‘The Tories are creating a hostile environment – not just for migrants’ : It doesn’t matter if policies work – only that they come down hard on “malingerers” and migrants

George Osborne speaks at the Conservative party conference. Behind him is the slogan: 'Welfare capped, crime down, immigration down.' Photograph: Christopher Thomond
George Osborne speaks at the Conservative party conference. Behind him is the slogan: ‘Welfare capped, crime down, immigration down.’ Photograph: Christopher Thomond


‘And then came Iain Duncan Smith’s new opposite number, Rachel Reeves.

“Nobody should be under any illusions that they are going to be able to live a life on benefits under a Labour government,”

she said.

“If you can work you should be working, and under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits, and that is really important … It is not an either/or question. We would be tougher… If they don’t take it [the offer of a job] they will forfeit their benefit.”

‘In 1984, Orwell coined a term for this kind of political expression. He called it duckspeak: a bland but pernicious honk, these days the sound of intelligent people stooping to conquer, trying not to think about where all their meandering populism might take us.’

~ John Harris


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Tories are creating a hostile environment – not just for migrants” was written by John Harris, for The Guardian on Sunday 13th October 2013 20.10 UTC

With 18 months until the next election, welcome to the latest phase of Conservative politics. Modernisation now looks like a brief nightmare from which a relieved party has awoken, and most elements of the Tory agenda seem to have been signed off by their campaigning guru Lynton Crosby. As a very insightful piece in the current issue of the New Statesman puts it: “No 10 aides boast that campaign strategy and policymaking are now inseparable.” In other words: plans are afoot that will have a profound effect on millions of lives, but they have almost no basis in what we once called “evidence-based policy”, and everything to do with desperate electioneering. The result is a meandering popularism that ignores questions about where the country might end up and fixates on the most cynical of political games.

Last week, we got Theresa May’s new immigration bill, full of moves that have been talked up for the last 18 months, which looks set to become law in the spring. No matter that the number of illegal immigrants in the UK may be as many as 1 million, that thousands of them have long since had UK-raised children, and that many toil in parts of the economy that would crumble without their contribution: as well as deterring potential illegals in the future, May wants them either to be forcibly removed much more easily, or to feel the sharp shock of a “really hostile environment”, and decide to go home, wherever that is.

Private landlords will now have to run checks on their tenants (thanks to the Lib Dems, something to be trialled in a single area pre-2015, though the Home Office insists this move boils down to the policy being rolled out on a “phased basis”). Getting a bank account will involve being cross-referenced with a list of “known immigration offenders”; temporary migrants will be charged a “levy” for use of the NHS; powers to collect fingerprints and search for passports will be extended. “Most people will say it can’t be fair for people who have no right to be here in the UK to continue to exist as everybody else does,” May said last week, and that was that: to use the argot of the last Tory campaign Crosby masterminded, she’s thinking what they’re thinking, which is all that matters.

And, of course, the policies won’t work.

The urban demi-monde of landlordism, illicit employment and lives lived in the most precarious circumstances will balloon. Moreover, as the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has pointed out, a “hostile environment” for one part of the population will entail a pretty trying time for everyone else, and routine identity checks for the whole adult population. Mindful of what might be called the British liberal inheritance, even Nigel Farage gets that: “This legislation would lead to a society where scrutiny in daily life would threaten individual freedoms and liberties,” he says.

As the Tories’ approach to so-called welfare hardens to the point of institutionalised cruelty, another election-oriented wheeze is about to arrive.

In April anyone who is long-term unemployed will have to fall in with the regime the government has called “Help to Work” and, under pain of having their benefits stopped, be forced to either spend 35 hours a week in their local jobcentre, do indefinite unpaid community work, or agree to “compulsory training”.

The “sanctions” system which is already pushing people into borderline destitution is sure to become even more arbitrary and punitive.

In political terms, whether any of this will actually work is scarcely relevant. After all, the existing work programme doesn’t work: thanks to the National Audit Office, we now know you’ve got a better chance of finding a job if you go nowhere near it.

The bedroom tax doesn’t work: the entirely imaginary prospect of three- and four-bedroom houses being freed up was always going to bump up against the complete lack of one- and two-bedroom social housing. After another punishing report from the National Audit Office, it is looking increasingly like the grand project that is universal credit will be a disaster.

But for now, it doesn’t matter: more than ever, politics is about the manipulation of appearances rather than any concrete outcomes, and, in the collective Conservative mind, as long as the party is coming down hard on an imagined army of immigrants and malingerers, all is well.

