Blind to Poverty: The Stoney Heart of #TheGospelAccordingToIDS

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”  

Hélder Câmara”

Steve-Bell-12.11.10-001

Steve Bell on IDS 12/11/2010

It came across my tweeter feed this evening, and suffice it to say, my reaction was not a calm one. “Priti Patel MP: The bishops are blind to the moral message of IDS’s gospel of work.” Gospel of work?  GOSPEL?

Oh what fresh hell was this? After all, we are talking about the man of the Easterhouse Epiphany, who successfully fooled many with his new found desire to pursue ‘compassionate Conservatism’. This was a man who – perhaps because under his leadership the Conservative party were suffering mightily in the opinion polls – was already exploiting his religion in order to appeal to the conservative (small c) heartland, crying in public about ‘the poor’ and proclaiming his concern about how the secularisation of Great Britain might be one of Britain’s ‘biggest problems‘.

So well did he play the part of the caring and compassionate Conservative Christian leader that he was invited to speak at the Labour Party conference in 2005 by Bob Holman, founder of the Easterhouse based charity FARE, and it was where IDS proclaimed: “Everyone should have enough money to live properly in their community.”  And whilst his appeal to the conservative heartland did not save his leadership of the Tory party, it paved the way to a successful re-invention which allowed him to pursue his calling as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

So let us return to this ‘moral’ message, this ‘gospel of work’ – the Christian inference  is clear, and I would suggest, deliberate. The word ‘gospel’ is of course a rendering of the Greek word meaning ‘good news’ evangelion and is most often associated with Christianity. The premise then of this post is simple: that the bishops (and by extension any one who agrees with them about benefit cuts and caps which have been metered out under Duncan Smith) are failing to accept the ‘morality’ which drives this, and haven’t accepted the ‘gospel’ that this is The Way in which the poor should be dealt with.

Or to put it another way, this is the gospel according to Ian Duncan Smith, and there is something wrong with us if we don’t see it his way.

When you build a society in which people are only valued for their economic output, is is those least able to produce economically who suffer. And when your ‘morality’ is built on the premise that those who cannot produce economically should be forced to do so, inevitably you will find the belief that their poverty is their own fault, that it is a weakness of which they must be cured. And that is what is at the heart of this ‘gospel’ – the poor are poor because they have chosen to be so, and these cuts whom so many others can see as wrong, are in fact for their own good.

Under the last Labour Government, the concept of welfare went wrong. We saw an extreme culture of dependency on welfare developing where families became trapped – sometimes by deliberate choice and sometimes by accident – in a cycle of dependency in which they were rewarded for not working. This cycle also affected generations of households, which led to the erosion of the basic value of hard work, aspiration and the general desire to want to get on in life. (Emphasis mine)

People, so the narrative goes, have found a ‘lifestyle’ from which they need to be saved. In this narrative, the disabled aren’t doing enough for themselves, and those struggling with mental health issues could certainly make more of an effort. The LGBTIQ+ community might struggle with stigma and poverty, but if they could only stop being so ‘dependent’..  With this sort of view of humanity, it must make sense to take away social housing and take money away from domestic violence refuges, because naturally the last thing those escaping from domestic violence need after running away with their kids from life threatening violence is to develop ‘dependency issues’. And god help you if you are black or of colour.

Duncan Smith’s gospel is nothing at all like the gospel as proclaimed by Christ. It is, however, quite a lot like the ‘prosperity gospel‘, as proclaimed by a number of (very wealthy) preachers. But it isn’t good news for the poor, it wont set any captives free and it certainly isn’t life.

It’s a fake and phoney gospel, and if you don’t conform to it, it will kill you.

Tom Harris – The Man Who Thinks Teenage Mothers Have An ‘Army’: Narrative Matters 2

These days, I kind of expect politicians of any ilk to at some say something which has absolutely no basis in fact whatsoever, especially when they are talking about people on benefit. It says something about the Labour Party that it’s political representatives are just as likely to verbally bash, maul and shame anyone who isn’t middle class enough to have 2 cars in the drive of their semi-detatched, whilst living the ‘aspirational’ life we are apparantly supposed to be living to qualify as worthy of being – at the very least – listened to by our MP’s. (For ‘aspirational’ of course, that means ‘be like them’, which is generally white, and pretty well off with lots and lots of stuff in a great big house).

So whose bashing who today then? Well step up Tom Harris, Labour MP and either the most un-informed reactionary in the Labour ranks, or the most wilfully stupid: possibley both. I haven’t decided yet. (And if you really want to read this rage-inducing stupidity then you can read it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/05/welfare-children ).

You see, according to Mr Harris, there’s ‘an army of teenage mothers’ ‘living off the state’ out there, who ‘absolutely no ambition for themselves’ and who have ‘..been indoctrinated with the lie that they’ll never amount to anything’. (And some idiot politician telling them that they should be bloody ashamed of themselves for being loose, immoral scroungers is really going to solve that, isn’t it?)

