Saturday, 18 February 2012

Workfare and Council Prayers: The Tories Must Be Tamed

The benefit cap and the European Union veto must have gone to the Tories' heads. With much popular support (more lukewarm on my behalf especially on the EU stuff) they probably thought their time had come. Forgetting they hadn't quite managed a majority at the last election and are currently showing no sign of a surge, the Tory party's more nasty wing may have got a little over-enthusiastic.

Firstly comes workfare (or, as it's called, "Get Britain Working", which sounds like something from the 50s). There are some interesting ideas in there. The idea of having people on benefits do some constructive work is appealing. The argument goes that they will gain useful experience of work and the probability of a job interview whilst those they work for gain cheap labour for menial tasks and get the chance to try before they buy on applicants.

But I'm very concerned about several aspects.

1) Welfare isn't just given out to life-long welfare scroungers as the Tories would have you believe. It's given out to people who have worked, paid their National Insurance and taxes, and thus have reasonable expectation of getting assistance when they need it without the need to work for it again!
2) This amounts to a Government subsidy of private enterprise. It's impractical to expect small to medium enterprises or charities to have the resources to give applicants the training they would need and, by default, this would mean subsidising the larger (and generally already pretty successful) businesses. My opinion of the public sector and private sector mixing is very low.
3) Will the jobs offered, such as shelf-stacking, really give anyone the experience they need (beyond at turning up on time and following instructions)? I am very suspect over this.

So it's hardly surprising there has been a very successful outpouring of displeasure from many quarters, especially towards those businesses involved.

If this as aimed at the long-term unemployed, was completely voluntary (it actually is voluntary but it sounds like there is a great deal of pressure to get on it) and offered something more than just Job Seeker's Allowance (as suggested on Twitter earlier perhaps a wage below minimum wage on a fixed-term contract) then I think it might be useful. It'd give people a little more cash, still offer the benefits to business but not quite as significant as before and give people the self-esteem boost by getting out there a little. Even so I'd probably still be against it on principle, benefit reform is a good thing and I support the benefit cap but this is just a step too far for me.

The Tories are fitting themselves in to the usual stereotype of hating the poor and helping out their corporate mates.

And then comes even more "Same Old Tories" nonsense. Prayers at council meetings.

I would've thought that given we live in a religiously diverse country Christian prayers during council business would be a thing of the past. However they weren't and all those attending council meetings had this bizarre practice thrust upon them. No amount of mentioning Matthew 6:5 will dissuade Christians and Tories this will change their minds on the rightness of it.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Thankfully this week this was ruled as not in keeping with the Local Government Act and such prayers were there-by banned. They could still be held before the meetings just not as part of the agenda, allowing those who didn't wish to take part (like people who actually listen to what Jesus said) to turn up a little later. A good compromise.

Alas, the Tories couldn't help themselves. Along comes Eric Pickles to the rescue, once more allowing prayers during council meetings. I thereby urge all free-thinking councils to engage in Jedi prayers, Muslim prayers, Flying Spaghetti Monster prayers and see just how soon it before the Daily Mail screams blue murder. Go on... do it!

The Tory Christians are my least favourite kind. Intolerant and inflexible. Well okay, the BNP supporting Christians are worse but they have the excuse of being stark raving loons. The Tories should know better, but sadly they don't appear to be engaging their brains.

I suspect if they keep playing into the stereotype Labour wants them to play into, Labour might win the next election. Even with Ed Miliband as leader. Liberal Tories... where have you gone?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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