Sunday, 24 October 2010

Big - but not society Does Small State seem any clearer after the Spending Review? This article by Anushka Asthana and Toby Helm, in yesterday's Observer has sharpened the focus on one particular point, which is that a key political sleight has been to get working class people to condemn the workless poor. With the notion of hoi polloi solidarity now exploded (not with a bang but a whimper), the Haves can sit down and tuck in without fear of interruption from the rabble at their gates. In truth this process has surely been gathering for decades, thanks in no small part to the decimation of trade unionism and the influence of a shameless press; but what the economic crisis has done is to give it a perverse logical justification. The authors note: 'polls suggested substantial support for the assault on benefits. Focus groups had told the chancellor they wanted welfare not cut but shredded.' And they quote the chief exec of one homeless charity: 'People have looked down on those out of work for a long time. So when you ask them what to cut – police? They say no. Schools? No. NHS? No. The armed services? No – but welfare, who is going to lobby for that?' And so it comes down to povertyism, the fact that for some reason many people despise those who are poor, seek excuses for their negative attitude towards them, and support policies that punish people for being in poverty. Some of our media and some of our politicians do the rest, with distasteful zeal. The brand managers are working away at Big Society. Big it may be, but it doesn't look like it will be representative of an inclusive society.

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