This morning, Philip Hammond caused outrage by telling Andrew Marr (video) that ‘there are no unemployed people’ – when there are 1.4 million in the UK, alongside those termed ‘economically inactive’ and not counted among them.
Blairite ‘journalist’ John Rentoul quickly leaped to the hapless and heartless Tory chancellor’s defence on social media, trying to justify and explain away the callous and fallacious remark:
Apparently, because Hammond was talking about shorthand typists, that makes it ok – because he somehow magically knows that none of the 1.4 million unemployed people would have a job as a shorthand typist if they still existed these days.
In fact, the context makes Hammond’s nonsense even worse, because it betrays the innate Tory dishonesty and incompetence on the economy and jobs – and dismisses the plight of an enormous number of our people.
The UK has seen a massive increase in low-paid, insecure work considered unskilled or low-skilled – so much so that a term had to be invented for it: the ‘gig economy’. And the Tories celebrate that – while trying simultaneously to pull wool over the eyes of the electorate – every time they challenge Labour at Prime Ministers’ Questions to ‘welcome’ the latest employment figures.
Almost a year ago, one in every eight working people in this country were in poverty.
One in eight.
It has not got better since then.
The Tories have overseen a dramatic impoverishment of huge numbers of people – who are in work.
Hammond’s ‘shorthand typists’ are a symbol of countless other skilled, secure, well-paid jobs that have vanished.
In part that’s because of technological progress and global trends – but the job of a government is to find ways to replace those jobs with as good or better jobs, not to simply ‘make work pay’ by making unemployment so punishing that people have to take any awful, low-paid, insecure, soul-destroying jobs that don’t even pay them enough to live on.
Millions of people in this country are working – and poor – alongside the 1.4 million brutalised unemployed people that Hammond’s party has pushed into grinding, abject poverty and seems intent on attacking further through the ridiculous, unfit Universal Credit system.
And Hammond clearly thinks that’s ok.
Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said ‘Let them eat cake’ when she heard that the poor had no bread, sparking the French revolution.
Hammond’s ‘there are no unemployed people’ may be – needs to be – the Establishment’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ moment that pulls the wool off our eyes and ends the UK’s blighted status quo and the media machine that obscures it.
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