If You Think That Workhouse Britain Can Benefit Our People Then You’re Wearing The Wrong Kind Of Labels

Hey everyone As i said in my last post i plan to review certain articles which though they may have been overtaken by event at the time they were written, the topics are still relevant today if not possibly more so. Today i look back on an article written for his weekly column by the co-convener  of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie on why we should be of our benefits safety net.

At the start of his article, written the day after  the first post election session of First Minister’s Question Patrick Harvie states that Nicola Sturgeon was challenged on the issue of educational attainment in our poorest communities. This as Harvie correctly states is in itself a very fair question as on that and other issues Scotland has  ‘a gulf on inequality which should be unacceptable to us all’. Harvie also makes the perfectly valid point that there is regardless of which party is in power a strong case for pushing the Scottish government to do more to close the gap and therefore advance the prospects of a better quality of life for those in deprived areas. However. sometimes  it is motives of the questioner rather which can grate on people’s nerves far more than the question being asked and such was  the case when this question was asked by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson .

In his column a clearly angry Patrick Harvie said it was ‘frankly sickening to hear these important question being asked by a party who are determined to make the situation worse rather  than better for those in the most deprived areas in the next five years. Harvie then goes on to inform us that during the election he had questioned Ms Davidson on the number of children who would be pushed  in to poverty as a result of her party’s proposal that a further £12 million be slashed from the welfare budget. Ms Davidson had no answer. Indeed when Patrick Harvie asked his own question of the First Minister on the impact these cuts would have on Scotland the First Minister had to reply that the impact on Scotland could not yet be calculated.

This as Harvie says is a shocking situation and he quite rightly in my view goes on to ask how can a UK government get away with such an answer. Indeed he asks how they can be taken seriously if after months of questioning on such an important issue they haven’t even bothered to calculate on which group amongst the poor would be the first to suffer. Patrick Harvie also reminds us this is a situation that we in Scotland cannot afford to ignore just because the Conservatives didn’t win here nor he says can we afford to demand control of our social security as this will not be happening any time soon. In fact he says it will in all probability not be achieved until the UK government has done it’s worst and believe me when i say that a trip to the workhouse for those on benefits  has the posh of the Bullingdon  club positively salivating at the lips.

Harvie however says and in my view correctly so that if ’empathy and compassion guide our politics we in Scotland have a responsibility to build a powerful movement to oppose the welfare cuts and have a chance to give leadership to that movement’  This is not just political spin for the sake of a few extra votes this a man of stature who speaks from the heart. This is a man i was proud to campaign alongside in last year’s referendum who can clearly see the damage which is being done not only to Scotland but the wider society within the UK by a government whose core philosophy of greed and personal gain means that they don’t give a stuff for the opinions, dreams, and aspirations of others, This country whose welfare system was once the envy of the world is now run by a group of individuals who were raised on the Thatcherite mantra that there is no such thing as society and if they find people who believe there is then they will set about decimating that belief by whatever means they must. cutting benefits is only the start of a conservative agenda which is so inhumane that it dehumanises all who are part of it.

Harvie who is in my opinion one of the most articulate and astute voices of this political generation claims that what we are witnessing is in his words ‘nothing short of a propaganda war against the welfare state’  and the language used in this war has made disturbingly successful. The Dickensian comparisons between the deserving and undeserving poor have resurfaced and they have done so with a vengeance.  The fact these comparisons are false and have failed this country before seems not to worry either the Conservative Party or their friends in the right wing media. The Idea that the welfare state was once jewel in Britain’s crown seems to be a thing of the past with the mind  Sthyself and no-one else attitude having taken precedence as the new British mindset with phrases such as hard working families and strivers and shirkers at best labeling and at worse aggressively demonising the less well off. What price  the Butskillian consensus now

At the time of writing this article Patrick Harvie had not long hosted in event in the Scottish parliament for the Poverty Alliance at which they had launched the stick your labels campaign. This campaign matters and it matters because labeling inevitably leads to stigmatising and that in turn can create a feeling of being worthless among the stigmatised groups.  This is important to me for a very personal reason, you see  I have so many potential labels that i don’t know where to start.

Having had epilepsy and a balance condition since before i was old enough to walk and now with added issue of glaucoma it is difficult enough  to find paid employment but when you add being a fifty something transsexual women who is an active supporter of trade union rights and  all equality issues then it becomes even more challenging. This means that  though still young enough to work i have been told by the welfare assessors no less that all things considered I should think of myself as a lady of leisure and rely on state benefits to for my income. I should point out that i was given this information under the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat Coalition and not under the previous Labour administration. Having made this point i ask you not to label me unless that label is Karen Millen and  it comes in the form of a little black dress.

As Patrick Harvie says ‘Stigmatising people in poverty matters because every each one of us deserves to be treated as a human being, with our basic dignity respected’. However it also matters for another reason which is that by devaluing people who rely on benefits the Conservative Party are encouraging people to resent the benefits system rather than be proud of it for showing compassion to those who need it. Dignity as Harvie says it his summing up of an excellent thought provoking reads matters to us all and not just to hard working families

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X


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