Monday 2 June 2014

Voting why you should be bothered.

Democracy puts strength in the hands of the many. Why in democratic Britain are the 90% treated like cattle for milking and for eating?

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”

Generally speaking our posts at Ripped-Off Britons are about who not to trust and why. For a change, in this post we do not write about untrustworthy people who gain our trust using flim-flam and deception – i.e. the usual roster of bankers, energy executives, politicians etc. For this post we write about the trustworthy people we have been persuaded by flim-flam and deception not to trust – all the ordinary people.

It isn’t enough for dodgy people to fool us into trusting them. For the dodgy to succeed it is necessary for us to mistrust their victims. It is necessary for us to doubt those in poverty (because they don’t work hard enough), those freezing in the cold (because they wilfully don’t put on an extra jumper), the unemployed (because they are lazy), the disabled (they secretly tango when no-one is looking) etc. The dodgy need us to mistrust their victims, because the victims are the witnesses and the evidence of their dodginess.
Doubtless some of these people are victims of their own foolishness. However it is very often true that the foolish make up a small minority of the victims. Consider the 2010 General Election. The Conservative party took 36.1% of the vote, and the turnout was 65.1% of the electorate: therefore the Conservatives won 36.1% x 65.1% = 24% of the country’s votes (less than a quarter). A figure that is at least better than the 2005 General Election, which the Labour Party won with just 22% of the electorate (Labour took 35.2% of votes cast, and just 61.4% of the electorate bothered to vote: 35.2% x 61.4% = 22%).

Some graphs from the think-tank Demos provide a good example of how we have been persuaded to mistrust ordinary people. Their report, “Generation Strains”, provides graphs showing attitudes of people split by generation:

Pre-War: Born before 1945

Baby Boomers: Born between 1945 and 1965

Generation X: Born between 1966 and 1979

Generation Y: Born between 1980 and 2000

The graph shows that on balance the public believe that most people on unemployment benefit (the dole) are fiddling in one way or another. (The graph's percentage figure = those who agree - those who disagree. So 0% means an equal number agree as disagree)

The Demos report comments that this belief seems based on a massive misunderstanding of basic facts:

Misinformation was rife, even among those who had significant experience of the benefit system. Across the generations, people not only tended to overstate the value of benefits to individuals, but also the proportion of the social security budget going to people out of work…. the tendency to overstate JSA (Job Seeker’s Allowance) spending spanned generations, reflecting research findings that three in ten (29 per cent) believe the government spends more on JSA than on pensions. In fact, the reverse is true by a factor of 15 (£4.9 billion is spent per annum on JSA, compared with £74.2 billion on pensions). 
When we asked participants in the depth interviews to estimate the level of fraud in the welfare system, people typically estimated that around one-third of all welfare spending is made on fraudulent claims. This contrasts with official estimates of benefit fraud which stand at 0.7 per cent of total benefit expenditure, or £1.2 billion. 
In one recent poll, the public estimated that on average 25 in every 100 claimants ‘deliberately deceive the government, as they would not be entitled to benefits if they told the truth’

Misinformation comes from many sources. Misinformation on public policy, including benefits, comes from the government and the opposition.

A recent study of newspaper articles over a 16-year period found that 30 per cent of all articles on the subject of welfare referred to fraud. The study also looked into the origin of these stories, finding that the vast majority came from the policy process, encompassing government announcements, debates in parliament and reports by pressure groups. Of those stories covering a particular statistic, 80 per cent were sourced to central government, opposition parties, pressure groups or parliamentary committees, rather than the Office for National Statistics.

The Office for National Statistics is considered a reliable source. The others are not, but they make for better news stories.

But here is another surprise for those who would blame the newspapers. The Demos report shows that in the case of benefits there is very little correlation between the number of newspaper stories and the public’s negative attitude. Public distrust grew even when the papers lost interest in running stories on benefits fraud.

It seems our distrust is not driven by newspaper stories after all. Surely it is not driven by the drivel from politicians, the least trusted of people? If the mistrust is not driven by external forces, then is it driven by forces within us?

Whatever the reason for the mistrust, the mistrust is one of the central reasons why the 90% are herded around by the 1% like farm animals. This is not about Socialism and Capitalism. The Socialist/Capitalist argument diverts ordinary Britons from a couple of basic truths:

1) The spoils go to the strong.

2) In a democracy the many are stronger than the few.

The many are stronger than the few until the many are divided. Ordinary Britons have been subtly divided by mistrust of ordinary Britons. Not divided enough for us to turn against each other. But enough not to stand up to the small minorities in government and in the industries who rip us off on a grand scale.

That subtle 'divide and conquer' is the greatest Rip-off of all, making all other rip-offs possible in our democracy.
In Britain the strength of the many, though individually weak, is their collective vote. The strength of the many is manifested in the governments we elect. Just as the strength of the few is manifested in their corporations and in their wealth.

Neither group is "better" than the other. But for there to be equity, these two strong groups need to pull for their own sides.

