Benefits Street exposes Britain's dirty secret - how welfare imprisons the poor

The left should be angry at how we treat those at the bottom. Instead, they're angry at people talking about it

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

No scandal has been more successfully covered up than the appalling truth about what happens to Britain’s poorest people. We have, as a country, grown used to pretending they don’t exist; we shovel them off to edge-of-town housing estates and pay them to stay there in economic exile. We give them welfare for the foreseeable future, and wish them luck in their drug-addled welfare ghettos. This is our country’s dirty little secret, which has just been exposed by a devastating Channel 4 documentary. And the left are furious.

The outrage over Benefits Street has been quite extraordinary, comparable only with the furore over phone hacking. Labour politicians have lined up to denounce the programme and 31,000 have signed a petition of protest. Channel 4 stands accused of ‘demonising’ working-class people, and cynically hawking ‘poverty porn’. A letter signed by 100 charities demands that Channel 4 ‘review how this damaging and grossly unbalanced programme came to be broadcast’. The subtext is clear: this is Britain — we don’t talk about poverty. Or if we do, we never show its full, sickening extent.

All this fuss, of course, made Benefits Street the most watched show on British television on Monday, with five million viewers — more than anything else that Channel 4 broadcast in the whole of last year.


Fungi and his dog. He is shown picking up free magazines from a hotel, then successfully selling them on the street.

Those expecting ‘poverty porn’ would be baffled: it is a fly-on-the-wall documentary shot in James Turner Street in Birmingham, where most occupants of the 99 houses are on welfare. Its characters speak for themselves. As quickly becomes clear, they are overwhelmingly kind, neighbourly and surprisingly upbeat, given that they are, in effect, inmates in a social prison.

Life in this prison is pretty shocking. We see 14 Romanian workers crammed into one house expecting to be paid decent salaries, only to find they have been conned and the gangmaster will pay them each only £10 a day. (The immigrants seem routinely appalled by the other residents of James Turner Street,  stunned that the British could be asked to live in such a way). We see a young woman visiting the bank machine at the stroke of midnight, when her welfare payment is processed, then immediately buying booze. We see a small boy, Gerard, hanging out with drug addicts as they drink on the street. ‘He knows way too much for a five-year-old,’ says ‘White Dee’, his mother. ‘What is there for him? Destined to grow up and be part of a gang? Because that’s society, isn’t it?’ Around there, it is.

The biggest scandal of Benefits Street, which Channel 4 is unlikely to reveal, is that White Dee is behaving rationally in deciding not to work. This is not something ministers like to divulge, but Policy in Practice, a welfare and employment consultancy, has run the figures for The Spectator. Dee is a single mother with two young children.  Were she to earn, say, £90 a week as a cleaner, then the system would reduce her benefits by £70 — an effective tax rate of 78 per cent on that £90 she’s earned. She’d thus be slaving away all week for £20 — far less than the minimum wage.

It doesn’t get too much better higher up the scale. If she landed a £23,000-a-year job, her effective tax rate would still be 74 per cent – so she’d end up just £5,975 a year better-off than if she’d spent the year sitting on the sofa watching daytime TV and chatting to her pals on the street. If she then worked extra hours, or earned a pay rise, she’d keep a pitiful 9p in every extra pound paid. This is nothing to do with indolence. Which of us would work at a 91 per cent tax rate?


White Dee with her daughter Caitlin

So the tabloid critics are wrong — these people aren’t scroungers, they’re reacting in a way that any of us would in the same situation. And they’re not idle either: ‘Everybody does something on the side when they’re on benefits,’ says one resident (through a mask, tending the marijuana growing in his spare room). An exaggeration, but Benefits Street does show the entrepreneurialism of the supposedly workshy. One man sells sachets of washing powder for 50p (but gives it away to those who can’t afford it). A former drug addict picks up free magazines from a hotel foyer and sells them on the street. Someone else finds discarded metal to sell for scrap. These people are working — but outside the system. And in a way that will never pull them (or their children) out of poverty.

These 91 per cent tax rates ought to be a national scandal, raised regularly in Parliament. This is why the people of Benefits Street don’t work — and MPs who talk about ‘scroungers’ should ask what they’d do in the same situation. Well-meaning campaigners call for higher minimum wages without realising how much of the extra cash would go straight to the government. For single mothers like White Dee, work has been robbed of its economic function — so why do it?

All this is precisely what Iain Duncan Smith is trying to change. His welfare reform is intended to repair the damage and make work pay again. We see one example of it in Benefits Street: a fit man, claiming incapacity benefit, is told he’ll be examined for what work he can do. He’s offered a personal work adviser. It’s an expensive process, with (so far) a low success rate. But it’s better than the alternative: leaving such people to die on welfare.

More importantly, the Work and Pensions Secretary is aiming to abolish the tangled web of benefits and put in its place a Universal Credit which would lower the top effective tax rate to 65 per cent. Still outrageously high, but it can be lowered when the system is up and running. It’s an ambitious project, laden with difficulties — like any massive computer project run by civil servants. But again, the alternative is to give up on these people, leave them to rot — and direct your anger at television companies that focus on their plight.

Mark and Becky

Mark and Becky

It is strange that it has fallen to the Conservative party to confront poverty while Labour MPs are busy trying to shoot the messenger. Once, it was Tony Blair’s ministers who pioneered welfare reform. Now Ed Miliband’s priorities are more closely aligned with the trade unions, who seem to loathe any focus on the plight of the jobless. The Unite trade union went so far as to stage a protest outside the office of Love Productions, the company that makes Benefits Street, accusing it of the ‘gross misrepresentation of working-class communities’. But the show depicts the workless class, which is its point. These people are people who otherwise don’t have a voice. They don’t vote, so for many years they have just not mattered.

Anyway, to the unions’ fury, Love Productions is not run by a Tory but by a friend of Ed Miliband, Richard McKerrow, who says he’s a ‘big fan’ of the Labour leader. Nor did his Benefits Street single out the worst ward in Britain. There are scores of areas where deprivation is higher — like Everton in Liverpool, Byker in Newcastle, Harpurhey in Manchester or Calton in Glasgow (where, I discovered, male life expectancy at birth is just 54 — on a par with Uganda).

Make a documentary about poverty in Uganda and you could win an award. Look at problems in Britain and you’re reported for thought crime — sometimes successfully: BBC1 ran an excellent documentary two years ago in which John Humphrys returned to the neighbourhood outside Cardiff in which he grew up and found a quarter of its residents on benefits. How had this ‘age of entitlement’ come about, he asked? The BBC Trust was barraged into finding him guilty of presenting ‘a personal view on a controversial subject’. Ever since, BBC journalists have shied away from exposing the nature of British poverty — perhaps why they have given such ample coverage to the furious reaction to Benefits Street.

Humphrys is 70 years old, brought up at a time when it was easier for a working-class child to get to the very top in Britain. A welfare state designed to bring us closer together has ended up creating such social segregation that the average Brit barely recognises the life lived by those at the bottom. This perhaps explains why Benefits Street has been such a hit: it offers a glimpse into what has now become, to most British people, another country.

In the next episode of the show we hear a dialogue that sums up why fixing this broken system is — for all its challenges — perhaps the single most important task facing the government. ‘You really just want to get a job?’ the mother asks. ‘Yes,’ says the daughter. ‘And be completely different from the rest of the world?’ ‘Yes,’ comes the indignant reply.  For the girl’s sake, the Conservatives need to finish the job.

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  • BigAl

    Just heard a very indignant Mishal Hussein interviewing the producer of Benefits Street on the Today programme. I don’t find hectoring interviews where questions are asked and replies interrupted as a useful contribution to the debate. I despair that we are unable to debate important issues like poverty, immigration and the health service without multiple ridiculous accusations against the messenger.

    We need politicians to step up and lead the debate and broadcasters to hold them to account rather than be part of an indignant superior class that is above it all.

    • outraged

      I cringe at the producers’ idea of selecting a few households out of 99 out of 999 of struggling neighbourhoods in Britain just because it makes for good watching and is PC kosher. Some of those characters do not even seem genuine – how do we know that these people were not implanted by the producers who learnt their trade on such TV hits as X Factor, Apprentice and Wags?

      It should not be up to commercial, sensational ‘voyeur’ type entertainment to set the tone for this important and long overdue discussion.

      To summarise the fallout of this program: the slave driver who tricked Romanians into coming to the UK was allowed to keep his face, but innocent children are now bullied by residents of the neighbouring benefit street.

      • J William Pope

        So who should “set the tone for this discussion”? Perhaps the discussion is long-overdue because it has been willfully ignored by the very people that “should” be having it.

        I suspect the indignant reaction to “Benefits Street” is not merely due to its supposed bias – the program exposes the decayed condition of the big government welfare state which the Left cherishes so deeply.

        • outraged

          Agree with the paragraph 1, not so sure about 2. In my view the programme does not expose anything except individual benefit claimants.

          It conforms entirely to the conservative welfare paradigm, i.e.:
          – poverty is due to alcoholism, drug abuse and general fecklessness
          – muslims are the ‘saints’ not the ‘scroungers’
          – West Indies immigrants are good and industrious
          – new immigrants from Europe are ignorant, naive and and ugly

          And also it dispenses veiled cautionary advice:
          – benefit fraudsters will get caught and punished
          – same shoplifters (seen the chopper?)
          – crime does not pay

          I am not a lefty but I believe that average man in the UK suffered because over the past 30 years all artisan jobs got shipped over to China and the service jobs to India. And English youth is written off and discouraged.

