The Conservatives have launched a week long campaign aimed at stirring up hatred against welfare benefits claimants in general, and sick and disabled claimants in particular. The project appears to be an attempt to move the spotlight off tax avoidance at a time when polls suggest that the HSBC scandal is costing the Tories votes.
The campaign began today with a threat to stop the benefits of obese claimants as well as those who are dependent on alcohol and drugs, unless they take part in treatment programmes.
Cameron has announced that Dame Carol Black, responsible for the ‘Fit Note’ amongst other things, has been asked to carry out a rapid review of whether it would be possible to stop the benefits of people who refuse treatment.
Announcing the review, David Cameron claimed:
"Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment.
"In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed - but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.
"It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work."
The move has already been widely condemned.
Former Labour spin doctor and recovering alcoholic Alistair Campbell, who is an Alcohol Concern ambassador, told LBC radio:
“I actually do think when you have got real leaders like Merkel doing the things that they are doing, it is embarrassing that we have a PM who does this sort of stuff. The fact that he is making a speech about it is pathetic."
"People that are walking around London and the rest of the rest of the country today, as they walk over people in sleeping bags on the streets, just ask themselves if those people really, really chose to be there. They did not choose to be there - they are alcoholics or drug addicts because it is a disease, it is an illness, that is how it should be treated.
"To say we are not going to give you benefit because you are fat, we are not going to give you benefit because you drink too much, just think about what we have become as a country that that is our Prime Minister and that is how they treat a serious illness."
Tough week ahead
Today’s announcement is just the first of a week of attacks on welfare benefits claimants by the conservatives as they try to prevent the press concentrating on tax dodging. And it’s probably just a small foretaste of what is to come in the weeks leading up to the election.
So, if you’d like to feel that you are fighting back rather than simply being a target, here’s three suggestions for ways to make life harder for the conservatives.
Support Full Fact
Support the brilliant Full Fact charity, who have until 27 February to raise £25,000 to fund a six week, 18 hours per day election fact-checking project.
The presence of a Full Fact team will make it harder for politicians and the DWP press office to put out blatant untruths without them being challenged and exposed.
The project is being backed by Cathie Wood, sister of a claimant who died after wrongly being found fit for work. She commented:
“You are doing vital work - good luck with it.
“This donation is in memory of my brother Mark Wood who died due to current govt. policies and lies.”
If you can afford to, please make a donation to Full Fact via Crowdfunder.
Even if you can’t, please publicise the fund raising appeal on twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums.
Register to vote
Register to vote and encourage everyone you know to do so.
According to the independent Institute for Financial Studies (IFS), working age benefits will have to be cut by a horrifying 25% in order for the Tories to meet their spending plans.
There’s no doubt that cuts of that level will cause immense suffering and even deaths amongst claimants.
So voting in the coming election really is a matter of life and death if you are a working age claimant.
Spread the word: claimants can choose the next government
Fight feelings of hopelessness. Publicise the fact that there are thousands of voting age claimants in every constituency in the UK. This means that in many constituencies a relatively small percentage of claimants could decide who gets the seat.
We’ve got bar charts that show how small the swing amongst claimants would need to be, based on 2010 results. In fact, with the election too close to call, there are even more constituencies where claimants could hold the balance of power.
Spread the word: claimants have the power to choose the next government. Feel free to copy and use our bar charts.