Earlier this month, I posted a poll of 9 questions on the government’s actions on benefits, and its treatment of/pronouncements about benefit claimants. I posted my poll because I was incensed by one posted by the Tory party that was blatantly constructed to give only two choices – the one they want and a nonsense one. It also offered only two, slanted questions and used language intended to demonise those who find themselves in the position of having to claim benefits.
Clearly the Tories have to frame their questions like this because they’re afraid of the results if they ask fair questions – most people are not fools, and a fair phrasing of the questions would not give the Tories the soundbite they want – of being able to say that the public agrees with their measures.
I had no such fears, so I tried to construct the poll as fairly as possible, offering people the opportunity to agree with the government’s position, to disagree with it moderately, or to disagree extremely. I was right not to be worried. Each question was answered by an average of almost 400 people (so far). Here are the results:
Almost 98% of respondents feel that the government has been unfair in how it has framed the issue of benefit claimants.
This question was the only one to draw comments specifically on the question rather than on the blog post as a whole, so it seems worth including those here. Nigel Dougan, with a nice sense of correctly bitter humour, said:
They might well be working people but that’s no excuse. If they got off their arses and got jobs as merchant bankers and earned fortunes they wouldn’t need to be bailed out by the state. Why don’t they get extra jobs.
Sorry Mr Cameron but your a Twat. Come and live with some of my friends who are doing jobs way below their skill set and without state assistance their families would fall apart. Get real mate!! If it’s true you wanted to get your daughter to place a vote for you during X Factor for Will Young, you really need to step aside.
Chaz Stoll added:
Good survey and one that is fairly unique as it gives options that put a more Socialist, humane and fairer view forward.
I think most people understand that we are being conned left, right and centre.
In this area, Halesowen and Rowley Regis – West Midlands – my MP, James Morris claimed he had fought to keep the local fire station open. He did oppose, BUT what he never mentioned was that he voted to cut spending in the first place!!!!
Where was his opposition when it was needed?
He then seems to think that his opposition exonerates him. Does he not expect us to see through his nonsense?
Good stuff on the poll…as usual the Tories and their chums The Liberals are blaming, hurting those who can least afford it. They fight for their class – as usual and bugger the rest.
(The sharp-eyed among you might spot that there are 3 comments, but the 3rd was just correcting a typo, which I’ve corrected in the quoted text).
Shame on James Morris, Tory MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis. It seems like that area is cursed with some particularly dishonest Tory MPs, as Bromsgrove’s Sajid Javid has made similar attempts, posing as a defender of his local hospital while his department steals money from the NHS, lying about government spending on the NHS and even inviting a hospital-closing minister to come and talk about the importance of local hospitals(!).
All but 3 of 398 respondents felt that the Tories ‘shirkers’, ‘closed-curtain’ rhetoric is unfair, with all but 16 feeling strongly enough about it to call it ‘grossly unfair’. It’s quite likely that left-leaning people were more likely to find this poll and respond to it, but the question attempts to frame the issue fairly and gives people the chance to respond in favour of the government. So while the percentage in the general population won’t be as high as shown here, you can be confident that these results are a lot more representative than anything the Tories’ questions will show.
Just over 3% of responders felt that the government’s 1% cap on benefit rises until the next General Election is fair or ‘about right’, with the rest choosing one or other variety of it being unfair.
Interestingly, almost half of the people who felt that it was unfair felt that the right solution was for everyone – working or not – to receive decent rises, rather than the government’s approach of simply accepting poverty-wages for many working people and using this as an excuse to cut benefits in real-terms.
This question was an attempt to refine the results of the previous one – and, to me at least, the results of the refinement were extremely interesting.
4 out of every 5 respondents felt that mandating a ‘living wage‘ (currently £7.45 outside London, compared to the current minimum wage of £6.19) is the right way to achieve a cut in the benefits bill, as opposed to the government’s plan to cut benefits in real terms without increasing wages, which condemns many people to poverty. Only 1% felt that a living wage is an unworkable idea.
This is a strong steer for the Labour party as to the kind of policies it should be devising in readiness for the run-up to the next General Election, and it backs up my contention that the way to a landslide victory in 2015 (or sooner) is to be more radical, not to aim for the centre-ground.
Now we move on specifically to the government’s treatment of disabled people. I and many others have argued vehemently that the government’s statements and decisions about disabled people and the benefits they receive have been callous, unfair and have deliberately demonised disabled people.
In particular, implications by Iain Duncan Smith and other government spokespeople about disability benefit fraud have been massively misleading. Every single respondent who knew enough to have an opinion agreed that the government’s statements on disability benefit fraud have been unfair – with almost 94% feeling that the government deliberately demonises disabled people in order to win support for its measures.
Just one single respondent felt that the government’s ‘skiver vs striver’ rhetoric is fair when there are more than 5 times as many unemployed people as there are jobs to be filled. All but 8 of the remaining 373 respondents felt that it is grossly unfair. Clearly, a lot of people understand that tarring someone as a skiver when there’s no job for them to do even if they want to work is a deliberate mockery of the facts.
Again, only one respondent felt the government’s cap on the total benefits cap, which will force many people to move out of their homes to cheaper areas, is fair. Almost 90% agree with the idea that a rent-cap, not a benefits-cap, is the right way to control the cost of benefits – again, a very strong steer to Labour’s policy-planners.
Only 1 person (presumably the same person for all the questions!) felt that it’s fair for the government to cut benefits in real terms while reducing the tax rates for companies and wealthy individuals. More than 95% felt strongly enough about the question to respond that it is grossly unfair. Clearly people are looking for opposition leaders to take a strong stance on this issue, which vindicates completely Labour’s announcement that it will vote against the 1% cap, and shows that George Osborne’s decision to force an unnecessary vote on an ‘uprating amendment’ to try to put Labour out on a limb is simply cynical idiocy.
Not even our intrepid single ‘yea-sayer’ could bring himself or herself to say that calling welfare unaffordable while the tax contribution of the richest has fallen relative to their income is acceptable. Of the 100% who felt that it is not, almost 84% were in favour of taking any necessary measures to bring tax revenues up to meet the need before even considering reducing benefits.
I think the results speak for themselves, largely – and the poll is still open, so feel free to add your contribution. But I think it definitely bears repeating that the results provide a strong call on the Labour party to abandon any thought of trying to appear a ‘safe pair of hands’ to business and the markets.
If Labour wants to win the landslide victory it deserves and consign both the Tories and the LibDems to the irrelevance they deserve, the message is clear: be bold, be radical, and don’t be afraid to put forward a vision that is completely different to the dysfunctional, myth-based nightmare that the Tories have tried – and are now failing – to fool British people into believing.