          • Weaver

            Don’t you mean low-skill manual jobs? Artisans are broadly high skill and not exportable; they cater to a different market.

          • outraged

            You would think so, but look at Prada, Gucci and Chanel.
            Or even ‘Swiss’ watches.

          • Weaver

            Ah, ok. I think we have differinng terms.

            I was thinking master craftsmen; skilled labour in a mostly local role. But you’re right that a lot of luxury good manufacture doesn’t require skilled labour and can be farmed out to developing countries.

  • HJ777

    Fraser- well said.

    Are you familiar with the work of James Bartholomew on this subject?

    • Fencesitter

      This one? Shame it’s not on Kindle. Maybe the author should bring out an updated edition looking at IDS’s reforms?


      • HJ777

        Yes, that one.

        In fact, he has just produce an updated version that I believe is being published this month. I would be surprised if it looks at IDS’s reforms, however, since we do not yet know the impact.

        • Fencesitter

          Very helpful to know. I’d be surprised if he didn’t have something about IDS somewhere, given how topical the reforms are going to be.

          No harm in an author being a bit of a Cassandra – if you don’t think something is going to work, why not say so?

          • HJ777

            You can ask James Bartholomew by posting a question on his book’s blog. He usually replies.

            I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to when you talk about “don’t think something is going to work”. If you mean the UC, I don’t think it’s that simple. It may not be a work/not work scenario. There are degrees of effectiveness. It may represent an improvement, but perhaps not as large as is hoped or could be achieved by a more fundamental reform (which, of course, may be even more difficult to introduce).

          • Fencesitter

            Yes, sorry, I did mean UC. It’s not something I know a lot about, but Benefits Street and this article have helped start a much needed debate. Of course, Mr Bartholemew probably covered the ground ten years back – but it’s the C4 show that has grabbed the headline inches in a way that very few books could ever do.

  • One obvious problem with the above article is that Osborne’s proposed cuts to benefits mean that even if UC ever materialised (we’ll all pause to chortle here) people would suffer the same punitive taxation if they attempt to work as they do now. Work, in short, won’t pay any more under UC than it does under the current beneits system, making UC look, well, completely pointless really. Shame Fraser, who I assume gets paid to comment from an informed perspective, seems unaware of this. Makes you wonder what else he doesn’t know, and why he has a job at all, really. The obvious alternative to the current system is to bring in a universal basic income, for example, yet Fraser seems to overlook that too. Just above the comments I see an ad from the Speccy optimistically asking us to subscribe. On present form, why would we?

    • HJ777

      “even if UC ever materialised (we’ll all pause to chortle here) people would suffer the same punitive taxation…”

      I was under the impression that one of the main aims of UC was to make sure that the combined effects of tax and benefit withdrawal can’t exceed a certain percentage if people move into, or increase their income from, work. Is this not the case?

      • HJ777

        Interesting that I received a ‘down’ arrow merely for asking a genuine clarification question.

        • Ah, I meant you didn’t receive a down arrow from me.

      • Not from me. Anyway, on paper if we look at UC in isolation it’s designed to do just that. If we step back and regard it in the broader context of the cuts Osborne’s bringing in, then it won’t. It’s been sabotaged before it’s even got off the ground, not that it’s remotely feasible for it to ever get off the ground.

        • First L

          Why is it remotely feasible to get off the ground? Surely administering a single credit is easier than attempting to administer two dozen different ones?

          All right its late and overbudget – but that’s because our civil servants are completely incompetent – when was the last time something wasn’t late and overbudget? Not because of any particular flaw in the design.

          • It’s IDS who’s incompetent. He’s trying to replace 6 extraordinarily complex systems with one single hyper-complicated system. It’s too complex to do and IDS lacks the intellectual capacity to understand that.

          • I’m going to quote from another source here, Mike Sivier’s Vox Political blog;

            The way I’ve read the various reports and postings/musings is that
            the CO (cabinet office) brought in the “emergency team; in-house
            computer bods” after various private sector contractors either downed
            tools, quit the contracts, or demanded more money as the initial
            contracts were well under specified in both physical and personnel costs
            as the specifications were lacking in all areas as some clever snake
            oil sales person (A computer constaltant, usual “big outsourcing
            company”) sold them “agile” as the be all and end all (laughs).

            More specifically; the whole “agile” meme was a total nightmare as
            the more detailed functional requirements, which had to be correct first
            time (for the base core OLTP system) were incorrect (hence most of the
            software write off) as far to much time and resources had been loaded
            onto the “fancy visual bits” and web systems (again under specified due
            to not being “web pages” as most would understand them, but front loaded
            web based applications talking to back end databases, which were
            lacking in the data specifications due to the fact that agile was taken
            to mean “can fix any problems on the fly” when in reality if the back
            end database OLTP system is incorrect in any major way means a total
            re-write of both back end and front end systems… hence the write off of
            both hardware and even more additional software costs.

            I get the feeling that the CO in-house team have seen the writing on
            the wall after spending a number of months reviewing the code/systems
            processes already done, namely that none of it is fit for purpose… not
            only that its been so badly specified that nothing can be done as the
            core OLTP is no where near enough to the realities of all possible
            current requirements, and as yet to be specified requirements (such as,
            oh I don’t know… a couple, with kids!) which means the core system is
            not up to scratch and when this is applied it will require an almost
            total re-write yet again to implement it into the currently designed
            core system (single people, nothing else, nada) as the additional data
            cannot be easily linked (requires a whole new set of key(ing) data that
            should have been entered in the initial system, with no way to automate
            its update) and because of its lack of “what if, how do we, should we do
            this now because it will be needed later?” the system is a great big

            When you consider that the local council have a codified book that
            details all the “what if’s” on council tax and housing benefit alone
            that is over an inch thick and then further consider all the other
            minutiae of “if/then/else” of the other various benefits to be rolled
            into one system, and their impact on each other… then add in “real time
            processing” of peoples payslips and god knows what else, every week or
            month or fortnight depending on who people get paid, then kick out 1
            payment every calender month… will it ever work?

            There is a reason why HMRC does its “self employed” every quarter!
            and, potentially, takes ages to report back any adjustments so most
            people work it out and keep the money “just in case” they get it wrong…
            now imagine working on a zero contract, to be told three months after
            your last job, on 71 quid a week…. “oh we cocked up, you owe us 300 quid
            over pay, we will just take it out of your next monthly payment… what
            that leaves you with nothing? not our problem, tis the law don’tcha

            Another issue that I think the CO has seen is that introducing a
            third thread in the development (there is currently 2… UC-approx 2.2
            billion + current systems (duplication of jobs/work/on going support for
            existing systems) and it jumps to 12+billion http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240185166/Universal-Credit-will-cost-taxpayers-128bn
            ) so a third thread with a supposed merging “some time down the road”
            is likely to increase the costs… at a guess probably a doubling of the
            UC costs… say 4.4billion, and likely increased costs for existing
            systems as people move across to “UC thread 2″ meaning existing systems
            programmers (legacy and UC thread 1) will command a premium.. rough
            guess, keeping the legacy systems running until every one is transfered
            could see the 10billion guestimate double… say around 20-30 billion all
            in by 2017…

            Oh but wait! They forgot… not everyone will be on it by 2017… a
            large section of the disabled will still be on legacy support after
            2017… no doubt a re-write will then be needed again to include core data
            that someone forgot in the initial system so its not easy to link them

            KERCHING! Qadruples all around for “private sector” while blaming the civil service departments.

            (new quote) even if UC gets up and running it has to do everything that all the
            various benefits currently do, but on one “integrated” system… even if
            it were to use multiple servers with split databases (ie, server 1 does
            A-D’s (name beginning) and so on) or some other partitioning scheme…

            It has to do the work of 326 councils (even discounting some shared
            back office systems/OLTP databases between them thats 326 dedicated
            computer systems!) for “housing benefit” alone storing every
            payslip/customer query/letter generated and so on. Not forgetting
            councils take between 1-4 weeks on average to calculate HB for a
            multitude of differences, Low income/Non-dependent deductions/etc. and
            have the advantage of “face to face” should problems arise and councils
            will still have to do all the processing for council tax that was done
            in tandem with HB.

            Not only will you have to deal with a faceless entity and computer
            system when it screws up your HB/JSA/etc. via UC, you will still have to
            wander down to the local council office to give the very same details
            all over again so your council tax can be calculated… so even if UC ever
            comes in, councils will have to do just as much work as they ever did
            in data capture/letters/awards/etc; just they wont do the HB side… so UC
            will overall cost more money as it will cause a duplication of the data
            capture/processing/storage at both the council and also the DWP…. at
            least with the existing system if its screwed you can go down to the
            council, make a fuss, and get it sorted including the council letting
            the HA/PRS landlord that its “in progress.” The DWP on the other hand,
            as its paying you directly, will say its none of its business deal with
            it yourself, we might get it sorted in a few weeks…

            Also consider that every non working, low paid, disabled, sick,
            people with children, and god knows how many others will be processed
            every month, by some computer system somewhere in the uk and the
            potential for utter devastation is huge… add in the fact that a JSA
            suspension/ESA “fit for work” or some other kind of change will impact
            on all your benefits; Initial benefit/HB/Child Benefit/WFTC/Etc. and it
            doesn’t bare thinking about… and when it goes wrong, your only contact
            is 0845DWP.

