That ‘shirkers/scroungers versus strivers’ rhetoric

Nick Clegg coffee - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThere 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.

Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central

Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central

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 Monday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.

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  • More crocodile tears.

  • Yet again, divisive and nasty Conservative policy that encourages and creates ignorance, to further their political aims. This aim is to blame the poorest and those with least control for the financial problems created by a failed market. All driven by Conservatives and right wing media. It is creating an artificial division and an unkind and uncaring country. Most do not realise how little money people receive on benefits, or have little knowledge of the system. It will be a shock to these people if and when they try to depend on the safety net.

    Blaming the poorest in this country for the failure of the banks and the markets.

    There are millions of working poor affected by this terrible bill.

    Nasty divisive language and the idea that all those that are poor or unemployed are in that position entirely because it is their fault. That they are weak and morally weak and somehow just not trying hard enough.

    Some decent Liberal Democrats oppose but as per some of the worst Tory policies of this coalition government, it gets through. That is why people voted Liberal Democrat to prevent the unpleasantness of the Conservative Party. They were not trusted. The love in of the relaunch yesterday and yet more unpleasant policy passed which will further increase poverty and destitution will make it difficult to distinguish the Liberal Democrats from the Conservatives at the next election.

    When there is a melt down of the Universal Credit, and people are are forced on to the streets or starve, the debate has been framed. Those that are suffering will be blamed for their terrible situation. What next work houses for these ‘shirkers’ ? It is all there fault after all.

    What a country this is becoming.

  • I used to work in benefits admin – perhaps those who are so keen to protct the current mess should work for a couple of months in the ‘social’, you could change your minds!

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