In the debate today on the government’s ‘Welfare Uprating Bill’, which will cap benefit rises at 1%, I had to relisten to a statement by one of the Tory MPs, because it contained such patent nonsense that it’s hard to believe even a Tory MP could say it with a straight face.
The MP in question, Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford, said
..the nub of this whole argument is, if we allow benefits to increase by more than salaries, then that increases the number of people on benefit who are trapped in poverty and unable to afford to actually go out to work.
As an avid politics-watcher and ardent believer in social justice, I hear many things that make me want to spit, or make my jaw drop (or occasionally both at the same time, which is a messy business!), but this is right up there at the top of the Premier League of idiotic comments.
My ears didn’t deceive me – Mr Johnson really did say what you just read. In a few hours time it will be on Hansard for all to see.
Do you see the idiocy of this? Mr Johnson, stripped of the misleading language, is arguing that some jobs pay so poorly that people will only do them if the government limits benefit rises – but he’s going further. He’s saying that they will only be able to afford to do them if the government limits benefit rises.
Does the salary of a job paying poverty wages (and they are poverty wages, because he’s just said giving people benefit rises that will give them higher income than doing the job would) get higher because benefits are lower?
Clearly not. The salary will still be the same, and will still only buy the same amount of food, clothes, rent etc (and an ever-dwindling amount in these days of above-inflation rises in the cost of fuel, transport, food and pretty much everything else).
So not increasing benefits traps people in poverty. Forcing people to do jobs that don’t pay enough to live on increases poverty – even if you make benefits lower so that they’d be even worse poverty.
Increasing benefits does not ‘trap people in poverty’. It might just force employers to pay a decent wage in order to find people to work for them.
Which is what should happen – and exactly why the Tories don’t want to increase benefits.
Sadly, Mr Johnson merely exemplifies the ideology and twisted thinking of his party, including ministers. Don’t be fooled by the spin and the rhetoric. The very word ‘Tory’ comes from an old Irish word meaning ‘bandit‘, and they haven’t ‘changed their spots’.