Let’s start with the lie that Mr Harris has clearly been indocrinated with – or possibley he know’s is a lie and is simply being wilfull in his spreading of said lie, this ‘army’ of teenage mothers. This is – as Gingerbread (A) will be happy to tell him – a complete myth. Less than 2% of single mothers are teenagers. Let that sink in for a moment. That doesn’t really sound like ‘an army’ to me. It sounds like a rather small amount actually.

Of course, Mr Harris has a couple of anecdotes to back up this ridiculous, baseless horse sh*t – the young teenage girl in the bed opposite his wife on the delivery of their son (whose age, sexual proclivity and moral centre he sees fit to sit in judgement on), and a couple of young mothers outside of a record shop. Quite an army that. I can see how that would make him a little scared of those loose young girls sleeping around all over the place and reproducing little sproglets in order to grab at the houses and money they don’t have the wit or will to go and work for themselves.

This is all framed in a narrative of purity and righteousness that would be sickening from the mouth of a Tory, yet manages to sound positively vile from him.  His wife, you see, was properly and virtuously married at the time of the birth of their child, and his own ‘poor hardworking’ parents were so horrified by unemployment that they started their own buisness and very properly hauled themselves up by their bootstraps to provide for their family. Which is lovely, but I’m really not sure how that gives Mr Harris the right to make judgements on young women, about whose lives he knows absolutely sod all.

Never mind that he perpetuates yet more lies about those dependant on welfare, and I strongly suggest he educates himself about this, because frankly he really does not have a clue.  He could start with ‘The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths About Poverty’ – here’s a handy link: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

It is irresponsible – at best – when a politician speaks in such a manner: that he tries to shame young women is appalling. That he frames in such bigotry and ignorence is utterly irresponsible. Not that we should expect anything less from a politician of course.

(A) http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content/365/Statistics

Sources quoted by Gingerbread

  1. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
  2. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
  3. Figure produced for Gingerbread by the Fertility and Family Analysis Unit, Office of National Statistic and derived from the Annual Population Survey (APS), (Labour Force Survey plus boost), 2009 data
  4. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
  5. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
  6. Working and Workless Households, 2012, Table P. ONS Statistical Bulletin, August 2012
  7. Families with children in Britain: Findings from the 2008 Families and children study (FACS), Table 3.2. Department for Work and Pensions, 2010
  8. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2009/10, Table 4.1ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2011
  9. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
  10. Leaving Lone Parenthood: Analysis of the repartnering patterns of lone mothers in the U.K. Skew, A., Berrington, A., Falkingham, J. 2008, on data from 2005
  11. Derived from Households and Families, Social Trends 41, Table 6 & 7. ONS, 2011. Data from 2009
  12. Analysis of Labour Force Survey data from June 2006 produced for Gingerbread by ONS
  13. Divorces in England and Wales 2009. ONS Statistical Bulletin, February 2011
  14. General Household Survey 2007, Table 3.6. ONS, 2009
  15. General Lifestyle Survey, 2009, Table 3.6. ONS, 2011
  16. Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
  17. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2009/10, Table 4.14ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2011
  18. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2009/10, Table 4.11ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2011
  19. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 6.3. DWP, 2010
  20. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 9.1. DWP, 2010
  21. English Housing Survey, Household Report 2009 – 10, Table 3.6. Department for Communities and Local Government, 2011
  22. Wealth in Great Britain. Main Results from the Wealth and Assets Survey 2006/08, p.108. ONS, 2009
  23. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 8.8. DWP, 2010
  24. Family Resource Survey UK, 2008-2009, Table 4.10. Department for Work and Pensions, 2010
  25. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 3.2. DWP, 2010
  26. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 12.5. DWP, 2010
  27. Working and Workless Households, 2012, Table P. ONS Statistical Bulletin, August 2012
  28. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 16.5. DWP, 2010
  29. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 16.1. DWP, 2010
  30. Childcare and early years survey of parents 2009, p.83. NatCen/Department for Education, 2010. Research Report DFE-RR054
  31. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 15.1. DWP, 2010
  32. Family and Children Survey 2008, Table 15.4b. DWP, 2010
  33. Child Support Agency national statistics, June 2011. CMEC/DWP, 2011
  34. Parliamentary Question, Hansard 24/03/2011, col 1242W
  35. PQ response to Karen Buck, March 2011, Letter from Stephen Geraghty (CMEC), 17/3/11 Col 566W
  36. Problematic contact after separation and divorce. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2008
  37. I’m not saying it was easy…Contact problems in separated families. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2009
  38. I’m not saying it was easy…Contact problems in separated families. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2009
  39. Problematic contact after separation and divorce. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2008
  40. I’m not saying it was easy . . . Contact problems in separated families. Peacey, V., Hunt, J. Gingerbread, 2009
  41. Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being. Mooney, A., Oliver, C., Smith, M. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009
  42. Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being. Mooney, A., Oliver, C., Smith, M. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009
  43. Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-Being. Mooney, A., Oliver, C., Smith, M. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009