            At least with how things currently stand, if your JSA is screwed you
            still get your CB/WFTC/HB/Etc. or any other combination of 1 benefit in
            error, the rest still progress as before…. one mistake by the DWP and
            you loose the lot under UC.

            Now also take into account a few million people in work, but now
            under “UC…” some work variable hours/zero contract, your company is a
            bit late in doing the weekly transfer to the DWP/HMRC “real time system”
            so your wage amounts are missing and the monthly (circa 2-8 million)
            batch run is started with this data missing, so assumes you earned
            nothing so gives you more money for HB for that week, 3 weeks later when
            the monthly run is done it sees the missing wage, re-calculates and
            decides to withhold a portion of the HB to claw back the over payment,
            only problem is that in the same month you were on short weeks as there
            was little work at the company… now what? You’re screwed!

            The current separate systems (JSA=computer 1; HB=Computer 2 (* 326);
            Child benefit=computer 3; WFTC=computer 4; IS=computer 5; ESA=computer
            6; etc.) means the system is resilient… but some operator makes a
            mistake and loads the wrong tape with UC and the whole thing is dead…
            all of it… millions of people with no money at all!

            I personally think that last paragraph alone should have been enough
            of a reason for discounting the idea of a combined real time update,
            merging of multiple systems into one god almighty all singing and
            dancing UC system, period! That very real risk far outweighs any
            minuscule potential saving.

          • paul oxley

            100% correct..He lacks the intellectual capacity to
            boil an egg to be fair as John Major,Gideon, Crispin
            Blunt and all the other Tory mps who ended his
            shambolic inept and very brief stint as Tory leader will
            tell you.

          • First L

            Why is it too complicated to do? Makes perfect sense to me and perfectly easy to run by a modern computer system.

            The six complex systems are there by accident and neglect and have grown hideously out of control and will continue to do so while people assume that things are too complicated to be dealt with. Not dealing with the infrastructure of the welfare system is not an option.

            You sound like you’re down on it simply because it’s a tough ask. Well so was landing on the moon, discovering America, splitting the atom, and creating the welfare state in the first place.

          • Iain Duncan-Smith wasn’t in charge of them.

          • First L

            Why is IDS incompetent? Lots of people have not worked out as a party leader who have yet done great things in other posts. His work so far has been extraordinary – even going by how his cabinet colleagues judge him.

          • paul oxley

            LOL..Define extraordinary please

          • What’s IDS done that’s even worked, let alone merits being called extraordinary?

          • First L

            Challenged a completely unbalanced and destructive Welfare System that, by the end of Gordon brown’s tenure seemed completely and utterly impenetrable due to the left shouting down even the slightest reduction in the welfare bill. IDS has not only won the argument on Welfare, he has proceeded to implement much needed reforms and done so moderately successfully with the noted exception of a few high profile cases around Atos and disability benefit.

          • All he’s done is shrink the economy by taking money out of it and having people who should be being paid working for free. He’s costing this country hundreds of milions of pounds in wholly unnecessary tribunal fees alone, let alone the billlions, as yet uncounted, being thrown away on UC. He’s a disaster area. .

          • First L

            I’ll accept that tribunals are increasing – but that’s because people who have been born and bred on welfare can’t accept that a money for nothing culture is going to end. That was always going to happen and is a result of Labour creating the benefits culture in the first place. So blame them.

            The rest of what you say I simply don’t recognise.

          • People are applying to tribunals and winning them, that’s the crucial point. The Atos decisions are largely wrong.

          • First L

            No the Atos decisions are largely right, with a minority that are wrong.

            I have two separate disabilities. I run a business and have a secondary part time job. I wouldn’t dream of claiming that I could not work.

          • An enormous proportion of Atos decisions are overturned in the courts, which clearly indicates the practice itself is faulty. Further, leaked documents inform us that the outcomes are predetermined. The whole process of welfare reform’s a sham designed to bring about an end to the sickness benefit system. IDS should be in jail for that alone. I can’t see any relevance in your mentioning your disabilities or that you work – are you suggesting all disabled people can work on the basis you can?

          • First L

            I’m not suggesting that all disabled people can work. I’m saying that many disabled people are capable of work. There’s nothing to stop someone who cannot walk taking on a job writing from home for instance and that working actually leads to health benefits and mental well being. I’m saying that moreover there is huge fraud in disability. So while Atos decides that someone can work, they have a built in belief that their disability will prevent them from working, even if they can work – therefore going to tribunal to fight to retain their benefits. That is not to say that Atos overstep the mark with a number of cases of serious disability and that is also not to say that incapacity benefit is a needed benefit for many disabled people who need specialist equipment or carers and that these problems need sorting. But find me a system that doesn’t need sorting in some way.

            However, I think you will find that the problems reported are a tiny percentage of the number of people who have been dealt with.

          • It’s 39% that get their Atos decisions overturned. That’s an enormous recurring cost. And as I’ve said, the entire process is fraudulent as the outcome percentages , how many go to each group and what scores they can have, are predetermined by the DWP.. Read this http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/type/pdfs/how-norms-become-targets.html I repeat, the entire so-called assessment process is a scam.

          • First L

            I accept that that figure is far higher than it should be and that in an ideal world Atos should get it right first time every time and that if figures are predetermined that that is definitely wrong (I’d hesitate to say is that an IDS policy or something thrown in by one of his incompetent civil servants without defining proof).

            It does mean that 6 out of every 10 decisions are correct tho – either people brought back into work, fraud uncovered or people’s benefits protected. Which shows that Atos is an imperfect solution to a problem that does exist, and I would argue that an imperfect solution is better than no solution at all. I am very happy to accept that things should improve greatly.

          • I suggest a so-called solution which is routinely killing our most vulnerable isn’t a solution at all, it’s a whole new and horrific problem. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dom-aversano/iain-duncan-smith-mortality-statistics_b_4301535.html The stats still haven’t been updated. How many untimely deaths is IDS implicit in? Just how much blood does he have on his hands? We don’t know and it appears the Establishment is closing ranks around him as the Information Commissioner has refused this request also.

          • First L

            Ok – I would debate the news article you provide as evidence. The only person claiming that the Department has the figures is the person who is asking for them. The department says that the stats obtained for 2011 were a one off. Only Miller is claiming that the department continues to collect the stats, no one else suggests that this is happening. If they don’t collect the stats they can hardly be criticised for not releasing data they don’t have.

            Now of course you can then criticise the department for not keeping data – but that does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that ‘our most vulnerable are being routinely killed through the process’. Because until that data is available you simply don’t know.

            So – there are two possibilities.
            Either the department has the data and is refusing to release it. In which case yes, they do need to be hammered by everyone. However there is no evidence that this has occurred except for a single accusation and a paranoid belief that ‘they are always lying to us’.
            Or the department does not have the data, for which they can certainly be criticised, but equally means that there is zero evidence beyond anecdote for anything you have asserted so far.

            So – please feel free to back up your assertions with data. If the Government don’t have it or are refusing to release it, why not conduct it yourself? But without evidence I cannot accept your statement as fact. A news report stating that the evidence proving things one way or the other is missing, is not of itself evidence that the argument has fallen to show guilt.

          • It gets murkier… this is far more recent and on the same subject http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/information-commissioner-rules-on-the-cover-up-of-dwp-related-deaths/ I think there’s more floating around somewhere but if you Google now you have an idea of what to look for you can probably satisfy your own curiosity.

          • First L

            I don’t see that as murky – quite clearly the author of the blog sabotaged his own efforts by asking several people to send FOI requests. because the law states that each FOI request must be met with individually – doing such a thing is essentially equal to a DDOS attack on a website, sucking resources away from the normal actions of the site/department, something that is classed as terrorism on the web. I completely agree with the Information Commissioner. Sorry but that’s how it lies. You have been given a path in law to deal with these things, if you abuse that path then expect it to be shut down. The morals of the situation do not apply unless you believe that some situations should be looked on overly favourably and outside of the rules set down – in which case who makes such moral decisions? Because then of course they can get them wrong.

            The rules have been followed. There is nothing murky at all. The author of the blog has no one but himself to blame. Again, absence of evidence is not proof of anything.

          • But it does appear the information regarding mortality stats exists.

          • First L

            I see no evidence of that.

          • First L

            You’ve just relinked an article you’ve already posted once in which there is zero evidence that they have the data.

            Here is what they say:
            “I am sorry that the information you require is not readily available. As this would take a considerable length of time to pull together I am unable, at this stage, to tell you when the next report will be available.”

            Let’s translate: Not readily available – statistics have not been collected and therefore are not on hand. Considerable length of time – the time required to collect such statistics would be considerable and labour intensive. Unable to say when the next report would be – because no such report has been commissioned.

            They then say:
            “The publication you refer to was released on (sic) Department’s website as an ad-hoc statistical analysis publication. As such there is no intention of releasing an updated version of these statistics.”

            Translated – ad hoc means one off. No one is currently working on gathering further statistics so if you want statistics you’ll have to do the work yourself.

            The only person in that news report claiming that the department has the statistics is Samuel Miller and he has absolutely no evidence to support that claim.

            The FOI Act only supports releasing information that the Government and related bodies holds. It does not cover going out and getting work intensive information that is not currently held. If the department held the information they would clearly be in breach of the law and Samuel Miller could report them to the police. Plus the information commissioner is completely independent of the Government and has ruled against them plenty of times. He hasn’t, they haven’t done anything wrong. You are basing all your claims on the assumption that they are covering up data and that it looks bad. The simple fact is that they have not collected the data and that therefore your assertion that people are dying is based on nothing more than what you want to believe.

