The Right Question?

The first question on the last edition of the BBC’s Question Time was:

    “Why should some people get more than £500 per week on benefits when I only earn £450 a week working 46 hours?”

Well, derr, I don’t know… Maybe you’re not very good at your job? No, of course, you’re good at your job! Hmm… Maybe it’s because you have an exploitative boss? Perhaps you should ask him or her. They will probably cite Government, tax and employment regulations, reduced profit margins and tell you that the Economy makes this a hard time for business etc…

Whatever this chap’s personal circumstances, or those of his boss, it is shocking that £450 for 46 hours of work a week – 46 hours! – is under this magical £26,000 and is becoming acknowledged as not enough for an average family to live on in 21st Century Britain. Either the cost of living is ridiculously high or wages are too low. Take your pick, but it’s both really, isn’t it?

Quite frankly though, dear Reader, I cringed. I mean, for Pity’s Sake!  What the hell is wrong with people? Why do they ask such ridiculous questions?

Given current context, the notion implicit in the question is that it’s the fault of those pesky lower levels, draining the ‘good’ citizens of their hard-earned dosh. Christ! If only being employed was all it took to create ‘good’ people, eh?! Well it’s not! Besides, we’ve all worked with that type who are paid well in spite of the fact that they rarely pull their weight and are just clever at looking busy and we all know people who work damned hard and don’t get paid at all.

We also know that half of the benefits bill goes on pensioners. I’m not complaining, by the way: it’s what they were promised and most of them have even been fortunate enough to be able to contribute their share to The Man. We know that most of those in receipt of housing benefit and those who receive tax credits are in work. And we know that Disability Living Allowance is not remuneration for work but an extra, assistive income that also happens to help many of the disabled find and maintain some measure of employment. We know there is insufficient social housing. We know there aren’t many decent jobs. We know most employment is short-term, casual or zero-houred. We know that most jobs are poorly paid. We know that the ‘workfare’ scheme promotes slave labour. The Government knows all this. The Media knows all this. All politicians know this. How come the general public doesn’t? Do their brains ignore or misplace their critical thinking skills? Are they so fazed, shocked and/or brainwashed that they can’t see through the couriers and their layers of bull?

Make work pay? Yeah, right. Doublespeak.

Rational interpretation: provide employment that remunerates labour with an amount sufficient to live comfortably, save a little bit and still have enough to contribute some tax.

Government’s interpretation: reduce benefits to a level that’s completely inadequate so that even the crappiest, worst-paid job is better than the dole.

Never mind that ever-decreasing numbers of taxpayers have to top this abysmal wage up because it’s not enough. I know! You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Does the public not get the simple fact that Government sets every single benefit available at the lowest rate it can get away with? No benefit covers the things for which it’s been designated and the incredible rise in Life’s basics means it covers less and less each month. There are very, very few who deliberately choose such a lifestyle. You see, Cameron and his cronies say: “‘Welfare’ shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice” but he’s in charge and his government is doing a magnificently shoddy job of providing any alternatives. So: whose choice is it, exactly? Tragically, this attitude is not held exclusively by the Conservatives, for there are prominent MPs within Labour who spout the same view. It’s difficult to wholly discern Labour’s motives: whether they be populist and therefore cowardly or consumed by Blatcherite ideology.

Why is it so difficult to grasp that there are not enough houses; that rents are extortionate; that there are hardly any decent jobs with the hours and pay to cover a life worth living? Why is it so difficult to grasp that the poor, the infirm, the underemployed and unemployed didn’t and never do engineer such a hostile climate? Is it so hard to fathom that policies and economic practice are divined and applied by the Government and not the poor? Yes, those representatives, to whom we gift the authority to run our country in all our interests.

It’s infantile – ignorant, simplistic and shallow to moan about benefits being capped at £500. Wouldn’t the man in the audience have served himself better – and us, therefore – if he had asked: “What are you going to do to really ‘make work pay’ because I only get £450 for 46 hours of work?” This would at least have shifted the onus upwards to those in charge: to where it actually belongs.

6 thoughts on “The Right Question?

  1. And that was only the start of the shockingly bad programme. In what sense was the panel representative? Amanda Patel, Daily Mail journalist and former advisor to Tory William Hague; Michael Howard, Tory Lord; Griff Rees-Jones, apolitical ie a tory; Sarah Teather, LibDem ie tory; and Caroline Flint, Blairite but virtually a tory.

    Good post 🙂


    • Thank you, Sue. It was indeed a shockingly bad edition. But oh my, that particular question really did make me very angry – as did the responses. You’re right: it was only the start of a long, steep slide.


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  4. Interesting isn’t it that the guy would go to the lengths to ask this question on a panel show on national tv – it’s clearly something that he’s spent time thinking about; discussed with colleagues over a paper at tea-break; he’s had some positive feedback that his question is the right one.
    35 years ago, he would have been asking his employer (via his union) to increase his pay.
    But the employment relationship doesn’t work like that now – as the guy sitting on the opposite side of the desk, I’ve never seen non-union members ask for a bigger pay rise.
    I’ve told people they’re getting one; but I’ve never been asked for it.
    The accepted norm is “that’s your pay, if you don’t like it go elsewhere”. Businesses set pay levels based on the minimum amount they can pay before that employee chooses to up sticks.
    I understand the logic to that; most businesses are struggling, and trying to balance pay commitments with no growth and increased risk is difficult. (It’s not fun when a key customer takes the pre-pack administration route and doesn’t pay it’s bills).
    And the unions aren’t always the answer – too often I’ve seen unions insist on above average % hikes in pay which can only be funded by some redundancies + promised efficiency savings. Thereby losing the jobs for some union members & increasing the workload for t’others. Daft.
    (Sorry – this is turning into a typically rambling blogpiece).
    In summary – the guy isn’t the only one with the wrong question; his perception is the norm; people need to wake up and realise that THEY ARE SELLING THEMSELVES EVERY DAY and it needs to be a sale on terms that they agree with!


    • Absolutely. You’ve covered many things which prompted my post in the first place. The depth of a question indicates the depth of understanding. This is why the ‘right’ questions are not being asked…


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