Or does it just think we need better mental healthcare
I've long admired Ken Loach, a radical film producer who rose to fame with his 1965 classic, Cathy Come Home, about the homelessness of a young couple. Anyone who challenged the establishment had my support. More recently he has fallen into line with the infantile left. His latest movie, I Daniel Blake, succeeds in portraying an alternate reality that suits the agenda of radical social engineers. Oh the irony for Ken Loach himself directed a film called Hidden Agenda about the British government's role in sponsoring Northern Irish terrorism.
Before I continue, let me just stress life is tough in an undeniably unfair society. The film's plot is not completely implausible, though often a little far-fetched such as the scene where Katie prises open a tin of baked beans and proceeds to eat its contents with her bare fingers. In 2016 obsesity and diabetes are by far the biggest killers in deprived neighbourhoods. Both protagonists come across as eminently worthy and conscientious victims of an unjust system. The narrative the wishful thinking left would like us to believe is that our cruel Tory government has made devastating cuts to our welfare state and millions are now suffering the consequences. Yet a close look at the actual raw data reveals a very different picture. Spending on social welfare has only declined as a percentage of GDP because of a lower unemployment rate and a growing economy. The current and previous governments have found devious ways to hide the full scale of youth unemployment by first enticing more young adults into further education and second through zero-hours contracts. Meanwhile at the bottom end of the earnings scale, the EU's beloved freedom of movement has hugely increased the pool of low and semi-skilled workers who now dominate many sectors that only 20 years ago would have employed mainly local labour. Yet to the gullible left, immigrants are heroes doing jobs we don't want to do and selflessly keeping our NHS alive.
Whichever way you slice it, welfare spending in the UK as a whole remains one of the highest in the world. Only Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia and New Zealand offer comparable levels of universal welfare for single-parents, the long-term unemployed, sick, emotionally disturbed or disabled. See Welfare spending: how Britain outstrips Europe for an international comparison. Indeed as a rule most of our European neighbours offer better state pensions, but apply much stricter rules for other kinds of benefits. Italy only spends more because until recently it offered state employees early retirement with very generous pensions. My former neighbour in Italy, now unemployed after caring for her late mother for many years, is entitled to no benefits at all and is living below the breadline begging friends and neighbours for food. Nonetheless, as I hope to expand on in a future post, the long term trend remains firmly towards greater provision of state or corporate welfare, as robotics displaces traditional manual and clerical jobs. On the one hand we have an economy and a social lifestyle that rely on high levels of consumption, while on the other fewer and fewer working age adults earn enough to pay their fair share of the UK's astronomical 790 billion public expenditure. That's right local, regional or national governments spend around Â£12,000 per resident, which means on average each worker has to pay Â£23,000 in direct or indirect tax. If you only earn Â£20,000 a year (and many earn even less), you'll actually get more back from the government in tax credits and only pay sales tax on groceries, fuel, booze etc. The state accounts for a whopping 48.5% of the UK economy and has hardly shrunk at all since Gordon Brown's 2008/9 spending spree.
Don't get me wrong, our tax money could be targeted much better at those who genuinely need our help. If someone falls ill after decades of honest hard work, they deserve our help, even if they never managed to contribute very much to the exchequer due to low earnings. Likewise if a man abandons a young mother with two little children, we can hardly blame the mother or her children for life's cruel twists and turns. Without welfare and tax credits, millions of Britons would literally starve and many do end up going to food banks, when their benefits run out or are delayed as their personal circumstances change. When the welfare state acquired its modern form in the late 1940s, most people looked on both idleness and single parenthood as social ills to be avoided at all costs. Ernest Bevin did not envisage that welfare dependency would become a way of life, but would act as a safety net. The Channel 4 documentary Benefits Britain 1949 showed the stark contrast to the very basic expectations, humility and social deference of the 1940s and social reality in 21st century. There has never been an era of welfare utopia when anyone unable to earn a decent living could expect the benevolent state to support a lavish lifestyle, but by the early 2000s millions of low-paid workers began to notice their neighbours on welfare could afford more luxuries than they could. The minimum living standard now included an annual foreign holiday, a mobile phone, designer clothes and ideally a car. Brand fetishism has long been much more prevalent among the so-called chav classes, characterised as underclasses with low educational attainment, but high material expectations obsessed with designer labels and status symbols. In the real world many fall on hard times because they splashed out on consumer items only to discover they could no longer afford more essential items such as food, heating or rent. Once you sign up to a mobile phone contract, you're legally bound to pay Â£30 to Â£50 a month. A night out on the town does not come cheap either especially after you factor in the taxi ride home, probably enough to feed one person for a week. One way or another the country's growing benefits classes managed to acquire most of these desirable items. Yet some categories fared much better than others. How could an unemployed single parent with three children live more comfortably than a hardworking couple on little more than the minimum wage? Why should a divorced working man have to pay market rates for a substandard flat within commuting distance of London, while another man, diagnosed with a spurious mental health disorder, gets a better flat for free? It seems hard work, honesty and personal responsibility no longer pay. Social welfare only works when everyone abides by the same rules of fairness, social and, dare I say, environmental responsibility, e.g. waiting to be in a stable relationship with secure employment before starting a family.
