Another dose of media induced ‘anger’ perchance?

I have to admit, I was a little surprised at the ‘apparent’ anger aimed at HM Recorder Constance Briscoe in Monday’s ITVNE news. I have to admit I didn’t actually see the particular BBC Question Time episode however; it appears the media (along with some left-wing politicians) may be responsible for attempting to ‘mischievously’ drum up some vociferous counter opinion…

I think we spend too much time subsidising people who really don’t want to work… In this country, we have a something-for-nothing attitude … (Constance Briscoe)

Alright, the desperation of a local lad trying to find work (see here) maybe warrants a little ‘local interest’ news coverage however; his plight isn’t new or indeed peculiar to this individual, especially in the North East of England. This can be clearly seen in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report of November of this year on the UK Regional Labour Market. The key points in the report noted that:-  

  • The ’employment rate’ is lowest in the North East (64.9 per cent)
  • The ‘unemployment rate’ is highest in the North East (11.6 per cent)
  • The ‘inactivity rate’ is highest in the North East (26.4 per cent)
  • The ‘benefits claimants rate’ is highest in the North East (7.2 per cent)

The following video clip explains how these statistics are calculated by the ONS.

But back to Judge Briscoe’s comments: she was actually responding to a question relating to the British Social Attitudes survey which revealed; 54 per cent of people thought benefits were too high and discouraged people from returning to work. As reported in The Telegraph recently, this figure had increased significantly and was up from 35 per cent in 1983 when the annual study was first carried out.

Having now actually watched the footage on BBC iPlayer (and hearing the level of applause), it appeared that Judge Briscoe’s comments were actually well received at the time. So why the somewhat belated fuss?

Writing in the New Statesman on 9th Dec 11 (see here), Mehdi Hasan the journal’s Senior Political Editor and also on the QT panel at the time, said Judge Briscoe “employed all sorts of dubious metaphors (“sponge”?)” and was unable to answer his simple question; “tell me how many people on unemployment benefit don’t want to work?”

It may be a ‘simple’ question on the face of it but I would counter that with another one; how many people on unemployment benefit who don’t want to work would actually admit to that fact? Very few (if any) would be my suggestion. Who in their right mind would offer forth such an admission, one that could realistically curtail the availability of their ‘gravy train’ ticket? Come on Mr Hasan, get real.

There is (and always has been) an element of our society who are prepared to live off the backs of others, be that in or out of work, legally or illegally. Over thirty years ago, the manager of my local job centre used to say; “there is no such thing as unemployed people, just unemployable ones.” Perhaps those were slightly differing times, given the current national financial climate however; when you look around you there are still many who appear happy to live on state handouts. Their major anger about being unemployed is usually, their level of benefits don’t match up to their grossly inflated expectations of the word necessity.

In short little has changed, if anything this trait is probably worse now than it ever was then. Today many people lack pride in themselves, let alone the society they live in. Today, pride is an unfasionable and dirty word. One that has mostly been educated or enforced out of us in one way or another… Unless you happen to be LGBT or part of our ethnic minority community that is.

The figures, along with my tale above, may be somewhat anecdotal and consequently almost impossible to quantify however; perhaps we have a tendency to dismiss this type of information far too easily? Anecdotal evidence is rarely accepted as representative of typical experience, it’s usually sidelined in favour of statistical evidence. But, despite the undoubted ability to more accurately determining how typical something actually is, we also need to listen to the experiences and perceptions of individuals.

This is something our self-interested society fails at constantly, especially in relation to government, politics and public sector service delivery function. Many of those who purportedly serve us, have a tendency to ignore the experiences of their so-called customers. They lack any real understanding of the issues impacting upon others, be they perceived or actual.

But can we realistically expect our government to have all the answers to our problems? Rarely I would suggest, especially as so many of our politicians appear so far removed from reality however; as highlighted by the survey (see here) – “People must take more responsibility for themselves” 

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