Concern over benefits doubles as papers and politicians drag attitudes down

Tue, 16/09/2014 - 14:13 -- nick

At UnemployedNet we write regularly on the effect the media and politicians have on the debate over benefits.

An article in the Mail Online lets us measure how big this effect has been.

The Mail has been walking the tightrope between its traditional support for the Tories and a new infatuation with UKIP recently, and this piece is no different.

The headline gives this away - 'Tories build up huge lead over Labour on economy (but fall behind UKIP on policies over Europe and Immigration' - even as the content shows a huge lead for Labour on the NHS.

But the most interesting thing is how a constant barage of attacks can change people's attitudes in a short time.

In 2010, concern over benefits was seen as the most important issue facing our economy by around 7% of people.

Just four years of Tory government later, that number has almost doubled to 13%, or nearly one-in-seven of the UK's population.

Many of the papers were already bashing claimants four years ago, but, emboldened by a right-wing coalition, this situation has become even more dire and been backed up by the disgraceful output of the UK's 'Benefit Street'-producing TV companies.

Don't forget how the government's rhetoric has deteriorated since it came to power; an investigation by The Guardian last year showed that, in 2012-13, Iain Duncan Smith mentioned welfare 'dependency' in every speech he made, despite this being a nonsensical term.

Given what it is spent on, he might as well have castigated poor people for food or warmth 'dependency'.

His Department for Work and Pensions also mentioned fraud 85 times in its press releases that year, despite the fact that it accounts for only 0.7% of the benefits bill and has been falling for years.

Its use of words like 'addiction' and 'entrenched' soared, layer upon layer of insults designed to create division among the poor and to create cover for cutting the incomes of the poorest while handing tax cuts to the richest.

Those who have changed their opinions for the negative in the face of this endless wave of attacks need to seriously look again at the real issues.

The government and many media companies are seriously misleading people.