This year’s Tory conference made all this plain. Everywhere you looked were pristine banners dedicating the proceedings to “hardworking people”. The Conservative record was reduced to the simplest essence: “Welfare capped, crime down, immigration down.” Party conferences are seemingly designed to make you feel like you are going mad, but this one often felt downright chilling – so cold, mechanical and crass that it rather brought to mind such dystopian films as V For Vendetta and Children of Men (which, to quote from one synopsis, depicts the UK in 2027, when “refugees desperate to flee the chaos that has gripped much of the world have landed on British shores, only to be met by a police state that ‘hunts them down like cockroaches'”).

Amid the bathos and farce of British politics, that might sound alarmist. But if nasty populism meanders on and on, you run the risk of arriving at a society that will feel hateful and soulless even to the millions of people who were said to be willing its creation (including, I would imagine, plenty of Tories). If you want a sense of where we might be going, consider the fact that the Red Cross is to get involved in food aid in Britain for the first time since 1945, and imagine the most likely results of these latest government moves: even more desperate people, existing on society’s margins, and living from hand to mouth – untouchables, in all but name, there to be kicked around for other people’s political advantage.

Last week, we got a flavour of what Labour thinks. The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, sounded more nuanced notes than Theresa May, but said moves on illegal immigrants’ bank accounts seemed “sensible”, and that the idea of checks by landlords was “sensible in principle”.

And then came Iain Duncan Smith’s new opposite number, Rachel Reeves.

“Nobody should be under any illusions that they are going to be able to live a life on benefits under a Labour government,”

she said.

“If you can work you should be working, and under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits, and that is really important … It is not an either/or question. We would be tougher… If they don’t take it [the offer of a job] they will forfeit their benefit.”

In 1984, Orwell coined a term for this kind of political expression. He called it duckspeak: a bland but pernicious honk, these days the sound of intelligent people stooping to conquer, trying not to think about where all their meandering populism might take us.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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  • Humanity2012 October 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    More and More it Seems like Nazi Britain 2013

    More like the Braindead Bigots Party the Tory Party

    It is Not the Poor who are the Problem it is the Filthy Selfish

    Answer Redistribution of Wealth from Rich to Poor

  • laineynic October 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Unfortunately I have to agree with you. Hostilities are out there you have two sides of a fence the one where you get the support because you are ill and they know you don’t swing the lead and then theres the other side. The side that throw no punches and it don’t matter if you produced a sickness not and where dying on the spot your a malinger.But who is stirring this so much the Tories and the press I would say. Life is tough enough just back of you bas****s. I live in hope that this wretched government gtes there arses kicked and out of no 10.

  • Humanity2012 October 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    The Sooner that the Obscene Wealth of the Filthy Rich is Broken
    the Sooner there will be Money For Public Services including
    Welfare Provision

    Boycott the ” Newspapers ” Victimising the Poor and Vulnerable

  • Robert Chewter October 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I think they know they will lose the next election and are intent on wrecking the place so that labour if they win gets the blame . Its political vandalism

  • Trevor October 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    I never fail to be amazed at the seemingly childlike naivete of Labour’s supporters: in their deluded minds all it takes is an election win by their beloved party to put the world to rights – a return to a comprehensive welfare state, full employment, the restitution of workers’ rights, the repeal of all Tory anti-union legislation, blah, blah, blah.

    Well it ain’t gonna happen. Since the mid-seventies there’s been a massive sea change in British politics which has lurched ever more rightwards. The fraudulently named “Labour”Party is just as committed to the neoliberal consensus as the Tories and Orange Book LibDems – indeed the first Thatcherite to hold office was “Uncle” Jim Callaghan when he stood up at the 1976 party conference and declared his party wouldn’t try to spend its way out of recession; in short, sounding the death knell for Keynesian economics and the triumph of the new neoliberal orthodoxy.

    There is no solution within capitalism to the endless misery it creates; it needs to be abolished, full stop. Voting for any party which endorses it (the main parties, Greens, SNP, BNP, Ukip, the various splinter Trotskyist and Stalinist sects, [state capitalism in their case] “independents” et al) is self-defeating and, above all, utterly futile. Although now a cliche, Einstein’s quip that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a definition of insanity, sums up this bizarre behaviour nicely.

  • D Fens October 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Most, if not all, normal, good, nice people are just going along with it all. And when all the disabled and poor people of the UK are disposed of, it will be a shrug of shoulders, upturned palms and raised eyebrows, while saying, “Well, it was nothing to do with me, none of my business”.

  • jed goodright October 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    There was no regret in Rachel Reeves today at DWP Questions in parliament. She should, of course, be overcome with SHAME – but no, nothing of the sort.

