At election time, politicians from the main parties (and UKIP) will repeat the mantra of low taxes and blah, blah, blah. There is a group of people whom these politicians always ignore, unless it’s to claim they will “create jobs” or offer some kind of “job guarantee” for a certain age group. Who am I talking about? The people on out of work benefits. These are the forgotten voters.
The rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) has failed to keep pace with the increased cost of living. There are two kinds of JSA: Contributory and Income-based. The rates for each are exactly the same. I won’t bother going into detail about the minor differences, because they’re not that important. The only real difference is the rate for couples.
The rates are
||JSA weekly amount
|18 to 24
||up to £57.90
|25 or over
||up to £73.10
For those on Income-based JSA, you get a little more if you’re a couple. A massive £114.85 a week. Big wow.
There isn’t a single frontbencher from the three main parties that will stand up and say how little people on out of work benefits are paid, let alone defend them. It’s just tough. For the three main parties (and UKIP) the unemployed are out of work by choice. All three main parties (and UKIP) continue to punish or ignore the unemployed and complain about the ‘welfare’ bill. I’ve looked at their election manifestos and I have to tell you that I’m not impressed with what I see.
UKIP claims it
is fully committed to maintaining a strong and supportive safety net for those who fall on hard times, but will not be a soft-touch on welfare.
Nothing there, let’s move on.
Labour’s position on the unemployed isn’t much different to the Tories, save for this caveat of sorts:
- We will pay a higher rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance to those who have paid in over the years, funded by asking people to contribute for longer before they receive the contributory benefit.
In other words, if you’re languishing on 73 quid a week, tough shit. Get a job… if you can find one.
For the Tories, there’s no mention of the unemployed at all. Instead, they talk about reducing tax for those on low pay and there’s loads of guff about “creating jobs for all”. Be suspicious about the last clause. Be very suspicious. If you’re unemployed, you could find yourself in a forced labour camp.
The Lib Dems aren’t much better. Like the Tories, they also talk about raising the tax threshold for the low paid but make no mention of the unemployed.
So, from the manifestos of the three main parties (and UKIP), you can see that anyone out of work is regarded either as a non-person or fodder for unscrupulous employers in the fast food industry, the supermarkets or Poundland. The Tories claim they want to “make work pay” but there’s been no evidence of that in their five years in office. The unemployed have been made scapegoats for the banking crisis and the recession that followed.
Labour, on the other hand, is more interested in shunting people into jobs that don’t exist, while continuing to punish the unemployed by paying them as little as possible. It also says that people will have to “pay in more” to get a higher rate of JSA, though it doesn’t say how high this rate will be, or how much more in contributions you’ll have to pay. Finally, there’s Rachel Reeves, who claimed last month,
“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,”
That’s loads of potential voters alienated by a few foul words. Reeves just sees a reserve army of labour ready to be exploited and/or punished for the lack of work. Red Tories, eh?
If you’re unemployed there isn’t much choice on the menu: it’s either a shit sandwich or a shit sandwich. If you don’t want to eat a shit sandwich. Tough shit. Eat up.