            So you’re accusing IDS of murder with zero proof and you’re accusing the government of a cover up based simply on them not having a particular set of numbers.

            Sorry, you can be as self righteous as you like, but you’re sitting there without any evidence whatsoever to back up anything you have said and unfortunately when you’re accusing people or Governments of killing you need a little bit more evidence than a misinterpreted bit of civil service jargon. It is quite plain to me in those words that the statistics do not exist – if you suspect wrongdoing then you’ll have to go and gather the evidence yourself.

          • I believe Sam does have evidence but can’t recall in which of the multitude of messages etc there’s been on this subject over the months he mentions it. This one appears promising as we see Mr Daft’s message in context http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2013/06/my-latest-letter-to-iain-duncan-smith.html It appears he’s under the impressoin that the information asked for is indeed to be compiled, just not soon.

          • First L

            Under the impression is not proof.

            The only people who know whether they have the stats are the department. They have stated in no uncertain terms that they do not have the stats. if they have the stats that is a bare faced lie and they can be sued/reported to the police. No one has done this. Why? because there is no proof that they are lying. Why would they?

            Simply giving me the same information over and over and over again – which I have comprehensively shown that you have misinterpreted – continues to show zero proof and simply that you are incapable of accepting that state of affairs.

            Stop barking up a gumtree. You’re embarrassing yourself now. You’ve jumped on a bandwagon because you desperately want IDS to be in the wrong, sorry, but simply because you want something to be true does not mean that it is.

            Continue with your crusade if you wish. But all you are doing is wasting your own time. As I’ve said, the department does not have the stats, trying to force them to release stats they don’t have is just going to make you look stupid. If you want the stats, you’re going to have to gather them yourself. Don’t complain if they fail to say what you want them to say.

            Have fun.

          • David Lizewski

            10.600 last year.

          • westerby1

            You are failing to take into account the number of people who will not appeal; maybe they cannot face going to court, or they are too ill, or maybe they have a partner, who earns a decent wage, and do not think it is worth the hassle.

            As I mentioned in a previous post, all three of my reports by Atos were laughable and should have commenced with “Once Upon A Time…” One does not get a copy of the report unless one requests a copy, so many people have probably been denied support due to an erroneous report.

            As regards your comment about people being able to do some sort of work despite a disability, I agree, BUT, it is finding that “some sort” of work and also finding such work that will pay enough and guarantee a regular income, especially if one is the sole provider. Also many people are ill in a way which causes extreme pain, fatigue, malaise, weakness, etc etc. These people would find it hard to work. For example, someone could have a broken leg, but with moderate pain relief they could be driven to work, if they had a desk job, and could perform their duties. The same person could get flu,food poisoning etc and they probably would not be able to get out of bed! Also the same illness, or disability, can affect people differently and there is the degree of severity of a disability/illness to take into consideration. Things are not as black and white as people think.

          • Weaver

            What %, exactly? I think its about 1/3rd overturned?

            Also, quite a few don’t go to appeal, so you need the % of total judgements rather than appeals.

          • I think it’s 38% of appeals get won.

          • Weaver

            Thats sounds about right. But only a minority go to appeal, right? So we need the succesful appeals as a proportion of all cases, not just appeals.

          • It’s 43% get won, I don’t have overall figures. http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/esa-appeals-more-than-double-and-decisions-in-the-claimants-favour-are-increasing/ This tells us all we need to know I think, the tests should be scrapped.

          • Weaver

            Bill, that appears to be misleading. First of all, here’s the actual figures for us to use, the most up to date I could find.


            Now, the data varies a little year on year, but on an annual basis, there’s about 660K cases, of which ~240K fold before assesment. Of those 420K assessed, about 220K are deemed fit for work. Of those about 100K are appealed, and of those appeals about 40K are successful (to some degree).

            So the actual figure on “wrong assesment” or test inaccuracy seems to be 40K/220K or about 18% of decisions (or ~6% of all applications), not 43%. This is a good example of why we have to be careful with denominators….

          • Of those that go to tribunal, around 40% to 43% get won. What does that say about the assessments? A win rate like that from contested assessments strongly suggests they should be scrapped immediately.

          • Weaver

            Sure, but those are appeals; you’re dealing with a sub-sample of cases which are going to be more borderline.

            OK. Statistics hat on.

            ATOS Decision

            Work Benefits

            Correct Work [0]

            Benefit 220

            I have generously assumed that no cheats get past ATOS, and .

            Test error rate is errors divided by total tests given, not tests appealed. The test accuracy is 82%, not 53%. It would probably be higher still if all the people who drop out without being tested were

            Now whether that is good enough for our purposes is another matter.

            Of course, test accuracy is a function of how tight.

            ROC curve.

          • Then the testing is nowhere near accurate enough.

          • Weaver

            Fair enough, Bill, opinions may differ. But would you say what accuracy rate do you think is reasonable? And what ratio of type i, type ii errors do you prefer?

          • I’m not sure any other than 100% is reasonable, given we’re dealig with human lives here then giving the benefit of the doubt is preferable to the alternative. The costs are negligible so that wouldn’t be a problem. I’d prefer no errors, thank you, unless we decide to err on the side of caution and exercise the benefit of the doubt.

          • Weaver

            Mmmm. 100% isn’t humanly possible, right? I’d suggest its just mature to recognise that any system will have errors, and debate what level of error we are happy with and cost effective. I mean, for comparison, even the criminal justice system gets about 1% of cases overturned on appeal (are you comfortable with that error rate?).

            This may ultimately turn into a clash of value judgements between us, which is OK, as reasonable men may differ. I would just personally accept causing a limited degree of stress and misery to one 1 in 6 genuine claimants in order to weed out 4.5 false claimants. I guess I also worry about moral hazard with this system, a lot.

          • David Lizewski

            Human life is not an error, unless the life of a tory.

          • Weaver


            It’s not nice or psychologically healthy to wish your political opponents dead.

            I’m sure you wouldn’t be so abusive it if we were discussing this over a pint. Please try to understand that someone may disagree with you without being evil incarnate.

          • Dutchnick

            Well said, my brother and brother -in-law are both GPs. When people were called in for initial investigation over 60% suddenly returned to work. I want the real disabled people to get more but there are thousands cheating the system which uses up all the funds.

          • Evidence?

          • David Lizewski


          • David Lizewski

            Is 60% a minority? Because that’s the percentage of appeals being won by the “scroungers”.

          • westerby1

            Tribunals are not increasing because people were born and bred on welfare and cannot accept that a money for nothing culture is going to end! Tribunals are increasing because Atos “medical reports” are often full of assumptions, misinterpretations, omissions, inaccuracies and downright lies! I have had 3 assessments and all three reports were inaccurate, a few examples being: details of medications missing, stating the opposite of what was actually said, assumed I went to the supermarket because I said I did my own shopping when in actual fact I do it online and have it delivered, stating because I have a cat I can open a tin, I actually use sachets! One report stated that after examining my lower limbs they concluded I had no problem with my upper limbs! I even changed sex halfway through one! All 3 contained actual lies. I have appealed them all and won all, each time getting more than enough to qualify for the benefit.

            I worked full time for over 30 years before I became ill:Both my mother and father worked all their lives – hardly born and bred on welfare am I!!!!!

            The lady at citizens advice told me this is the most appealed benefit ever and their success rate for appeals was 75%

          • Weaver

            Your typing appears good, as does your motivation. It’s a shame you can’t find any work.

          • westerby1

            Thank you Weaver. I am looking for work which can be done from home as I have agoraphobia (my ex husband attacked me with an axe and since then I have panic attacks) I also have arthritis in my spine, hip, knees etc so there are quite a lot of things I cannot do. Because of these two things, and the strong medication I am on, I am limited as to what I would be able to do. Also I will be 59 this year and that does not help matters!

          • Elain Benes

            What?! I’m shocked that you’re not also suffering from SEVERE DEPRESSION?!
            Generally people who (claim to) have agoraphobia (which seems to have reached epidemic proportions ……. In the UK ….. Only) also tend to follow it up with SD. But at least you listed the standard panic attacks & arthritis.

            I guess when simple depression and bad backs ceased to guarantee a life of workless bliss, something desperate, specific & IMPOSSIBLE to prove or even diagnose had to be added to an ever growing list of reasons you & others can NOT work, and must continue to survive at the expense of others who DO WORK.

            You’ve prove your aptitude for a position as a FICTIONAL AUTHOR….. That’s for sure.

            JK Rowling eat your heart out.

          • westerby1

            Whether or not YOU believe me is of absolutely no interest to me! By the way it should be you’ve PROVED, not you’ve PROVE – not very good at verb tenses are you? Perhaps you should spend your time improving your English rather than posting your ill-informed opinions on here?

          • Elain Benes

            Don’t have a panic attack! It was a simple typo my dear. Apparently you’ve too much time on your hands. Some of us are in more of a rush, as we WORK TO SUPPORT OURSELVES and don’t allow false or exaggerated ailments to get the best of us.

          • David Lizewski

            No that’s because genuinely disabled people are having their money stopped.

          • Weaver

            Shrink the economy? I (and the studies) don’t really think the Keynesian multiplier is higher than 1 for welfare consumption spending in an open economy, do you?

            What do you think it is?

          • If we’re talking about the same thing, it’s many. The claimant spends it with the butcher, who spends it with the baker, etc. and it all ends up back at the Treasury as tax anyway, bar what’s siphoned off into havens.

