Knives out

Sure enough, it didn't take long for the UK's two big dinosaur parties – and the media – to react with fury to the unexpected Lib Dem surge.

We can but hope the curiously-proportioned bar graph and contradictory sets of figures are a biting satirical comment about the unreliability of opinion polls from Murdoch-controlled Sky News, but I fear that's a touch optimistic.

It's hard to pick out the best bit of anti-Lib-Dem hysteria that the media and other parties have managed to come up with at short notice since last week's debate caught them all on the hop. Is it the Labour election leaflet shrieking "CLEGG WILL GIVE PAEDOS THE VOTE!", perhaps?

Could it be the Mail's massive-overkill special on "THE GREAT LIBERAL DECEPTION", leading with the claim that the Lib Dems will release 60,000 criminals onto Britain's streets overnight? (The best bit being the fantastic "First, let's be clear that this newspaper has nothing against the Lib-Dems.")

Or what about The Sun's big scoop, which discovered that Clegg (idiotically) left his debate briefing notes on the back seat of a taxi, revealing – shockingly – that he's being advised to speak in a manner that resonates with voters and to try to focus the discussion away from Lib Dem policies that are thought to be less popular. The scandal!

Both the Mail and Sun go big on the horrors of a hung parliament. "The mayhem of proportional representation", panics the Mail, only to be resoundingly shouted down by reader comments overwhelmingly in favour of it, while the Sun slings around words like "chaos", "crisis" and "very dangerous" to refer to the prospect of a government that actually reflected the wishes of the electorate rather than just a small minority of it.

The parties themselves are falling to pieces too. The Tories have unveiled a desperate roll of the dice in the form of a poster demonising benefit claimants, which has been both satirically mocked and factually demolished within hours.

Exposing the lie of choice between the two big parties, Labour have enthusiastically jumped on the same bandwagon. In a Scottish debate shown on STV on Tuesday night, Labour's creepy, Skeletor-esqueScottish Secretary Jim Murphy was quizzed on where he'd find the huge savings necessary to reduce the national budget deficit.

The SNP representative had already offered his party's choice of cuts – the Trident replacement, ID cards and the House Of Lords would go if the SNP had its way, easily achieving billions of pounds in savings. Murphy, on the other hand, favoured recouping the City bankers' losses from the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

At 10.04 in the above debate, the Labour minister says that the only place to make these cuts is in "the cost of welfare", which the party plans to achieve by means the Scottish Secretary was unable to elaborate on (and which, we have to deduce, were somehow impossible to implement during the 13 years Labour has already been in power for, but can suddenly be done now), a miraculous achievement WoSblog viewers will already be familiar with.

Inspired by the bit of uncharacteristically-good investigative reporting by the BBC linked a few paragraphs above, I did a quick bit of calculating myself. Both Labour and the Conservatives are now committed to programmes which will punish the unemployed who "refuse" work. (Despite there being only 500,000 vacancies in the country, according to the government's own Office of National Statistics, for around 8,000,000 "economically inactive" people.)

A Jobseeker's Allowance claimant receives around £65 a week, which comes to about £3,400 a year. To save just the £1bn figure cited by the Tories as being lost to cheats, that would mean almost 300,000 recipients of the benefit – around one in five – were doing so fraudulently.

To achieve the £12bn of savings that is generally agreed to be the sum required for the next year, and which Murphy sees as being best retrieved from the welfare budget, we'd need to get a little over 3,500,000 people off JSA and into work, more than twice the number who are currently claiming the benefit. I'm sure we're all looking forward to Labour creating 3.5m jobs in the first year if Gordon Brown is back in No.10 on May 7th.

So the media are furiously preaching doom and gloom and catastrophe if we have a new government made up of MPs from more than one party, while the big two are ostensibly keeping their hands clean, instead promising us incredible miracles if only we elect them and them alone, at the expense of those damn poor who've brought the nation to its knees.

All bases covered, then. Crisis over. I'm sure the electorate will see sense and resume normal service any minute.

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4 Responses to “Knives out”

  1. Good article. It is very refreshing to see the concept of a balanced parliament (I do like that phrase, nice work Alex Salmond) gaining traction as a way to avoid the idiocies of either party.
    £12bn being, of course, less than the amount the national debt goes up per month. I'm getting a bit bored of trying to explain that the choice Labour v Tory is not between big government and small, or spending or debt reduction, but of tinkering at the margins.

  2. Demonise the poor Says:

    Good stuff, Stuart. Clearly pointed out the absurdity of these claims.

    Don't forget that not all get the full amount of Job Seekers, some get even less than the paltry £65 which would mean that even more would have to be "fraudulent" to save the full sum they are proposing. Some people only qualify for six months on it before they are cut off entirely too (handily reducing their "unemployment" statistics for TV) and left in limbo. It means that your estimate was probably generously conservative in their favour and the real efforts, if implemented, even more ridiculous and impossible.

    Jim Murphy looks to be as crooked as they come from what I have seen and read (and altogether too chummy with certain BBC staff who are blatantly biased towards him instead of asking serious questions about him in interviews and on debates like they are meant to – Glenn Campbell being the worst offender on TV), what with him found to be consorting with gangsters and his nasty comments about the poor (all the more bizarre from a Labour man) and contradictory comments and claims elsewhere. Others in Labour are being investigated for or have been found to be involved with drugs (both supply and using) and others are lining their own pockets with either expense fraud or "arms length" directorships and positions that can triple their salary when added up, or displaying contempt for their own constituents (thank you Twitter).

    There are councillors being investigated for corruption by police after the authorities dragged their feet for more than half a year (keeping things quiet before the election, I'd imagine), despite the concerns being raised by nothing less than one of their fellow council members. Labour and Tory were also caught out with the "cash for influence" sting (with the delightful self-description by one of being a taxi cab waiting for a fare), proving that they are money-grubbing scum that would happily sell us all down the river if they can squeeze a few more pounds out and into their off-shore accounts, even with the more prominent party members. Corruption and decay everywhere I look. The past few years feel like I've slipped into Bizarro Britain instead. I had no idea just how bad it was until my eyes were opened by all this. Sometimes I feel like my head is spinning with it all.

    And the newspapers and TV seems to be going into hysterics about the Liberals, a hung parliament or proportional representation being horrible and wicked for giving a fairer representation to the voters? Ridiculous. The media should be reminding us of the dodgy things everyone has been up to recently, not sweeping it under the carpet and indulging in some demonising of the opposition or alternative to the Two Cheeks of The Same Arse.

    Thank goodness for blogs and the internet, I say. Without them I would be left with nothing but the useless and untrustworthy TV and papers. I hope it remains free so that folk like Stuart and all the others out there can still speak up on subjects and discuss things that the mainstream media are often treacherously quiet on or offer little opposition to. Touch wood we don't go the way of China or worse with our internet.

  3. With regard to those bars, I can only assume the width of Nick Clegg's bar and slender nature of Cameron's accounts for the discrepancy. 

  4. i do wonder why you only have to find 12 billion pounts , we as a small country already need to find more, and are generally thought of to be in better shape, i think some more cuts will be found after the election..

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