Whenever the contentious subject of EU migrant labour enters the debate, infantile leftists often lend credence to the popular perception that young Britons would rather live off benefits than do all those hard low-paid jobs that Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians and other Eastern Europeans do. The pro-EU left often complain that business could not function without a steady stream of semi-skilled workers from the EU's expanding tentacles. Do they seriously think Eastern Europeans would be as keen on working in the UK if they could earn just as much on welfare at home? Are they genetically superior to working class Britons? New Labour had thirteen years to tackle a culture of low intellectual and vocational aspiration among the country's underclasses, and they opted to let the banks boost retail spending through easy loans and to let recruitment agencies bring in millions of new workers to do all the jobs that British workers would have done only a decade earlier. Of course, the economy grew, as did debt, and retailers, farming, manufacturing, food processing and catering could all rely on a mobile, expendable and mainly non-unionised workforce that bosses could fire at the drop of a hat. The Guardian-reading left will grudgingly admit many employers exploit migrant labour, but dare not either support sensible immigration controls to protect local workers or agree radical reform of the welfare state.
Even in the best of times, reforming Britain's welfare habit was never going to be easy. Frank Field MP tried in the early Blair years to promote workfare, but it yielded very lacklustre results before the government abandoned the project. A growing number of citizens now claim to have special needs, i.e. believe to be afflicted by a mental or physical condition that impairs their chances in the workplace. The steady expansion of the concepts of disability and mental illness have blurred many traditional boundaries, often to the detriment of those whose health is so poor that could not work under any circumstances. Britain's welfare system has spectacularly failed to distinguish the needy from those who just want a free ride and feel unable to compete in today's abstract world of work. For the faux left the likes of Josie Cunningham do not exist. They represent little more than tabloid sensationalism. Yet Ms Cunningham admitted to using emotional blackmail to get the NHS to spend Â£6000 on cosmetic breast enhancement surgery, because she allegedly suffered from depression due to her previous lack of endowment in that department. Neither would Guardian readers dwell on the case of the young welfare-dependent Welsh woman whose fast food habit led to her reach a hefty weight of 63 stones ( 400kg) in 2012. The NHS spent over Â£100,000 on rehabilitation. This many be extreme case, but it's by no means rare. If you visit any deprived area outside London, Bristol, Edinburgh and few other trendy metropolitan hubs, obesity and diabetes are by far the biggest killers. Yet it doesn't chime with the narrative of food bank Britain we read in the pages of the Independent or Guardian. Tragically despite an abundance of healthy food in the shops, malnutrition blights many deprived neighbourhoods because people are accustomed to the wrong kind of foods or prefer fast food to freshly cooked meals. I've personally visited a neighbourhood supermarket in Govan, Glasgow, that did not stock any fresh fruit and veg due to lack of demand.
