don’t want to hear any more of that” –well, what can one say? This is the cheapest type of politics imaginable, to consistently hold up the spectre of one’s own dead disabled son as some kind of ‘moral trump card’ every time Cameron’s anti-disabled government is drawn up short in Parliament is not only utterly immature but also opportunistic in the very worst possible sense.
That Cameron’s own government has been hounding the disabled remorselessly for over four years through the atomistic Atos regime, stripping whole sections of the disabled population of the DLA they previously received for legitimate incapacities under the disingenuous subterfuge of being found “fit for work”, DLA which Cameron himself –an inherited multimillionaire– went to all the trouble of claiming even when he didn’t need a penny of it, just goes to show that having had a disabled son has done nothing for the prime minister’s empathy quotient when it comes to tens of thousands of disabled people and their carers throughout the nation who are also in the main infinitely worse off financially than he has ever been or ever will be.
It almost seems at times as if Cameron is having a kind of protracted tantrum on the issue of disabilities due to his own past trauma regarding his disabled son’s premature death (which anyone would have genuine sympathy for, irrespective of their opinions on Cameron himself); as if, since his own tragic loss, he’s simply lost interest in the subject altogether and has, Pontius Pilate-style, washed his hands of the matter and left it to his Malthusian fruitcake Work and Pensions Minister IDS to dispose of as many disabled claimants as he sees fit. The fact that Cameron has yet to sack Freud demonstrates once again his apparent contempt for the disabled people of this nation.
But so much for the old Tory-Atos mantra “fit for work”, eh? Now it seems, at least, according to Tory welfare minister ‘Lord’ Freud, that many of the disabled are not really “fit” for very much at all, except perhaps some industrial exploitation on starvation wages. Sigmund must be turning in his grave!
The Recusant fully concurs with Francis Ryan’s conclusion in The Guardian as to the basic ‘message’ put across by Freud, that it is essentially the same one used by the eugenicists of the Social Hygiene Movement in the 1930s: that all those people with physical and mental disabilities are essentially ‘sub-human’:
I promise that what you’re about to read is true. I have not orchestrated a far-fetched parody of Tory attitudes on disability and poverty. A Conservative minister – a welfare minister, no less – has actually been recorded saying that disabled people are “not worth” the full national minimum wage. It’s unclear how much less Lord Freud would like to pay disabled people: £4.50 less per hour is his first offer. Perhaps he would like to do away with cash altogether, giving blind people dog toys in exchange for a day’s work and wheelchair users shiny coins.
Recorded responding to a question from a Conservative councillor at a fringe event at the recent Tory conference, Freud said: “You make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through, and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the minimum wage ... I know exactly what you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue ... whether there is something we can do nationally ... which if someone wants to work for £2 an hour ...”
Part of me thought I’d become immune to this government – to both its attitude and actions towards disabled people. I’ve spoken to enough people, ill, in pain and afraid, who – due to the immorality or incompetence of the Department for Work and Pensions – have been rejected for disability benefits and don’t know where money for food is going to come from. I’ve met enough people who are seeing their social care cut and their independence sold off, who no longer have the support to get dressed, leave the house or go to the toilet when they want. I’ve read eviction letters when the bedroom tax has pushed carers and disabled children out of their home.
There is something about reading a government minister say you are not worth the same wage as the rest of society that goes beyond everything else. That collides with four years of taking and hurting and shaming disabled people and puts it into words. “You are disabled and that means you are not worth as much as other people.”
It’s as if they are building an underclass. A few million cheap labourers, more cogs than people. It is really something to hear the people meant to represent you articulate the belief that you are not as good as others, that you are not of value. Disabled? Different? Less citizen, more fair game to be exploited.
This news does not come in isolation. We are in the climate of the Work Programme and employment and support allowance travesties, in jobseeker’s allowance sanctions and personal independent payment delays. Coerced, free labour and a shrinking, ever conditional benefit system. Freud has not spoken out of turn, but encapsulated Conservative attitudes to both disabled people and workers: pay them as little as possible and they will be grateful for it.
The Tories are not content with forcing disabled people into work. They want to pay them a pittance when they get there. I suppose we can thank Freud. The government has been producing enough measures that infers disabled people are slightly less than human. He’s finally said it out loud.
Daily Express and Daily Mail readers might not a bat an eyelid at this kind of blatant eugenicist discrimination against the disabled and vulnerable –since they read the same kind of Malthusian hate-rhetoric on a daily basis– but surely most decent British citizens will?
In any other civilised democracy in Europe, a minister making such heinous remarks as this would undoubtedly be sacked or pushed to resign. But in Tory UK, he is simply made to ‘apologise’, have his wrists slapped in private, and then is left in his ministerial position until the whole thing ‘blows over’. That sort of governmental toleration of extreme attitudes and opinions with regards to vulnerable minorities is the start of a very slippery slope indeed.
Demonstrably, Freud is morally ‘unfit’ for his ministerial position; and, indeed, for his ermined one too. There is only one acceptable way to resolve this controversy: quite simply, Mr Cameron, you must sack your welfare minister at once! FREUD MUST GO –NOW!! Anything less than his sacking is in our opinion indicative of Cameron's complicity with Freud's despicable and pig-ignorant views.
Such is also the view of the Morning Star, as voiced in its 'Star Comment' of 18 October:
IF David Cameron believes that hiding Lord Freud away from the public eye will allow the furore over his heartless comments to subside, he’s wrong.
Telling his minister not to turn up in the House of Lords to speak in the Social Justice Strategy debate shows that the Prime Minister recognises his current toxic status.
Cameron knows that the “apology” squeezed out of Lord Freud is worthless because, when he told a Tory conference fringe meeting that some people with disabilities are “not worth” the minimum wage, he meant every word.
His non-apology simply went through the motions, making clear that he has no understanding of the anger he has excited.
“I am profoundly sorry for any offence I have caused to any disabled people,” he observed airily, oblivious to the fact that his suggestion of looking into ways of paying people £2 an hour so they could price themselves into work offends all decent people.
This was precisely the sentiment voiced by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago when she told people to take jobs whatever the pay on offer.
Although Lord Freud tries to downplay his unfeeling attitude by claiming to have simply accepted “the premise of the question” posed to him, he cannot erase the enthusiasm with which he welcomed it.
This is not a gaffe on his part. It falls in line with a succession of declarations by this multimillionaire former City banker, with luxury homes in Highgate and Kent, that illustrate his inability to understand or empathise with less well-off people.
“We cannot have people simply loafing about, doing nothing and expecting the state to finance their lifestyles,” he said after being appointed an adviser on welfare reform by new Labour.
People angered by his comments may feel that we cannot afford to pay £300 a day expenses to unelected politicians like him just to give vent to their prejudices.
There is no point in asking Lord Freud to attend Parliament to “explain” his comments.
He’s said enough already and no amount of PR-polished attempts to wheedle his way out of this scandal of his own making will do. He should go and go now.
Hear, hear. And thank God for the Morning Star -our Daily Miracle!
16-18 October 2014