I am often asked to sign petitions and occasionally I do, but mostly I find them a pointless waste of time.
And never more so than the one currently circulating, requesting Iain Duncan Smith to attempt to live on £53 a week.
This annoys me on several levels. Firstly, I heard the exchange between the Work and Pensions Secretary and John Humphrys on Radio Four’s Today programme, as it happened, and I wonder how many of the people pressing send on their e-mails and tweets, actually did so too.
Just for the record, I am NOT in favour of demonising or penalising those out of work.
I think potential implications of the “bedroom tax” are awful.
The disparity between rich and poor in this country should be a matter of national shame and I believe many in Westminster lead such removed and rarefied lives they have no grasp of what it is like to have no money.
However, the comment by Mr Duncan Smith is, as I see it, a typical media-hyped, example of the out-of-context sound-bite.
The MP was – quite fairly – put on the spot by John Humphrys, asking him, following an interview with market trader, David Bennett, if he could, as Mr Bennett had enquired, live on £53 a week.
Mr Duncan Smith replied quickly, “Well, if I had to I would,” before going on to say he couldn’t comment on individual cases, etc and blah. This was not entirely unreasonable. While, nobody, in my opinion, should be expected to live on that paltry amount, if you “had to” what choice would you have? His expressing that, which is what his tone also implied, is not quite the same as “I could live on £53 in benefits a week, says Mr Duncan Smith” which was one of the ensuing headlines.
Petitions asking him to try it, anyway, are futile for two reasons. 1) since when did any politician do anything because names on a sheet wanted him to? and 2) it would prove absolutely nothing because, of course, he could do it, for a week.
Like I could probably do things I would fear and dread – go to prison, say, or sleep on the streets – if it was for an article or TV footage. If I knew it was only temporary.
The hard, heartbreaking, dispiriting, flattening thing is to have to do it for a year, or five years, or as long into the future as you can imagine, because there are no jobs and no prospects of anything getting any better. And that’s unlikely to happen to anyone currently working out of Westminster and challenging them to play Let’s Pretend on the matter is just fudging the issue.
Better surely, that we sign a petition asking politicians to take some radical action to ensure that nobody has to survive on so little. Because, long-term, one can’t. Which is why so many of those on benefits have to get into debt, or go without basics, in order to make it through.
Instead of them kicking the poor when they’re down already, let’s ask the government to kick the banks – into lending, into getting the economy going, and stimulating employment. Think if we did, it would make a difference? No, neither do I.
It had to happen one day. Ed Miliband has said something worth repeating.
Upon the death of Margaret Thatcher, the Labour leader explained that the Labour party had disagreed with much of what the former premier had done, but concluded: “But we can disagree and also hugely respect her extraordinary achievements and her extraordinary personal strength.”
It’s about how I feel. I didn’t like what she did but could never help having a grudging admiration for the fact that she was able to do it.. Mrs T – RIP.
You can read the article on http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Plain-Jane-Jane-Wenham-Jones-Iain-Duncan-Smith/story-18686333-detail/story.html.