In the last year the country has undergone profound economic, social and political changes. By the time of the election, Labour had created a welfare dependent working population. The managed decline with shopping centres we called urban regeneration won’t have shopping centres this time. Half of all British working families are bound by receipt of tax credits and other benefits to subsidise ever lower wages.
With nowhere near the effort Margaret Thatcher had to go to, welfare gave whichever government won the election a direct tool with which to deleverage onto the working class. The working population and the people around them, with or without a wage, who are likely to need state support. A tool used to open up markets, make changes in the labour market and cause population shifts. You don’t need to address the minimum wage when you can tinker directly with welfare. The Tories may be hoping that the left’s overdue awareness of an aspect of the welfare issue can be used to discredit the uproar they are hearing, but the kerfuffle about Workfare was a sign that those days are over. For good.
To expand the housing market and the credit market that underpinned it in the only way available, we deliberately aggravated the housing crisis using housing benefit changes. Sure enough homelessness shot up, the predicted effects occurred, and our buy to let mortgage market thanked the lord for this ‘unexpected’ boon. Both political parties agreed that welfare recipients could be demonised and displaced to make this happen. Crisis cite job losses, housing benefit cuts, and strained relationships as a source of homelessness. Our political parties consider these tried and tested tools to encourage a ‘flexible, mobile workforce’. Why else would social policy pit parents against each other, blaming each other for expected poverty? The 1 in 5 mothers missing their meals are doing precisely as they were intended to do. Welcome to enter political debate should they ever want to defend themselves….
A political consensus maintained by the same ill informed indifferent politicos now shouting about how mean workfare is(or not), made keeping the issue out of the view of our mainstream media easy as the relationship between welfare and credit was exploited to provide the only possible expansion to our personal credit market. The payday loans market. A lack of regulation, and an ability to outsource debt in every way, mean a shared knowledge of which debt collection companies are cunts, binds the working class more effectively than the pantomime language of solidarity used by our elite left. Or the one class one value sound-bites dreamed up by politicians.
The pool of welfare subsidised cheap labour the gender pay gap indicates motherhood is an entry to, was manipulated to ensure skilled work was an option few mothers could afford. Skilled work sacrificed helps employment figures, and mothers disappear quite easily. Both parties toyed with ways of reframing gender equality now that meaningful equality prevents using women as an economic tool. Not content with welfare providing a low paid pool of welfare subsidised exploitable cheap labour, the exploitation of free labour that sits underneath it was to be expanded.
Workfare was a final tweak, which provided the expected denouement to 30 years of neo liberal social policy. Most DWP staff I know are expecting to be transferred over to the welfare to work ‘industry’ within the next couple of years. A4E was no shock to anyone but a left who thought the welfare issue had gone away and have been running to catch up with the fact it won’t. And with A4E we have a heck of a can of worms. A can of worms those lefties revelling in their newfound ability to use welfare to rile an equally indifferent right, may be very sorry they cheered for when opened.
While Polly Toynbee was cheering on workfare as a way to deal with the newly discovered idle deceitful poor, the ground was being laid for our ‘welfare to work industry’. Gradually this ‘industry’, which Emma Harrison was a shining figurehead for, was expanded to absorb many of the functions our welfare state used to provide. As maximum benefit was squeezed out of budgets structurally invisble to political debate for other parts of the economy. The welfare to work industy, a triumph showing how governments can sell anything by sticking up a professionally printed poster and a shiny list of objectives. A4E and companies like them are operating as virtual arms of the state. The post welfare state vision of both our parties is one where financial literacy ensures your credit provider provide the benefit, while the ‘providers’ like A4E keeps you and the rest in line and makes sure you work for any benefit you receive. Or get off the rolls.
The marketisation, managerialism and privatisation that has crippled local authorities and eroded local democracy has always been off the table for discussion in politics. The poverty pimps of our back to work industry, the ugliest part of the iceberg surfacing first. Just as the principles of service they eroded were scheduled to disappear for good.
The Conservatives are absolutely right that the twitterstorm whipped up was by the lefties visible to our elite. The SWP were too busy practicing taking over occupations and branding other people’s protests. The activists who campaigned about Workfare did so in spite of the visible left this year, most of whom were rather busy carving their niche and the political capital of assumed docile proles. Chris Grayling didn’t realise those lefties are just covering their track record on the most significant economic changes this country has seen in decades. After a year of marginalising and obfuscating this issue, and trying to squeeze every bit of career juice out of the Labour Party who designed workfare, they were forced to.
The right know they are trolling people, the economic orthodoxy that underpinned the economic stance of all our parties already crumbled. The only people indulging the trolling were ‘the left’, and anyone else who lives to the tune of the right wing press’. Occupy beginning was a sign that people don’t have a political vehicle to go to, and the questions that are emerging despite the lefts best efforts confirm the ‘centre’ left position just died. The reliable nature of the left as a tool with which to discredit any issue affecting anyone, has been eroded by the year long revelation the left are not speaking for anyone. Our reliance on their gnatlike attention span a problem, the single use of that attention span for anything useful this year not. Traditional political techniques are useless on the internet and the social side of social media, highlighted why the media degrees of working class kids are useless. It’s all about the contacts. The problem isn’t a lack of regional voices on the news, it’s that political consensus that governs the lives of the British working class needs to be maintained.
David Cameron is not the only one of Thatcher’s children. There are millions and millions of us, and the economic and social policy history of neo-liberalism is our history. This stuff jumped the shark for most of us years ago. We know it not because a lefty handbook told us the Daily Mail said so, and that’s why Labour’s soundbites no longer work, and we are no longer talking about preventing cuts. As the middle classes wake up to the fact they are welfare dependent, cannot earn enough to live and their socio economic position didn’t change with their aspirations, and they are due to lose political representation, an age of politics comes to an end and a new one begins.
This is no longer a debate which can be pinned onto a meaningless left right spectrum, or one that can be hidden by agreement of politicians and their press. This Pandoras box is not closing. The stories that emerge should highlight our political vacuum nicely, as the Murdoch influence disappears without help. Workfare will be the issue that brings everything else which has been structurally invisible to our political debate, crashing to everyone’s attention. And as it does so it will dredge up the decimation of each sector the same pattern applies in. Questions too big for the left to obfuscate with kideologies and political allegiance, and one which cannot be squashed by the shouting of the word commie or scrounger.
Tesco as moral arbiters of the government and our only value and power being that held as consumers, an interesting development in the contexting of the increasing irelevance of national Westminster focused debate.