With all the ferocity of a blancmange wielding kitten, Chris Grayling has pounced on critics of workfare on Radio 4 this morning. Today’s big lie is that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) hacked his email. Except they didn’t. He also appears to think that the public outrage directed at forced labour is down to an internet campaign being run by SWP front operation, the Right To Work (RTW) Campaign.
On this single point he’s correct for a change. RTW are indeed one of many SWP front organisations. Unfortunately that’s where his insight ends. The SWP couldn’t run an online campaign if their lives depended on it. Stuck as they are somewhere between Kronstadt and the Soviet invasion of Hungary, it’ll be 50 years before most of them work out how to use a computer.
There is an ever increasing number of claimant led groups both on the internet and in the real world who have long been fighting the never-ending (perhaps until now) war on benefit claimants. Boycott Workfare, pictured above outside last year’s workfare industry conference, have been campaigning against forced labour since before this government weren’t elected and issued the call out for the upcoming National Day of Action on March 3rd. Protests have been taking place around the country for well over a year against the government’s welfare schemes, including workfare. And when the public finally realised what was going on they acted in their thousands to threaten boycotts, protests and direct action, all precision targeted at the companies profiting from the scheme. It was benefit claimants and twitter what won it. Not the SWP.
But this is no time for sectarian bickering. Everyone, even liberal dimwits, should be welcomed onto the bandwagon. Workfare is only one aspect (albeit a vital one) of the government’s pernicious welfare reforms. The abuse of sick and disabled people carries on unabated and must be resisted with equal ferocity. Just like A4e’s milking of workfare schemes, behind the scenes a private company Atos is making millions out of abusive and shoddy benefit eligibility tests which have driven some claimants to suicides. This fight must not end with the collapse of workfare.
That the fall from grace of Emma Harrison should come now of all times is the icing on the cake and it is entirely fitting to gloat a bit. Pressure must now be maintained, not just on A4e but on all the other workfare providers. The likes of G4s, Indus Delta, Best and A4e are making far more money out of workfare than Tesco ever did. The charities involved in delivering the Work Programme must also be held to account.
Grayling managed to duck the question of forced labour on the government’s flagship Work Programme this morning when he was interviewed. Under this scheme, some claimants can be expected to work for up to six month or face loss of benefits. The Tories, who last year were boasting of tough new measures aimed at benefit claimants, are now falling over themselves to pretend they aren’t happening. Grayling also neglected to mention the new Compulsory Community Work scheme currently being trialled which will see claimants forced to work for six months without pay. This seems a strange omission, since only last year he seemed rather proud of it.
Whilst Tory lies are not doing much for the party’s disappearing credibility, the real damage will happen in the implementation of the Work Programme. Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP’s repeated that claims that no-one is mandated to work for free will resonate through the offices of every workfare contractor in the land. A4e may say you have to work for your benefits, policy may even dictate it, but the DWP and ministers responsible have given a very different message to the public. Every claimant forced to stack shelves or face benefit sanctions will repeat Iain Duncan Smith’s fib in the Mail this week that: “work programme is purely voluntary.”
The chaos this kind of double speak will cause at grassroots level will be unprecedented. Whether Iain Duncan Smith intended it or not, the teeth of the Work Programme have been removed and every contractor paid to carry out the scheme knows it. Which means they’ll be back for even more money and when targets go unmet they can blame the Secretary of State. This story is set to run and run.
The Tory backlash against public outrage at forced labour has revealed stark evidence of the ineptness behind the spin of this government. Cameron and Grayling have been jumping up and down like spoilt children having a tantrum with nanny. Furious that they aren’t getting their own way, they have resorted to lies, begging letters, smears and ludicrous conspiracy theories about the enemy within. Only recently they were deriding and downgrading vocational qualifications, now they are accusing people of job snobbery. It’s almost comical and it seems anything they do or say just makes it worse. If this is the kind of fucking idiots Oxbridge turn out these days, give me an NVQ in Fish Husbandry any day.