It's hardly a secret that rents in London are sky-high. Landlords make a fortune renting out overvalued substandard properties to social tenants entitled to housing benefits. So why should local councils spend Â£2000 a month for a 2 bedroom flat in a suburb of Greater London when they could spend a fraction of that for the same accommodation elsewhere in the country? With a population now surpassing 9 million, London boroughs have by necessity had to devise creative means to rehouse social tenants. Yet between 2012 and 2015 just 50,000 had been moved and most to other areas of South East England. No doubt this disrupted many social circles and extended families, but the left dare not mention the two elephants in the room: immigration and a higher fertility rate within the Muslim community, both placing local services under enormous strain. Ken Loach just had to pick an unusually English Londoner, Katie, to be forced to move to Newcastle upon Tyne of all places, something many affluent Guardian readers must consider the ultimate punishment. New Labour was well aware of these demographic and migratory trends as early as 2000 and yet did nothing to address housing shortages. The film reinforces typical metropolitan London prejucides and depicts modern London as much more culturally English than I experienced it as a private tenant in both Brent and Lambeth.
Back in the real world the Northeast of England not only voted to leave the EU, but survey after survey has shown that ordinary working class people would rather have meaningful and stable jobs than welfare handouts. Translated into English, that means they'd rather their government protect labour markets and provide good vocational training to ensure local youngsters can gain secure employment. Yet the out-of-touch metro elite, is busy trying to defend the EU's unsustainable Freedom of Movement, which basically deprives Eastern and Southern Europe of its most productive young adults while driving down wages everywhere. Rather than praise brave Portuguese and Bulgarian nurses in the NHS, working class people wonder why their children did not get a chance to take up nursing. That's no disrespect to the Portuguese or Bulgarian nurses who must also wonder why we can't train our own nurses.
The left's bete noire, often personified as Hilter himself, is Ian Duncan Smith, allegedly guilty of hiring a French company, ATOS, to carry out work capability assessments. Purportedly as many as 100,000 have died shortly after having their incapacity benefit withdrawn, at least according to my twitter stream. The figures are very hard to substantiate, but a few tragic high profile cases do prove the inherent unfairness of a system that promotes despair and life of dependence on remote entities. I wonder how millions of Southern Europeans coped with greater welfare cuts. It seems Southern Europeans are much more concerned with punitive taxes inflicted on small businesses, at least judging from newspaper reports of suicide cases. My Italian father in law relied almost entirely on the proceeds of his apartments to fund his personal care for ten long years as his health declined. Until recently extended families would care for the needy within their community, but these days families are often dysfunctional, estranged or unable to help. The harsh reality is despite all the hype about the transition to universal credits, welfare spending, excluding pensions and housing, remains almost unchanged at Â£114 billion. Has anyone suggested to Mr Loach that welfare dependence is a bigger blight on our social fabric than the trials and tribulations of those failed by an unsustainable system. Does our Ken not realise that his heroic working classes do not want charity, they want empowerment.
Ken Loach received a Â£100,000 grant from the European Union to champion welfarism. This is the same European Union that has imposed stringent cutbacks on social spending in Southern Europe. It's hard to justify the injustices its chief characters suffered, but it assumes the supremacy of the nanny state while completely ignoring the growing sense of powerlessness of Britain's urban and rural poor. To regain power, we must take an active role in the functioning of our society. The enemies of the descendants of the underclasses are not cruel Tory governments tinkering with welfare provision, but global corporations who expect the state to subsidise their customers.
Corbyn's Parallel Universe
In Jeremy Corbyn's parallel universe native Britons don't want jobs, but better mental healthcare, more spending on the NHS and more nurses and doctors from other countries. If you are not an enlightened Guardian-reading professional, Corbyn and Co. really only care about you if you can claim some special victim status. It doesn't matter if you're a woman, black, Muslim, Eastern European, gay, transgender or have a mental health issue, as long as you can be pigeon-holed into a convenient subcategory of humanity that deserves special treatment, he wants your vote. These disparate and overlapping identity groups are supposed to unite in their opposition to evil capitalists. Has Mr Corbyn not noticed he's merely pushing a rose-tinted version of the corporate brave new world of atomised consumers? The grim reality the left seems incapable of admitting is global corporations love welfare and mass migration. That's why Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and George Soros all back Hillary Clinton for President of the United States and wanted Britain to stay in the EU. They may not like Corbyn's antiwar stances, which is why they won't let his party win outright, but Corbyn may suit their long-term social engineering agenda more than you may think.