Bashing Britain’s beleaguered poor because they’re on benefits has dominated the news agenda this week. Newsnight ran a particularly unbalanced piece with US professor Lawrence Mead (who has a voice that makes Stephen Hawkings sound animated) lecturing the downtrodden of Anfield about the need for them to find work. The only other voice to feature was that of Chris Grayling, minister of state for work and pensions, a man who regularly berates the poor for being “workshy” but who once claimed for a flat in Pimlico, close to the House of Commons, despite having a constituency home less than 17 miles away. He also owned two buy-to-let properties in Wimbledon from which he made a profit 100 grand.
The trouble with knocking the poor wretches at the bottom of society is that, with unemployment rising, it is extremely difficult for many people at them to find work, or be accepted back into work culture. Even if every single one of UK millions of unemployed decided to get work today – the vast majority would remain disappointed for a long time to come.
The official statistics are also rarely allowed to get in the way of a good story. But according to this excellent piece of analysis by Channel 4 News, the number of long-term unemployed (the supposed “four-generations of workshy families” who have never had a job) has fallen ten-fold in the last 10 years. The supposed benefits culture the right keep banging their drum about is something of an urban myth.