Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants

By Tim Nichols

Ed Miliband’s speech contained some tremendously important and bold attacks on powerful elites that have helped create and perpetuate today’s social and economic inequalities. Despite much to welcome it is important understand why many may be upset today.

Minutes after taking applause for his rejection of Murdoch during the phone hacking scandal, Ed Miliband breathed new life into the News of the World’s myths about benefit claimants.

He attacked a ‘take what you want culture’ highlighting benefit cheats and a system in which “benefits are too easy to come by for people who don’t deserver them”.

The party’s recent focus groups have apparently found the public still hostile to benefit claimants they believe are either defrauding the system, or swinging the lead instead of seeking work. Focus groups always bring up ideas based on their daily media diet, so this is no surprise given the relentless hate campaigns towards benefit claimants in much of the press. Hostile public perceptions are less surprising still when you remember that former Labour secretaries of state such as Purnell and Hutton played an active part in propagating these dangerous myths.

Isolated cases of fraud are reported, alongside hysterical comment pieces that create the false impression such fraud is rife. Official statistics on disability claimants are grotesquely distorted into out-and-out headline lies that label millions of genuinely disable people as ‘scroungers’. Instead of using the facts to refute the claims, Labour minsters responded with promises to end “free riding” on benefits with harsh new sanctions.

A just society requires not just that people speak truth to power, but that politicians speak truth to people too.

There is a great true story the party could tell instead to counter the false perceptions encountered in their focus groups. Labour has a tremendous track record on reducing benefit fraud. When they left government, fraud in the benefit system was at its lowest level ever recorded. The verification framework (a new standard for provision on evidence of identity and income introduced in Blair’s first term) and more investigation officers reduced fraud significantly.

Most claimants are desperate to work, but they have been let down on promises to provide the tailored support to help them into sustained work that they need. Even before the recession, in many areas of high unemployment the jobs were simply not there. We have not had a serious industrial policy for years. A million disabled people in incapacity benefits and allowances say they want to work, but they are still subjected to serious levels of employer discrimination.

Meanwhile, disability charities are reporting disturbing increases in verbal and physical assaults suffered by disabled people – an increase which they link to the hostility of the press towards claimants of disability benefits.

But there does exist a major problem of fraud and taking without giving in one area: taxation. An elite of corporations and super-rich individuals is cheating the nation out of tens of billions lost to tax evasion and avoidance each year. We seriously reduce the deficit overnight if we put a stop to these tax cheats, allowing us to avoid harsh welfare cuts of disabled people and families.

Miliband called on Cameron to “put aside the politics; look at the facts”. If he wants to prove his claim to believe in the welfare state, he should start by following his own advice and stay within the facts on benefit claimants.

See also:

And now a Catholic leader attacks coalition’s welfare cutsWill Straw, July 21st 2011

Getting by on benefits is no easy rideAnjum Klair, February 17th 2011

How to fake up a Daily Mail benefits story in five easy stepsDeclan Gaffney, February 25th 2011

£40bn “tax gap” likely to be an underestimateWill Straw, December 14th 2009

FT takes apart Osborne’s Swiss tax dealShamik Das, August 30th 2011

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34 Responses to “Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants”

  1. Money Saviour C.I.C.

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  2. Mrs Lionel Messi

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  3. DarkestAngel

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  4. Nick

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  5. Isobel Glenelg

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  6. