If you read David Cameron's response to the Archbishop Vincent Nichols' intervention this week on the effect of welfare reforms, then like me the more you know about the subject the more you will have been confused and frightened. Like me you will have probably have previously thought that the Prime Minister has been disinterested in policy specifics and ignorant about what his ministers have actually been doing. You might not have gone as far as believing that David Cameron actively avoids learning though and does not treat matters with a degree of seriousness that suggests he considers the effects beyond a few weeks into the future.
That's where I ended up after both seeing his ultra-slow, ultra-incompetent reaction to the floods in the South-West and reading his Telegraph piece which addresses nothing the Archbishop or government critics have said but instead falls back on the old bingo-card with many 'facts' which have been refuted many times before. The focus of this post though is on the 'moral mission' that the Coalition has invoked whenever they've failed to make their 'facts' stand up because it appears to require nothing more than the belief that it works as well as an undefined idea of what 'works' is supposed to mean. Everyone knows the Work Capability Assessment 'doesn't work' and the response of politicians(yes, including Labour who I still say will disappoint us in 2015) is to focus the blame on Atos- who then respond with factual correctness that it actually does work, it's just that 'works' refers to the explicit design intention which has nothing at all to do with accuracy, fairness or relief from hardship. It is working in other words, as politicians intended it to; the problem is with their intentions, not it's implementation. These are not mistakes that need correcting, problems that need fixing or errors that need reversing. They're wrongs that need righting, abuses that need punishing and attitudes that must be deterred absolutely into the indefinite future. The solution is not just to be found in yet another contract for another company(immune as always from FOI requests) but in making sure politicians know that they shouldn't be stamping and throwing their weight around where angels fear to tread; that their actions have consequences for other people and their bingo-card talking points are no remedy.
The morality of welfare reform is simple to illustrate and if anyone manages to fudge it as bad as the Prime Minister has done, then it is deliberately so. It's about claiming that certain people, who make up a substantial number of claimants, do not require the assistance they are currently receiving. They might require none, they might require something else. Policy-makers choose to believe who these people are, how many of them there are and what kind of policy action is needed. They must also accept that if they are wrong, the they are wholly responsible for the consequences suffered by people as a result. That's it, that is all there is to it.
What has Cameron's government done? First, they failed to properly do consultations in accordance with the law, they fabricated responses and consensus, they hid data from the public and Parliament, they briefed the press against those worst affected, they defamed some of us behind Parliamentary privilege, accused the fearful of fear-mongering and the hungry of greed, distorted assessment data, conflated in-work, out-of-work and universal benefits, accepted review recommendations only after forcing them to be changed completely, retrospectively made their unlawful actions lawful(aided by Labour), lied about the existence of targets and quotas for multiple systems, lied about attacking Mobility allowance for care home residents(it is still in the Welfare Reform Act, go look), insisted that a higher burden of evidence should be held for campaigners against their belief-based policies and Iain Duncan Smith doesn't wash his hands after using the disabled WC he was blocking.
What keeps this man and his gang in power? Journalists, not doing their jobs, basically. It's left up to people at death's door and church leaders.