          • Weaver

            Bill, it doesn’t necessarily “end up back at the Treasury”; that’s the point here. The standard economic issues with the multiplier are as follows.

            1) If spent on imports, the money disappears abroad; dead loss.

            2) You also have to control for velocity of money. Even if it ultimately ends back with Treasury it takes time to get there and in that time it becomes less valuable.

            3) If debt fiunded, service costs and interest rates effects can overwhelm multipler effects.

            4) Misallocation and crowing out effects.

            It might still be a good idea in some circumstances (as Keynes would argue) but most studies place the multiplier well under 1 for this kind of consumption spend. I think the Treasury uses 0.7, and it’s probably less than that. Otherwise all government expenditure would miraculously grow the economy towards infinity, and it just doesn’t.

          • There are conflicting views on point 1 and I’m not sure which side of the fence I’m on. 2 The majority gets spent quickly initially as it goes to poor people who’re forced to spend it. You’re saying because it hangs about in some cases, like when the butcher and the baker take their time in paying their taxes, it becomes inflationary? 3 Agreed, money shouldn’t be being created as debt. This is my main beef with the system actually. 4 I don’t know the term misallocation nor crowding out. Wasn’t Osborne taken to task by the INF recently for using the wrong multipliers in his calculations? Anyway, I believe there are others and juries are out on which are correct and which aren’t.

          • Weaver

            Bill, thanks for the reply; just a few thoughts in the early hours.

            1) Wasn’t aware this was contentious. That’s why we have different multiplier for small and large economies, after all. Could I ask for references showing the authorities are divided?

            2) Yes, indeed, but the speed of the first transaction is pretty irrelevant. The question is how long, on average, it takes to circulate back to Treasury. That’s a lot longer.

            I don’t think it causes (significant) inflation in the sense you mean here – rather, I’m noting that rises in nominal GDP means there’s a deflator effect; you’re getting back notes in 2013 or whenever which were worth more in 2012.

            3) We seem to be in agreement here. Actually, I might even be more liberal in allowing such expenditures in rare circumstances.

            4) I think you’ll be able to find wiki definitions which will do a better job than my poor efforts at definition, but you get misallocation in distorting the economy towards consumption and crowding out when state expenditures drive down the more efficient private and 3rd sector (the collapse of private charity).

            Anyway, after all this I felt I should go and check the treasury multiplier, and its actually 0.6 for welfare spending. Now, there’s a BIG current debate on if that multiplier is different with a near-zero interest rate bound, and the effects of QE on that, but the number is much less contentious in the longer term (e.g. NIESR, IFS, IMF seem to be on board with it), but I don’t know if you were talking generally or in reference to unusual current conditions.

          • David Lizewski

            The welfare system is being destroyed by IDS!

          • David Lizewski

            IDS is a lot more than just incompetent.

          • Weaver

            Surely its better to attempt to fix a horrible problem and fail than to knowingly persist in a horrible problem?

          • Not when you create a new and worse problem. I don’t know if we can put links here but I’ll try http://www.computerworlduk.com/in-depth/public-sector/3497768/opinion-universal-credit-is-becoming-less-digital-by-default-more-digital-by-dummies/

          • Hey 🙂 I’ll bear this in mind. IDS is basically so thick he can’t understand the siiues involved beyond the political. We have a pilot project going now which is completely irrelevant to what’s proposed to be the real one. Why isn’t it scrapped then? IDS is saving face at our expense. This country can’t afford him.

          • Weaver

            So…we’re not arguing over the desirability of the changes, only about the competence/means of carrying them out?

          • David Lizewski

            Not when you are knowingly creating a far bigger. horrible problem.

          • Weaver

            Can we extend the principle of charity to each other and assume no one is trying to make things worse deliberately?

  • paul oxley

    Nelsons ignorance on the subject of the welfare
    state and the DWP is depressing but sadly not
    surprising or rare amongst the cossetted rich
    boys and girls so prevalent in our woeful modern
    print and TV media

    As someone who has worked for the DWP at the
    coal face and been subject to it from the other side
    the idea that the ESA system is designed to help
    people and stop them being “stuck on benefits” in
    the absurd language of the braindead zombies we
    have masquerading as modern day journalists is
    frankly as insulting as it is laughable (although
    hardly laughable given some of the tragedies
    resulting and ongoing from it)

    And if IDS views were “transformed” by his visit to
    Easterhouse why are his views exactly the same failed
    free market hard right views on welfare as they were
    previously? And why does this great moral “decent
    man” as the right wing hacks call him think its healthy
    for sick and mentally ill people to worry themselves
    sometimes to an early grave sadly about inability to
    oay their rent due to ESA/Bedroom tax etc whilst he
    pays no rent living in a mansion despite having.no
    obvious talent as either a leader, soldier or Secretary
    of state that anyone can see.

    If IDS is a decent man then the residents of Benefit
    Street are to a man and woman a million times more decent

    • Roderick

      If I may say so, a rather feeble diversionary attempt. Blame it all on IDS.

      Going back to the topic, your solution to the problem of people being “stuck on benefits” is what exactly?

      • paul oxley

        There is no problem of people being “stuck on
        benefits” That is the sad language you have picked
        up and repeated parrot fashion rather than using
        your brain which may be too difficult for you I know not

        Benefits are entitlements paid for by NI contributions
        whilst in work and are paid out if and when people
        need them

        In a healthy civilised economy as we had from 1945
        to 1979 they were never a problem or regarded as an
        issue to be debated

        Sadly we all know the evil that befell our poor nation
        in 1979 and ever since the real “diversionery tactic”
        of blaming poverty on the poor rather than the men
        and women implementing a disastrous failed ideology
        from above has been in full swing in our media and
        political discourse

        • Roderick

          Well now, since I quoted “stuck on benefits” directly from your previous offering, I assumed that you had written it after some considerable intellectual effort (sic). Please accept my sincere apologies for the error.

          Alas you still haven’t addressed the matter of how to solve the problem of people being stuck on benefits. Random name-calling won’t do, I’m afraid.

          • paul oxley

            For the third time “THERE IS NO PROBLEM”

            As well as being dumb can you not read either or
            are you just this tiny circulation rags resident unpaid troll?

          • Roderick

            I now see that you are delusional as well as intellectually challenged and gratuitously offensive.

            I have nothing more to say to you. Good day.

          • He’s quite right economically. Worrying about the paltry figures involved in supporting the unemployed is a waste of effort as they’re so insignificant.

          • Weaver

            Its about 11B. Higher, if you take opportunity costs. Not insignificant.

          • Opportunity costs? I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t know the expression. I’m saying the costs of supporting the unemployed is tiny compared to the overall economy. If we want to fix it, why are we even bothering to dicuss the unemployed? The sums involved are immaterial in the broader context which we want to address.

          • Weaver

            Its the net cost of one scenario over another, not just the direct costs incurred.

            In this case the opportunity cost of unemployment is lost taxable income AND the greater income/happiness for the ex-unemployed. Move, say half of them, into employment and the net benefit to the exchequer will be greater than £5.5B. Probably in the order of £20B or thereabouts; more if the incapacity and crime bill comes down a bit too and with dynamic effects.

            I’m not sure how you’d rate that, but £20B is to me a significant amount. It’s ~2.7% of total budget, and a greater slice of the discretionary departmental budget.

          • It’s more wealth for the banksters to extract, and that’s the problem that’s not being addressed. There’s no point juggling money internally in the economy when the bankers are extracting it ten times faster.

          • Weaver

            I’m afraid I don’t really understand that post, Bill. It might be helpful if you could make your point with numbers and clarify/define some of your terms? (i.e. “juggling internally” “extracting” etc)

          • You understand banks perform wealth extraction and how they do it? You know banks create credit from nowhere which we spend as money, as legal tender, they have that power? Say so if not and I’ll run some things by you. Here’s a quickie http://www.positivemoney.org/2012/10/sir-mervyn-king-banks-create-money/ I’m a morning person so forgive me if I get a bit vague at night, I miss out on lots of good arguments because of that.

          • Weaver

            Thanks Bill,

            Yeah, I’m (roughly) graduate level in my economics, better at micro than macro, so don’t be afraid to throw a bit of jargon about but you might lose me from time to time.

            So having said that, I’m up to speed with how banks create money etc (and I do have my crazy Austrian moments when I’m convinced fiat currency is the work of the devil etc..). I was just a bit lost by what exactly you meant by “extracting” / “juggling internally”. These aren’t terms I run across in the literature much, and seemed to be a bit of a non-sequitor to the discussion we were having about welfare savings…

          • All I ever did was read a few books and I’m not sure which ideas I’ve got from which books sometimes 🙂 Some impressions last but it’s difficult to provide references other than to photo my bookshelf and say read that lot 🙂 I started with Schumacher and Mandelbrot then went through Rowbotham and Brown and learned about money as debt to illuminating tomes like Going Dutch (Lisa Jardine) and a bio of George Downing, not a nice man, which detailed how he went from being our man at the Hague (where they came up with the idea of money as debt, that’s why Disraeli etc. called it Dutch Finance) and tried to introduce the idea here. I followed my nose and continue to do so. The banks perform wealth extraction by only creating credit (which costs them only a few overheads) if they’re going to be able to extract over and above that initial figure back as interest. They sow credit but what they reap is money, lots of it over time, they themselves can spend. We beaver away creating real wealth and the banks, through the nature of the banking system, eventually get to own it. That’s the fundamental problem we have to address and so arguing about whether or not benefit claimants should or should not be sanctioned as they do or get less or more dole (or whatever) is insignificant by comparison.