For decades of Labour and Conservative governments the bottom 90% of Britons have been failed. Rather than being a force to negotiate on equal terms with the powerful few, our governments have fallen in behind the powerful few in the hope of treats and rewards. But politicians love power even more than they love treats and rewards. Once they have exhausted all the alternatives, even politicians will do the right thing. It is up to us to demonstrate that the alternatives - all the misinformation and dissembling - are exhausted.
2014 is the last full year before the next General Election. This is a time to make all political parties know they need to represent the interests of those who vote them into power. They must do more than rip the votes out of us.


  1. Cracking piece. Nicely sketched.
  2. Nice. However, you overlook the fact that I and many other people believe that many benefits recipients are cheats is because most people on benefits that we have met in fact ARE cheating the system. False claims for council tax benefit, false claims regarding married/single state, failing to declare work and income, etc etc etc. A large number do indeed seem to be at it. And a (misguided????) sense of loyalty prevents us dobbing them in. 
    1. You are a twat sir. That is it. The end.
    2. Notice, real name. Dob me in to who eh? And for what? You are a selfish coward who hates our world.
    3. well said, mate.
  3. Recent circumstances have taught me that the vast majority of Britons wouldn't give you 50p for a cup of tea if you were dying of exposure. Fuck you Anonymous above. You are just excusing your pathetic selfishness.
  4. And You, Marshall, are demonstrating the sort of short-fuse, entitlement-mentality, self pity and mistrust which this article is droning on about. Flip off, twonker. and Up UKIP!
  5. No wonder the country us up shit creek while the two above are at each othet's throats. The typical result of divide and rule.
  6. The lack of compassion and amount of selfish mistrust is counter to true British mentality. Britain is indeed a broken shambling joke. We need to wake up and realise that there IS an enemy to fight, and get busy to ensure social and economic mobility for all.
    1. I absolutely disagree with your opening premise. Evidently, simmering under those stiff upper lips are people so deeply damaged that all it took was for a bunch of unskilled, untested, PR men to agitate amongst them and they were ready to watch their grandmothers vilified, their disabled distraught and the poor castigated.

      If you were a minority amongst this you would have reason to worry. The Jews will always tell you how surprised they were that it was so easy for Hitler to 'turn' his people
  7. While there is no doubt in my mind that the govt are attacking the welfare state in general, and the recipients of work related benefits in particular, in a way worse than ever in my memory, the fact is its a complicated argument. Im in receipt of JSA after being "migrated" from Incapacity Benefit via the unfunny joke that is the WCA. It is the second time that Ive had a WCA, the first time was under labour in 2009, and I was sent by the DWP to test for entitlement to I.B. I got 16 points no problem. When the con-dems changed the rules in 2012 I was summoned back, this time I got 0 points.

    I asked via a letter to the DWP why this was, when I have chronic heart disease which will never improve, only get worse, how could I now be classed as fit with zero points? The reply I received in the name of the secretary of state was forthright, it was because of rule changes. So, I have as good a reason as anyone to hate this govt and their attitude towards the disabled and unemployed.

    But, the point of this reply is to say that I do believe that there should be a test to determine if someone is capable of actually working for a living or not. But the test needs to be fair, and the current one id certainly not, its an instrument of terror designed to take people off sickness related benefits and is obviously to save money in the long run. This being said I don't agree that every claimant is a victim and is unjustly hounded. I actually have friends who are riding the system, there's no earthly reason why they cant work, they don't want to though. It embarrases them that I am actually a jobseeker, they know how ill I am, but, to fail the current WCA and get ESA I would have had to lie or at least exaggerate badly. Because the test is so slanted and unfair. 

    These people are doing what I cannot and will not do, Ive paid tax for 40 years, and feel entitled to my sickness benefit, but at the same time I want to live an honest life even if I suffer injustice as a result of it, we are all on our own path, and we have to do what it is we want to do in accordance with what our conscience will allow. There is a quandary, like a previous poster said, dobbing them in. I wont go down that road as I don't want to, I know what they're doing is wrong, and I wouldn't do it myself, but Im nobody's copper.

    The problem is we are suffering extremes in this society right now, the polarised opinions and propaganda from both ends of the argument only serve to create further division and play right into this corporatist and cruel governments hands. Yes, I hate them and want to see them gone, but not on a frenzy whipped up which is akin to the propaganda and spurious argument they themselves use but coming from the opposite pole.

    The plain truth is there are sinners and saints in the system, and it is no good painting everyone in one way or another, which is whats going on and is devisive. I know from personal experience some a riding the system and some are victims of it. I don't know how it can be sorted in any type of convenient and efficient way, but surely anyone cannot condone money being paid to people that are capable of earning, in the same way as people being denied the support if they really need it and cannot work. The argument needs to become adult and honest, on all sides, I wont hold my breath on that mind you.
    1. Very well said. The only point I disagree with is the 'not dobbing people in it'. I know someone who has inherited a 7 figure sum (yes, SEVEN figures) who has been on benefits over 30 years and still is, even after their inheritance, because they are an expert at 'playing the system'. It's people like this who are making life difficult for those in genuine need and deserve to be informed upon. Whatever way you look at it, that's just pure greed.

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