Thursday, March 08, 2007


"It is unfair that foriegners come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits."

Where did this quote come from?

a: A leading article in the Daily Express

b: A campaign leaflet by the British National Party

c: A campaign leaflet by the English Nazi Party

d: A leading article in the Daily Mail

e: My paranoid imagination

f: A speech made by the Labour home secretary and deputy prime ministerial hopeful, John Reid.


Jack Straw: "One of the things we should be looking at is the subject of Asian women speaking English and whether we need to engage them and require them to speak English before they are given a settlement visa.”

Daily Express; "Muslims Must Learn English"

"I'm thinking of taking my family and getting out of this country soon, sometime over the next couple of years. It's cold and it's mean spirited and I don't like it here anymore." Alan Moore


Mike Taylor said...

I wish you would explain exactly what point you are making. "It is unfair that foriegners come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits" looks to me like a perfectly reasonable, even tautological stance. Do you disagree with it? Or do you dislike the statement because of unfair/illegitimate tautology? Or do you agree with the sentiment but find it irrelevant because you believe that what it describes isn't happening? Or something else again?

Andrew Rilstone said...

He is playing to the prejudices and the paranoia of the far-right; stirring up hatred for "foriegners" by promisng to clamp down on a problem which, by and large, doesn't exist. He could perfectly well have said "The police are going to continue to look for illegal immigrants, and companies which employ illegal immigrants; and the courts are going to continue to go through the normal process of deporting them". Instead, he chose to use emotive, Daily Express, BNP language. "They steal our benefits" has largely replaced "They take our jobs" and "They smell of curry" in the fascist vocabularly.

We could analyse the use of the word "steal" at some length, as well. ("Claim £54 a week which you are not entitled to" may literally mean "stealing", but it is surely intended to imply "take something which should have gone to someone else" -- that is "the benefits are low because of all the dark skinned people".) Me have problem, it called breeding, white man pay for baby feeding.

Helen Louise said...

Recently I saw the BBC documentary about the BNP and an anti-BNP campaigner present at the screening suggested that anti-fascist groups need to support the non-BNP party most likely to win their constituency's seat, thus becoming a sort of "anyone other than the BNP" party.

This example rather nicely illustrates my objection to that strategy, mainly that the main parties aren't much better and help to perpetuate the myths that cause people to vote for the BNP, ie illegal immigration (thus, public ignorance adds, the asylum seeker) is to blame for any problems or shortages that the country may suffer.

Grr, I think I might have to go write a blog post on this...

Incidentally, £54 a week? Is that unemployment benefit? I only got about £45 (being under 25) and I'm pretty certain asylum seekers receive less than that, if of course Reid actually means asylum seekers. Who aren't actually "coming to this country illegitimately" and who aren't entitled to work. Sigh.

Andrew Rilstone said...

£45.50 up to age 25, £57.45 for grown ups. (Plus you don't have to pay council tax, which is only fair, because it only goes to pay for free TVs for thieving asylum seekers any way.)

I think the idea is that people who are not legal UK residents sign on at the Unemployment Office and fraudulantly claim fifty quid that they aren't entitled too: which is why ID cards would be such a good idea. They must be very clever illegal immigrants, because when I signed on they wanted my passport, National Insurance Number, P45, letter from my last employer, and a bank account before they would give me anything.

I would hazard a guess that the serious benefit fraud is really being done by evil capitalist landlords, claiming housing benefit for properties and tennants which don't exist. But evil capitalist landlords are not our current bogeyman.

All terrorists are scrounging asylum seekrs, remember.

Phil Masters said...

Is it OK to assume finite resources for the DSS?

Well, ultimately, for policy purposes, yes. Governments do operate with finite resources, like anyone else (though they can juggle more than most of us). And it's perfectly reasonable to say that "government expenditure X is a waste of resources that should go to Y" (whether X and Y are building bigger bombs, social security payments, classical art in public galleries, tax cuts, or whatever).

None of which justifies for a minute the use of the word "stealing" in this context. That's just an attempt to make individuals feel a direct personal hostility towards the people who are accused of "stealing", rather than treating this as a generalised matter of public policy. (Personalising issues can sometimes be fine, but scapegoating some poor sod in the process is just shitty.)

Gavin Burrows said...

But what’s John Reid doing claiming benefits in the first place? I know there were a lot more top-up in-work benefits these days, but this is getting ridiculous!

NickPheas said...
Is it OK to assume finite resources for the DSS? If this hypothetical gentleman is illicitly claiming that £54, does that mean that my friend the bipolar alcholohic is less likely to be able to find a social worker that can help him get his head in order?

But that bipolar alcoholic said I was his only friend!

Your second supposition simply doesn’t follow from your first, Nick! For one thing needs benefits aren’t budget-limited. They’re not entitled to say “Yes you are unemployed through no fault of your own, but we just gave our last fifty to that last guy.” Also, something very rarely mentioned in this sort of debate is when they cost benefits they estimate a very low take-up. For some benefits this is less than 50%. It’s almost certain that the combined ‘plus’ value of people not claiming benefits far exceeds the ‘minus’ value of people making fraudulent claims.

I’m reminded of those TV adverts to get you to pay your license fee, which showed someone walking into a cafĂ© and helping themselves to someone else’s lunch. Whatever you think of the merits of a TV licensing system, the comparison clearly falls. If I help myself to half your lunch, you have precisely half a lunch left. If I turn on my license-less TV, half your picture does not disappear. This ‘eroding legitimate claims’ argument is of a similar level of banality. (Note to the literal-minded, we do have a TV license and Andrew Rilstone does not have a 5 year old.)

Also, if we’ve established the principle you don’t have to compare like with like, what about tax evasion? Through a combination of quasi-‘legitmate’ and illegitimate means tax is virtually a voluntary donation for the super-rich. The Murdoch news empire which so often rails against someone claiming fifty quid to which they may not be entitled, pays a tax rate of something like 1 to 2%.

Helen Louise said...
…the main parties aren't much better and help to perpetuate the myths that cause people to vote for the BNP, ie illegal immigration (thus, public ignorance adds, the asylum seeker) is to blame for any problems or shortages that the country may suffer.

Exactly! In Australia, the success of the far right One Nation party was nothing but an electoral blip. Political parties often implode on the eve of mainstream success, look at UKIP. But part of the reason in this case was the way ‘mainstream’ parties stole their most popular-sounding policies.

The BNP just become a ‘far marker’ where anything short of that is supposed to sound acceptable. How many times have you heard things like “those thieving asylum seekers should all be locked up, but it’s not like I support the BNP or anything”? Should you try and argue against such dangerous nonsense, you’re often accused of giving the BNP succor and comfort! “If we don’t bring in concentration camps for refugees now, five years from now it could be the BNP doing it!” etc.

SK said...

He never did leave, though, did he?

A bit like those who promised to go if Labour won the election in 1997.