It is true because 'everyone just knows', so it must be. The thing is that there isn't a shred of evidence for it. It didn't stop George Osborne invoking it this week, without at all being challenged. Likewise in fifteen years it will be taken as truth 'because everyone knows it' that a third of Incapacity Benefit claimants dropped their claim rather than face an assessment. That goes further from being a claim without evidence to being a claim which is an overt lie, of which the government has the evidence to the precise contrary. It's also not even a figure for existing Incapacity Benefit claimants, but new Employment Support Allowance claimants and it is entirely consistent with the off-flows for short-term claimants.
Ministers must be made to answer for the lies they have pushed this week, but not now, because they won't be adequately challenged until those with the national platforms to do so get a grip. I have no idea what 'get a grip' means, but what I'm hoping is that they do not leave themselves open to the argument that they are surrendering in the battle of reason and facts by focusing on human interest and the impact of policy. Because quite frankly welfare campaigners won that battle so utterly that the Minister for Employment understandably does not want to be in the same room as us, the best there is: Spartacus.
The victories won by Spartacus did not come about from focusing on personal anecdotes- we had them but they are not the backstop, just the context on which the Evidence-based argument is asserted. Much Comment, Editorial and News articles featuring in the parts of the media nominally critical of welfare reform do not at all resemble this. Journalists are obsessed with treating the subject matter as human interest rather than serious current affairs with far-reaching implications on many things. The exception are those supporting welfare reforms, who identify that the Facts matter and therefore they make a concerted effort to misinform on matters of Fact. That is what has happened this week and the well-resourced, mainstream critics have failed to make an adequate response as a result.
Zoe Williams had an article up today stating:
"We won't eradicate this vitriol against the poor with reason or facts or fury of our own; only greater equality can rebuild normal trust in one another. Or, in other words – don't get mad, get even."I don't think I could possibly disagree more: this is in effect another way of spreading the myth that the benefits system is complicated, so it's not worth discussing all the gritty details that would debunk overnight every myth pushed without developing a human interest counter-narrative to each one. There is a good reason why welfare reform supporters spend so much time and energy inventing or cherry-picking Facts to suit their case: they are all that actually matters in the long-term. It's why Spartacus, Black Triangle and DPAC's efforts have been so successful. Look at recent history, look at the evidence- Reason and Evidence works.
It is with Reason and Evidence I will respond to the falsehoods the welfare-reactionaries have pushed earlier this week and then the garbage they've come out with today and will come out with tomorrow. I'll try to have posts up for Thursday and Friday.