          • ButcombeMan

            Anger I said, before I read down.

            Plainly I was right.

        • HJ777

          The vast majority of out-of-work benefits are no longer based on contribution records. Other than the first 6 months of JSA being paid regardless of savings, I cant think of any that are any more.

          I’m surprised that you didn’t know that.

          • paul oxley

            ESA can be contributory for the first year for your

            Whether contribution based the main thing to
            be said is that not a single benefit is ever a “handout”
            from the State and certainly not any Jsa payment

            If a government is so incompetent that its system
            can not provide work for every single citizen who
            wants at as happened under great leaders like
            Attlee then the government has a moral and civic
            duty to pay a minimum level of income as compensation for its failure
            to provide paid work

          • ADW

            Or like the Soviet Union, because that worked so well.

            State planned economies have failed every single time they’ve been tried.

            It certainly is a problem if you have an ever increasing underclass incapable of work even if it is on offer, and instead of addressing it simply import cheap labour to ensure no-one born in this country can ever do unskilled work.

          • outraged

            This can be even bigger problem with skilled jobs. Tens of thousands of Indians and Chinese graduates are being brought in under the pretence of ‘skilled’ labour shortage on tier 2 visas but mostly through Intra Company Transfers.

            They are taking vast majority of jobs in Banking and Telecommunication and they receive full training while English graduates are being ‘groomed’ for failure. RBS and Lloyds are big offender.

          • JimmyLinton

            “RBS and Lloyds are big offenders.”

            As is BT

          • But, they’re still extremely small potatoes indeed. Not worth our consideration. Move along!

        • BigAl

          Why do those on the left always make personal attacks on people they disagree with rather than debating the issues?

          • paul oxley

            Probably because the so called “issues” are
            actually non issue dressed up as being important
            in order to distract peoples attention from things
            that would make a difference to our deficit..
            as in

            Why are we spending billions replacing Trident
            which under no.circumstances could we ever use

            Why do we not have Tv shows called “On.tax
            dodger boulevard or Expenses street?”

            Why do we think that paying private companies
            such as A4E public money to lie about finding
            people jobs is modern welfare “reform” that all
            parties bar the Greens encourage rather than
            seeing it for what it is..plain old fashioned fraud

          • Roy

            “Why are we spending billions replacing Trident which under no.circumstances could we ever use”

            How do you know this?
            Should Britain not contribute to the containment of evil in the world?
            Are you so confident that peace will reign supreme and never will we have to defend ourselves or the free world?
            Better to be spent on technology and learn some the art of building such structures.

          • paul oxley

            LOL…Are all spectator readers as thick as you lot??

            How do I know we could never use missiles that would
            end up destroying the entire world???

            Hmm..thats a tough one…..Take your time Roy

          • Roy

            It’s perfectly OK for some of the most unreliable nations on the globe to have such missiles then? So far the deterrent has worked by simply having it. You no doubt would rather cower in submission and be told what you may or may not do. Like it or not it is only strength that many rogue nations recognize to keep the peace.

          • Weaver


            One of the things that makes it diffiult to have a serious debate here, aside from your anger, is that you need to have a better grasp of expenditure to make meaningful suggestions.

            What’s the amortised annual cost of Trident over its 30 year operational ifetime? £1B a year or less? That won’t make any real difference to your unemployment benefit at £11B, not to mention the related incapacity benefits etc. And thats not even considering the defence implications….

            UK state spending is £720B. The 4 big budgets are health, social protection (mostly pensions, then tax credits and unemployement benefit) and education, and debt interest (thanks to Gordon Brown). I know nuclear weapons exert a strange fascination on the mind of the left, but Trident is literally lost in the ocean of expenditure.

          • ButcombeMan

            Because they are always angry and their anger makes them incapable of rational thought and rational debate. One can spot that because Oxley says this:

            “There is no problem of people being “stuck on

            Well if you are the person actually stuck on benefits, with no hope of getting off, ever, plainly there is,

            If you are one of the people from a hard working struggling family paying the bill (high taxes) for other people “stuck on benefits” and capable of more, plainly there is.

            If you are a member of a government who would like to do more for wider society, with the money you pay out keeping people “stuck on benefits”, plainly there is.

            Oxley has all the characteristics of the typical socialist moron. He fails to use his brain, his anger stops that process working. He can see no further than “1979”.

            The whole point is that many, too many, of the people “stuck on benefits’ never worked long enough, or at all, to PAY those NI contributions. They have been left behind by society and it got worse not better under NuLabour.

            IDS (and Gove) are right, we must do more for those communities to break the behavior pattern. Better educational attainment is part of that.

        • Dogzzz

          So in spite of your vast experience, you remain unaware that our benefits system requires no contribution at all in order to claim benefits. I know a 40 year old man who has only literally worked for one day in his entire adult life. benefits for him are a lifestyle choice. others would love to work but are trapped by being worse off if they work. That is a fact which I had personal experience of for a decade, until I enrolled in college, got my degree and a career which paid me enough to be better off working. This cruel system of trapping people in poverty, keeping them endlessly dependent on the state has got to end. People on benefits need to be given hope and the opportunity to become self reliant. Sadly, in my 44 years I have learned that the left hate the poor being self reliant.

        • Daviejohn

          ‘Benefits are entitlements paid for by NI contributions
          whilst in work and are paid out if and when people
          need them’

          Ah, but,it still would like some contribution from those who benefit, some of these people have never worked, look at the mothers re-action to the daughter who wanted to.!!

      • Basic income.

        • Weaver

          It’s a cute idea but the maths doesn’t work. Sorry.

    • HJ777

      Do you not think that the effective high marginal rates of benefit withdrawal combined with tax are a problem?

      Would it not be better if they were lower so that people have more opportunity to earn their way out of poverty?

      • paul oxley

        No that argument.is a total irrelevance put forward
        by the right and blairite/orangebookers to make it
        appear as though they give a damn about the poor

        As one of the posters above stated a Citizens Income
        is by far the best way of reducing.both poverty and
        worklessness as free from the stress and worries of
        trying.not to be sanctioned/fail medicals/go through
        a lengthy and costly appeals process people would
        be free to concentrate on looking for a job or if sick
        to focus on getting better (if they can) to then look for a job

        • HJ777

          You’re wrong.

          Indeed, a Citizen’s Basic Income (a.k.a. negative Income Tax) has been proposed by many on the right precisely as a method of avoiding means testing and the poverty trap.

          However, many who have looked at it have wrestled with the numbers and can’t see how to make it financially viable as well as providing sufficient income for those out of work or unable to work (despite wanting it to be). They may or may not be wrong about this – don’t know.

          • Crumbs

            Even if the difference in income between earnings and benefits was zero, it would be morally preferable to work for the money. But since we must, as HJ777 says, provide a sufficient income, the only way to get rid of the perverse incentives to live on benefits is to come at the problem not from the point of view of money but from the point of view of time. Able-bodied long-term claimants should be made to do something – anything – 9-5 in return for their benefits. This would maintain the habits of a working routine, keep up physical fitness, provide interaction outside the immediate community, provide opportunities to develop a cv and obtain references, and weed out people who are actually employed already in the black economy. If a person was working 9-5 for benefits (set at minimal, not average, wage) then ANY small increase by moving into work would be advantageous.

          • Bonkim

            Yes – work fare. They should be put to community tasks on the basis – no work, no welfare.

            That is how the US built a lot of infrastructure and Dam projects during the 1930s depression – they were called $5 a day workers.

          • paul oxley

            Right lets destroy two more dummies who
            comment on heres feeble minded arguments in
            the shape of Dumb (crumbs) and Dumber (bonkers)

            If the government has important work that needs doing
            (as indeed it does) then it must pay something called
            “wages” to people to do that work

            “Welfare” on the other hand is as I explained compensation
            for the incompetence of all capitalist governments to
            provide these waged jobs and should involve the person
            receiving them not to lift so much as a finger in return

            Google “Boycott workfare” to find out more and a warning
            to any poncing sponging corporation that believes it
            can exploit Britains people.Like all the others we will
            force you to pay a proper wage so forget it!!

          • Weaver

            Umm….ok….you realise that we can just relabel unemployment benefits as “wages for daytime tv workers”? Hey presto! No unemployment! Just government “workers”.

            But it’s just hidden unemployment! The Soviet Union did exactly the same thing to keep the workers busy, as do a lot of other countries that cook the books in the same fashion.

            Seriously, this is a very old chestnut in economics; there’s no meaningful distinction between 5$ a day welfare and $5 a day government work and thats why output rather than input measures are used.

          • HJ777

            When you have a very limited income, what is “morally preferable” is often a luxury, especially if you have children to support.

            You need to earn quite a lot more in work (and after tax and NI deductions) than you receive on out-of-work benefits before you see any financial advantage. This is because of the costs associated with working – transport, work clothing, perhaps childcare, less time to do things for yourself and therefore requiring you to buy things, etc.

            What is more, it is often quite difficult to work out what you will end up with, and whether you will be better off, in work compared to the benefits you are already getting. Benefits are often a far more reliable income too.

            Tackling these issues is the motivation behind the Universal Credit. Whether it will be successful and whether it is the best solution is yet to be established.

          • Weaver

            Yeah, its a cute idea, but the numbers look grim.