    Instead we had a triumphal Iain Duncan Shit displaying an arrogance seldom seen in peacocks. At each turn he spoke of the ‘welfare party’ opposite. Labour had no response. They are a busted flush. Anybody who is holding on to a dream of Labour winning an election had better reconsider. This gang of fools is every bit as bad as the tories – and we are paying for it.

    Within labour are many poor souls seeking to justify what Reeves said and explain to ‘lesser’ mortals that all will be ok. This is APPEASEMENT of the highest kind. They are as happy to see the poor suffer, to see the disabled die and to see the unemployed destitute as the tories. DON’T VOTE LABOUR

  • Annos October 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    “For example, all of the Royal Mail’s real estate is being transferred to the new private owners for less than the value of the Royal Mail’s London real estate alone. Neil Clark reports that one Royal Mail London depot is worth about one billion British pounds; but the entire real estate assets of the Royal Mail–public property–is being transferred to the new private owners for about three-quarters of one billion British pounds. The deal was so loaded in favor of the private purchasers that the share price rose almost 40 percent on the first day of trading. (This might have been some sort of nominal trading as the deal possibly has not been finalized.)”


    • jay October 14, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      The comments below by bullingdonmorons, appeared at the end of an newspaper article about the Republicans, who propelled by a Tea Party movement created by the Koch brothers and financed by a collection of multimillionaires, are holding the US government to ransom and endangering us all from a new global financial crisis. It says it better than I ever could about what is really happening in the UK today and ties in nicely with this thread’s subject


      We have been shafted. We were never given any choice, no-one ever put it in any manifesto, we never voted for it, but we got it all the same. The bankrupt ideology of Neo-Liberalism, with its dogma of economic liberalization, free trade, privatization and deregulation, and its mantra that all human activity is a market from which a profit can be made.

      The ruling elite now own our land, gas, electricity, railways, water and media. They have corrupted our politicians and our police. They are now coming for our pensions, our NHS, our roads, our schools and our green spaces. They have systematically destroyed the unions, dismantled our protections, created mass unemployment and are dismembering the welfare state, They caused an economic crash which bankrupted our economy and yet they walked away with their wealth intact.

      And what do we get in return? Austerity, recessions, huge debts and deficits. A government conducting a systematic assault upon the sick, the poor and the disabled, slashing welfare budgets and forcing people off benefits. 500,000 of us now use food banks. They make it easier to sack us, make us work longer hours for less pay, force our kids to work for nothing, raise the retirement age whilst cutting our pensions and weaken our health and safety laws. And all just so a handful of people can be immensely rich. Frankly, it’s sickening.

      But by far the worst damage they have inflicted upon us is that they have destroyed our children’s futures.

      My generation grew up under governments that believed in full employment and a welfare state. We benefited from decades of struggle, hard won rights that enabled us to have a decent standard of living, own our homes and be cared for when we got old or sick.

      However, for 30 years, we have let them slowly dismantle everything my parents and grandparents had fought for. For the millions born since 1980, the only assets they will own will be the ones passed on by their parents. They live in rented accommodation, or negative equity or have interest only mortgages. Their pensions are worthless. They spend every penny they earn, have no savings and buy everything with credit.

      But it’s even worse for our grandchildren. 50% of them are now loaded with debt before they even leave education. If they are lucky enough to have a job, it’s on minimum wage, on zero hour contracts, or part time work, or stacking shelves for nothing. They have no protections, no rights. Pensions are just a pipe-dream. None of them have any hope of getting a mortgage. This is the true cost of the last 30 years. In our lifetime, they have managed to strip away everything our forefathers built for our kids, reducing them to the level of medieval serfs, possessing NOTHING. It’s heartbreaking.

      So, It’s time to get angry, and we need someone to express that anger, because none of our politicians are going to do it.

      We should all be born equal, with an equal chance to develop, to achieve, to succeed. But far too many are now condemned to a life of struggle by a system that creates so many losers for the benefit of so few winners. It is not only unfair and unjust, it is unsustainable.

      And it’s time we all stood up and said, enough is enough.

      (14 October 2013, from The Guardian comments section)

  • Rik October 16, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I agree …my poor old grandad fort thru 2 world wars and the horrors of wars for what?? What??
    He would turn in his grave if he knew what was happening these last 30 or so years…it’s sickening..
    God bless us all…

  • Annos October 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Posted Today, 03:36 PM

    “So, on 30th September, the day before the deadline, the Republican House had a (secret?) vote to change the Clause 4 of Rule XXII House rules, that any elected member in the chamber can call for any proposed bill to be voted upon by the chamber.”


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