Schadenfreude is an emotion that one does not normally admit to feeling as it has an immoral or unethical connotation. I will admit to wallowing in this negative emotion this week with relation to David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and so the leader of the UK government known as the Prime Minister but this week I should imagine he feels more like a Prime Chump.
Before I write any more I should point out that my politics are actually rightish wing, a wee bit right of Genghis Khan in fact but in the case of the modern Conservative Party I see them making so many financial and ethical errors that I simply cannot support them.
He started the week early by sticking his nose straight in to Scottish politics in fact right into the face of the Scottish First Minister, Alec Salmond trying to take over and dictate the timing and questions of the Scottish independence referendum. Salmond bared his teeth, growled and Cameron immediately hid behind his Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, and insisted that Salmond must speak to Moore. “I shall speak to the master not the monkey” quoth Salmond. And that is why after the Scottish Parliament has released its’ consultation document on the referendum a meeting will be held between the UK Prime Minister and the Scottish first minister.
According to the media and, in fact the participants, there is a lot more to the matter but as it is almost entirely irrelevant flannel and posturing I will not repeat it here. Later in the week Cameron got another beating by a bunch of cripples. Before anyone objects to my use of that word let me point out that I am one myself which is why I have been so happy recently about the relatively large volume of work I have been able to do. Things I have not been capable of for 4 years and I only hope I can manage this well into the future.
Who are these people who gave the Prime Minister such a well deserved battering. A group of disabled people who refer to themselves as Spartacus after a famous scene in Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same name. They produced and distributed a report “Responsible Reform to the DLA” DLA is disability living allowance. In part this report was a response to the media campaign waged by the government and Department of Work and Pensions to discredit the disabled. A campaign which you can hardly have failed to notice as for the last year or more disabled people have been portrayed as benefit cheats and scroungers which has been widely reported in the media. Of course like any other benefit or the tax system ist is open for abuse. The DWP’s own figure for DLA fraud,which is hard to find as it is hidden in this anti-disabled campaign’s plethora of misleading statements and statistics, is less than 1%. I wonder what the figure is for tax evasion and fraud?
Spartacus communicated via social media and most of their work was carried out using the internet. They used about £4,000 , Hansard and the freedom of information act to get their source material and produce their report which was published on Monday 9th January. Within hours Twitter was full of support, reportedly 3 million tweets of support in the first day. Stephen Fry tweeted “Looks as if the government’s been found out lying and misleading the people on the subject of disability allowances”.
The DWP countered in their usual mendacious style. A spokeswoman for the DWP said the Spartacus report was a selective analysis of consultation responses, which had looked at 500 responses out of more than 5500 submitted on the Government’s proposals.
She added: “Disability Living Allowance is an outdated benefit with the majority of people getting it for life without checks to see if their condition has changed. This has led to hundreds of millions of pounds in overpayments.
“We have been working closely with disabled people and disability organisations on the introduction of Personal Independence Payment and have listened to their views.”
In fact the Spartacus report analysed each one of the 523 organisational submissions to the DLA consultation the rest were from individuals and in their response to the consultation the government continually separated what organisations had said from what individuals had said, so looking just at organisational responses was both reasonable and practically possible for a small and unfunded group.
The majority of people do not get DLA for life, each claimant is regularly reviewed on a schedule set by the DWP which involves the claimant filling out a 50 page form of very personal questions.
This report is probably why the government was defeated so soundly in the House of Lords.
I could write a lot more here but others have already done a far better job than I could so I will simply end with a link should you want to read more.
Click here to open a new window Diary of a benefit scrounger.