There can’t be a Lib Dem who doesn’t wince when the phrase ‘shirkers versus strivers’ is used. I don’t want to perpetuate this poisonous comparison, but hopefully my headline will draw in some of those taken in by the phrase and expose them to a different analysis.
While none of us would want to withhold support for ‘strivers’, aka ‘hard-working families’, we cannot allow the terms ‘shirkers’ or ‘scroungers’ to become the standard descriptions used for people who are unemployed (especially in a period of high unemployment brought about by dire economic circumstances), for people who are full-time carers, for people with mental health problems, or indeed people with other long-term health or disability conditions.
Nick Clegg is quoted in the Guardian today, from comments he made yesterday at the Mid-Term Review press conference, under the headline “Nick Clegg joins protests over ‘shirkers’ tag”.
“I don’t think it helps at all to try and portray that decision as one that divides one set of people against another, the deserving and the undeserving poor, people in work and out of work.”
It goes on to claim:
It is understood Clegg is also involved in a backstage battle on how to ensure that coalition plans for childcare will particularly help the working poor, rather than offer reliefs to the middle class.
The article, by Patrick Wintour, also refers to Sarah Teather:
In a sign that the Lib Dem indiscipline may spread to the Commons as the pressure of the election nears, the former children’s minister Sarah Teather announced she would be rebelling in Tuesday’s vote to formally break the link between benefits and inflation. It is expected more Lib Dem MPs will rebel later in the passage of the bill through parliament.
“I hate the scroungers versus strivers rhetoric that drives this stuff, and the use of legislation to try and force artificial dividing lines,” she said. “We were elected to serve the common good, not to use parliament and the vulnerable we serve as a playground for petty games.”
You can read the whole article here.
* Mary Reid is the Tuesday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.