Friday, 19 August 2011

Time to stick it to the poor

Obviously, this government has been punishing the poor since it took office, but the riots have given them another opportunity to claim that the country's problems are rooted in feral teen behaviour, not the recklessness, greed and criminality of our political and financial élites. 

Take this article by James Clappison MP, a Tory who is to charm, wit and intelligence what Goering was to culture. In the course of a long, bigoted rant, he joins in the clamour for benefit recipients who rioted to lose their state aid - which means of course that we have two classes of criminals: those who don't claim benefits and therefore will only be punished once, through the justice system, and those who do, and will therefore be punished twice, the second time by an arbitrary and unanswerable authority. 
Many members of the public have channelled this sense of disapproval into the E-Petition asking that Parliament should debate taking benefits away from rioters. We need a full debate on this – one important consideration is that rioters serving prison sentences do not generally receive benefits anyway. However, I have been surprised by the response of those who have sought to rule this out without any debate, as if the receipt of benefits was a human right or withdrawal of benefit was an impossible and unthinkable step. Receipt of some of the benefits in question is not and should not be unconditional. There are circumstances in which benefits can currently be withdrawn; the benefits sanctions regime has been tightened progressively over the years, and the current Welfare Reform Bill proposes sanctions of up to three years loss of benefits for failing to satisfy work search requirements, as well as strengthening the sanctions regime for those found to be committing benefit fraud.  Should rioters also lose benefits? I approach this question with a belief that loss of benefits for a significant period might be a deterrent to some rioters, irrespective of whatever other punishments the courts may rightly impose. If we want to minimise the risk of further riots, we want to ram home the message to potential rioters that the consequences of rioting could be disastrous for them in many different ways in their own lives. I suspect that law-abiding recipients of benefits - the vast majority - would be amongst those who would welcome such a message being sent out.
Who is this guy, who thinks that the very poorest should be 'made to pay'? Well, he's an MP, so of course his basic salary is £65,000. Public school and Oxford, obviously. Lawyer, of course. 
But what does he really think about those who greedily go on a looting rampage? Well, this article suggests that it's not looting that's the problem: it's how you do it. After all, what else do you call fraudulent Parliamentary expenses claims? 

Poor little Jimmy claimed £100,000 for housing expenses on two properties, despite only one of the two being in his name. 

Fair enough, you might think. Most MPs need somewhere near Parliament and somewhere in their constituencies. But Jim:
used taxpayers' money to buy petunias, geraniums and busy lizzies… he also made regular claims for maintenance, groceries, utilities bills and his television licence. He typically claimed £300 per month for food, £100-125 per month for a cleaner, and £31 per month for his cable television bill [obviously the BBC and Freeview aren't good enough for him]. He has also claimed a total of £3,166 for regular work on his garden since 2004.Detailed receipts submitted to the Commons fees office show that last year, he claimed £316 for gardening services, including the planting of a wide variety of flowers. Over two months, his gardener invoiced him for a box of geraniums, five boxes of petunias, one bottle brush shrub, one and a half boxes of busy lizzies, three trailing geraniums and five trailing petunias.
Oh. Rather petty of him. But I'm not going to begrudge a poor man some flowers. He must be strapped for cash, despite that £65,000 salary.

Hold on a minute though:
Mr Clappison owns a farm and 75 acres
For which I suspect he claims a lot of European subsidies while whinging about Europe. But that's not all:
As well as his homes, he rents out 22 houses in North Humberside, five of which are registered jointly with his wife. 
Hm. Not quite the hand-to-mouth existence endured by those he's keen to make homeless then. But at least he's prepared to put his money where his mouth is: with no benefits, they won't be able to rent one of his compact and bijou cottages. 

He even has room for a hobby:
He also owns the ground of Patrington village cricket club.
Isn't that sweet? What a fine example to us all: an expenses cheat whose fortune is based on inheritance and property speculation lecturing the poor about honesty and the work ethic. Vote Tory!


Anonymous said...

He's also a smug looking bastard
Don't you think?

The Plashing Vole said...

Yes. Yes, I do.