            Note that negative income tax is not the same as Basic Income (though similar). Basic income is just a flat rate payment.

  • David Drane

    Have heard many arguments against increasing minimum wage, let alone introducing a living one; this is perhaps the most intelligent and thought provoking of them all. However, if the intention is to encourage people to work, then surely an increase in a wage even with an increase in taxation is to be welcomed. The country is apparently in debt, not nearly as bad as the right of the argument would have us believe, but the wealthy, and by that I mean the stinking rich do not want to pay even their fair share to help the country in this area; so what is wrong with having more money going to the Government via an increased wage packet at the bottom; if the employer will not let it go from the the top then surely this is a better alternative. Those taxes would then go into either paying down the debt, which in large part was caued by the rich, i.e; borrowing to save banking system, just what were Labour to do. Yes maybe there is an argument that Labour spent heavily and taxed lightly, however, they inherited Margaret Thatcher’s spend little, tax little, hence the social fabric that Fraser Nelson so passionately hints at in this piece was crumbling. The schools were literally crumbling, education needed repairing, the NHS needed modernising, and with engineering firms falling foul of her Service driven economy and very precious little help from the Government unless the name of the company was not originally from Britain (Nissan etc), then it is little wonder the well paid jobs have become harder to find, cleaning jobs that Fraser refers to are fast becoming the norm for entry level jobs; unless you have a degree of course, then you may start on a living wage if lucky. What we really need is a return to the ethos that permeated throughout Britain after the WW2, the all in it together ethos, for real rather than nere words that David Cameron and his team of Blackadder leaders merely refer to and then do not ask the same of their rich freinds as they do of the less well off proportionately, merely refering to how much tax they have paid not the percentage. This argument of his comes in many forms, most recently with RBS, stating that so long as the overall pay bill of RBS does not go up it is OK for top bosses to get 100% bonuses, on which they will cleverly reduce the tax take to a pilfering amount compared to how much less able pilferers are able to get away with. However, this tax has it’s purpose, either to educate, keep us healthy, apy for HS2, next generation energy prodction, roads; all of which help the rich as much as the poorer if only to aid getting to work to help produce more wealth for the rich.

  • anyfool

    The biggest problem with any policy this government takes on solve any of the current blights on society is the built in resistance of the politicised civil service, this coupled with the woeful standards that now are normal in all divisions of the public sector, every single major initiative undertaken by the civil service in the last 20 years has been a catastrophic failure due to incompetence and corruption of values. his job is almost impossible.

    You mention the reaction to this programme from the media, you and your fellow members of the club MSM are part of the problem, by and large you have for the last 20 years made excuses for the appalling standards of governance in this country.

    Start giving these people and their masters in the Labour party a severe indepth grilling of their pathetic efforts and it might help in the future.

  • D Whiggery

    This is also what causes the artificial vacuum in our jobs market that sucks in immigrants from all over the place while a huge section of our population are left too poorly educated to compete and considered as worthless scum by many.

    We make them by voting for the wrong politics so we feel good about ourselves, before promptly keeping them as far away as possible while taking on a Polish plumber. We then tell everyone who’ll listen how hardworking said plumber is, before then complaining to anyone else who’ll listen that there are too many immigrants. There are but we made that happen too. We’ve got to join the dots and start being consistent in our thinking.

    We can have free immigration or welfare/minimum wage, but not both. Which one do you want?

    • outraged

      I would be more worried about annual influx of 30K of Indian graduates on Intra Company Transfers allowed under ‘skilled’ label to displace English professionals and preventing English graduates from getting good jobs.

      • Alexandrovich

        Of course you would, being an Eastern European immigrant. You don’t really mean ‘English’ professionals or ‘English’ graduates, do you?

        • Guest

          If you want to discuss who comes from where, step outside where I can pummel your b@lls.

  • Jack Jazz

    It took channel 4 ages to find a single street full of none working benefit claimants. I cant understand why they didn’t pick a street full of working benefit claimants as there are thousands of these streets up and down the country.

    • Retired Nurse

      exactly…I’m a benefit claimant…its called a State Pension….EARNED IT doing a very low paid job…

      • Weaver

        If it was very low paid, it is unlikely you “earned” the state pension, in net contribution terms. Your pension is likely being subsidised by a higher wage earner.

  • alexander

    Benefits street exposes Britain’s dirty secret. The media smear campaign since 2008 to shift the blame onto the poor for the private bank debt transferred to the public purse and the failed economic policies of investment banks and the government.

    • gram parsons

      i was waiting for the broken record player to arrive.
      it has now

      • alexander

        Arrived 4 hours ago mate, you been looking at it for 4 hours?

        • gram parsons

          its past your bedtime owen jones

  • SaveGreatBritain

    I make no apology in disagreeing with the idea that these people aren’t scroungers. There are people who choose to work and contribute to society, and there are people like this who choose otherwise. Sure, by landing a job they may only be earning a fraction more than their extortionately generous entitlements, but we all have to do it so why should they be an exception? Based on the argument in this article every working class citizen should quit their jobs, have children and sign on with a guarantee of next to no taxes and a similar income without getting one’s a*se out of one’s bed. They are not “stuck” in poverty; they are merely stuck in the prevailing “Why should I?” mentality.

  • alexander

    All the residents of benefits street who can trace their ancestors back to the people of the industrial revolution are welcome to claim benefits for themselves and their descendants for the next 100 years for all the hard work their ancestors contributed from 1850-1980 in making Great Britain the industrial powerhouse of the world and providing the hard graft and labour for the British empire.

  • TheSauceZA

    I do not follow your maths??? How can you say its an effective 91% tax rate???
    If it weren’t for benefits they would get nothing at all…. compare what they earn to “nothing at all” and then show us how you get to 91% tax rate???

  • chris graham

    Fraser what of the working poor-why are 300 extra housing benefit claims per day made by people in work.Its because of the low pay and high rent society the neo liberal economy has produced.
    The society produces the structural problems-and IDS flushes £millions down the tubes in a IT project.

    • Eddie

      And the solution? Let’s stop handing out housing benefit completely. And/or have rent limits. And we could tax buy to let investors and foreign buyers much more highly (or even ban foreign buyers as India and Russia do, for example).
      I agree with you though that in the UK it is always ordinary working people who suffer because of the policies of those self-aggrandising twerps who rule us. These idiots lecture us about how immigration has enriched our lives too, when it has pushed up property prices and rents, and pushed down wages, things which make working people suffer (but enrich the yummy mummy classes and the besuited bores of the Westminster village).

  • Eddie

    Indeed, it is one of the great unmentionables – like Islam and its problems, or the negative effects of mass immigration, or the utter killing so many socialist MPs have made in the London property market (even as Milliband bleats his meagre salary to us all with a straight face from his £2 million townhouse).
    The underclass has developed because our benefits culture allowed it too. Vast sums wasted – and a lot of that in housing benefit to enrich landlords and push up property prices and rents. Disgraceful.
    The working class in this country used to be mostly respectable – they wanted to better themselves. My grandparents left school for work aged 13, but they and many others read books, could spell better than today’s graduates, and inculcated their children with a belief in the reforming power and worth of education (which went beyond mere training for a job and often has a churchy bent).
    In Wales, the situation is now dire – the education system used to be great here, and better than England’s, Now we have a huge underclass, the highest rate of teen preggers in the UK, and a failing school system. A great shame.

    • Dutchnick

      As a previous parent governor in Wales I agree, it broke my heart to see kids denied a good education. The teachers were ineffective and more concerned with doing everything to preserve their jobs and perks to the detriment of all else.

  • luana

    I’ve watched this show on internet and it’s quite interesting. I’m not English (never been there) so I don’t understand something regarding English people who claim benefits. You said that White Dee seems to refuse to work because is not in her advantage, she would earn less, so I’m wondering : those who claim benefits are not obliged to present in job interviews when the Household Labour Force (I don’t know how it’s called in U.K) find them a job? Here, they cannot refuse to work if the contractor accept them, they cannot continue to stay on benefits.

    • Weaver

      We don’t have mandatory placement like the HLF.

      Theoretically, if a claimant turns down interviews and jobs with no good reason, then benefits are stopped.

      But in practise this never happens. There is no incentive to do so on the part of the case officer, and in any event its easy enough to fail an interview and make yourself look blameless.

  • Cymrugel

    Yes of course Fraser
    The solution is to scrap the welfare state and force them all to work for beggars wages or starve.
    What a wonderful world you and your chums want to create – a giant leap into the 1850s.
    and of course all done in the knowledge that you and yours will never be subjected to the rigours that you advocate for the great unwashed.

  • Raw England

    The Left hate Benefits Street because it vividly illustrates how badly multiculturalism and immigration has destroyed us.

  • Engley

    Reminds me of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, The Two Minute Hate. God help us in this country.

  • James Allen

    Great article – thanks for writing. Needs to be read widely.

  • SarahAB

    But what about the fact that there aren’t enough jobs at present? Some variant of the citizen’s income might help with the problem of the ‘91% tax rate’ disincentive.

    • mike jones

      the romanians seem to be able to find work.
      perhaps inviting Europe’s poor to come to Britain and compete with your poorest countrymen to see who can work for the least amount of money wasn’t the brightest liberal idea in the past 50 years. of course their kids vote labor, and that’s all you people care about.

  • Peter

    How predictable to see privately-educated journalists commenting on the feckless poor. Given Fraser Nelson attended the £24,000 Dollar academy (a benefit in itself) its pretty rich (excuse the pun) for him to then criticise the poor. Many of those in Benefits St show capacity to stand on their own two feet not to rely on the bank of Mummy and Daddy to bail them out.

  • The Elderking

    Benjamin Franklin had it figured out. It does make one wonder at the intellectual vacuum that exists amongst our political “Elite”……

    When you have parties run by wonks like Miliband who has no understanding of real life it is hardly surprising that they are more concerned with keeping the “poor” in their state of dependency just to retain their votes.

    It’s criminal.


    “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

  • mikewaller

    I have long held the view that the Right has a lot to answer for in creating the welfare trap. As I recall it from the schoolroom 55 years ago, when French socialists first introduced unemployment benefits, rather than paying the beneficiaries to do nothing, they had them digging holes and thereafter paid them to back-fill them. The scheme then collapsed in ridicule.

    Yet something along those lines is the only way I can see of squaring the circle and flushing out folk who are in fact working. As we cannot pay everybody wages set at a level that would make work economically worthwhile even to those on full benefit, the only logical answer I can think of is to make benefit payments to the fit subject to some kind of activity requirement. I appreciate that this would be horrendously difficult and might have to be no more that attendance at what would amount to parade grounds for regular exercise. However, as this article makes clear, the status quo is wholly unacceptable, and what else are we to do?

  • orange_capz

    The collectivist notion that a few quacks and academics are somehow magically ready to plan and direct our future progress is complete nonsense

  • Cassandra Widdison

    Great report & I’m glad the show is being aired, but it should be followed by the revolution will be televised as shown on bbc3

  • ohforheavensake

    Nope- the left is furious about the way people at the bottom are treated. We’re also furious at TV companies exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable.

    You seem to miss this, Fraser.

  • disqusting

    Idiots grandstanding over unemployment. If your job goes tommorow, you will face these tough measures? How will you feel when the boots on the other foot?

  • Paul

    IDS is not trying to help people! That is absurd. He, and the rest of the tories have, with the willing aid of the right wing press demonized the poor and the sick and the unemployed. There is something very wrong with the welfare state but the tories are the last people to fix it.

    Their real aim is to privatise the welfare so it turns into a compulsory insurance scam on which many of them will sit on the board and many more will be share holders.

    The usual inevitable result will be what has happened in all the privatisation scams since thatcher first cast her evil policies on the country. The taxpayer will pay more, the people will get less and the tories and their rich mates will clean up.

  • Dot
  • Dot

    VIDEO FOR JAMES TURNER Street.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–wWbkAjO1k

  • David Lizewski

    The tory’s are confronting poverty? LMFAO, yes, by killing the poor, gtfo!

  • Bandit Queen

    This programme showed just how lazy most of these people really are! Most of the people in the programme were on drugs, smoked and drank heavily, or were dirty and smelly and did not make any effort to smarten or clean themselves up. A few genuine people; with disabilities or small children, and one group of refugees, shamefully pushed into one room; are deserving cases. The rest should be forced into drug and drink rehab or have their benefits taken from them and given to genuine claimants. This was a life style choice for many of them; they made no effort to clean up and that is why they cannot get a job, not because there are none out there. One drug user and drunk complained that his daughter did not want to know him and that is why he is unemployed. Rubbish! He cannot be a good father while he is on drugs and for the same reason he cannot hold down a job. He chose to put this poison into his system; no-one else. Clearly he needs help and long term rehab. The money for his benefits should go to putting him into residential rehab for two years to get him clean and back on track. Then and only then would he be able to work. Young men and women who have nothing wrong with them and sit on the dole for years are a disgrace. People who need help should get it; but those who want to stay out of work and get used to it neeed to grow up and if need be go elsewhere in the country for work; if they genuinely want to find it.

  • enoch powellsghost

    what we dont hear much of is the working class pay is so low that nearly all of them are on one benefit or another with strings attached of course!.
    A man works full time 40 hours or more and still does not have enough to sustain himself let alone a family!.
    The whole thing stinks and now we get the middle classes complaining about the tax they pay on income oh my poor darlings how will you survive?.
    Do not the working class pay the same for petrol,gas,leccy,water,council tax etc?.
    or do the middle class think they eat rats,trotters and other such awful foods found in smith fields skips

  • Board Room

    Exercise your right to arm yourself with knowledge: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KY878

  • Jason Pullen

    Hey people, please explain what is wrong here. David ‘The dog’ Cameron, as many call him, has caused many poor and needy to die via his welfare cuts, suicidal incitement, starvation etc, so although he has not effectively ‘pulled the trigger,’ surely, if investigated, he would be found guilty of Murder – in the 2nd degree, and punished. Ok ok, in prison he may be sentenced to serve with a large black gay who will do to him what he is now doing to the poor and needy he actually did say should had no fear…’that I will ensure they suffer and die’ he neglected to add…
    David Cameron is without question a murderer, even though this may be due to his ignorance and hence lack of study into his decisions…unless of course he was told, ‘but David, some poor and needy will die…’
    ‘Yes,’ he’d smile, ‘acceptable losses!’
    ..if the public under threat are aware of this attempt on their lives, and as ALL other means of defense have been ignored and rejected by this killer, the possible action necessary will be to defend yourself – or other citizens under threat – by Justifiably killing aforesaid killer…
    Watch out David, ..people know you are killing people – details are often hidden..but they are there if you search..so, people under threat may be thinking, ‘he wants me dead…so..kill, or be killed!’

  • shikira

    Why it is I am assuredly convinced that ‘Benefits Street’ a teriffic media ploy, perhaps has a lot to do with the sudden leap of good fortune that White Dee has miraculously managed to secure herself some well-paid medai roles, a majority of us left reeling in envy when our own impoverished lives continue unchanged. This, and the fact that there has been a significant degree of public outrage against welfare cuts and reforms within the past few years, has championed broadsheet support – news readers inundated with proletariat oppression – why the need then for a kitchen sink mini series?.

    We instinctively understand the reasoning behind the exposure of social injustice – the importance of documentary to illuminate the sheer scale of its existence in immediate society, the worst effects of poverty today still a taboo in mainstream political circles as well as an uncomfortable pedestrian subject on the whole. Channel 4 are the only television producers committed to raising awareness midst the wider populous of the effects of civil hardship, despite the fact that a vast many of audiences will be tuned into a programme that resonates so calcuabley with their own destitution. The doomed poor who will undoubtedly have made up the majority of viewing figures, likely unquestion the real purpose and directon of the show as long as there is license-worthy entertainment value.

    Myself on the otherhand, not having watched it, autonomously surmise: to what extent does this show alleviate the poverty and suffering of those in the UK, not fortunate enough to have the same open -door job opportunities White Dee now has?. Afterall, there can only ever be one certain consequence of digging for 2014 soap victory – pull up and out a prize winner in our current pro-celebrity climate. Convenient a truth as this is, I doubt that Dee was randomly selected, and very likely a friend or relative of a Channel 4 tv executive, when we all know that is how ladder-lifting works in the mainstream of things, regardless of what background a person thrives. Not only this, yet the coming to light of her recent crimminal past, would render Dee totally unemployable if applying for regular jobs elsewhere.

    If perhaps she had mental health conditions and isolated from immediate society, yet an auspicious, resourceful and multifaceted individual, would encourage me to support her success, yet her formiddable character reminds me of the many women I have ever been bullied throughout much of my life, and why I don’t have female friends I can confide my own insecurities and ambitions. It doesn’t help that I am also extremely good looking and have naturally youthful skin that defies my 41 years of age – people are envious of me despite the fact that I have overcome a vast amount of adversity, I could write many an autobiography of my childhood abuse and neglect I have yet to seek justice and closure, where I have no contact whatsoever with any family for some 26 years.

    The deliberate selection of someone smug-ignorant of propitious diversity gets me under the collar, and incensed by the fact that we will be forever plagued by same others, Channel 4 will readily snap them up, especially if they have friends and relatives struggling to find work in the real world. Any media subterfuge would be immediately apparent in another series of a similiar kind, just as this latest one has most definitely raised my suspisions of foul play wether right or wrong about this.

  • Anthony Cavanagh

    This is a very nice middle class view, but read face book or any comments section in the Daily mail, or any of the papers its all about them fat shiftless ugly lookesr ripping of Britain.

  • Anthony Cavanagh

    In fact just read the comments below

  • King Kibbutz

    A dire situation all right. But how is government of any stripe supposed to deal with this mess? Industry and commerce simply do not need as many hands to carry out business, and will not ever do so again.

    In fact the whole business mindset is still firmly fixed on the goal of shedding wages and getting more from those retained We cannot do anything to reverse this. It has to be said also that, given such circumstances, the most irresponsible thing to do would be to add to the problem by allowing millions of workers to compete in the labour market. What part of any of this has been helped by the import of so many?

    Time and again the argument has been and continues on occasion to be made here, that mass immigration is some kind of beneficent life-blood, the supply of which is simply beyond our existing workforce. These people have been welfared into a corner, going way back and by both Labour and the Tories for reasons only they know.

    Our apprenticeship scheme would have given most of these people skills in sectors vital to them which still need hands like theirs to do stuff, had it not been swiftly binned to the applause of Nigel Lawson’s baying audience. We were to aim not for a low-tech economy but its no-tech version (his very words) We would somehow buy our houses and cars by opening sandwich shops.

  • FMA

    we shovel them off to edge-of-town housing estates

    Shouldn’t that be “shuffle”, Fraser? Tut tut tut.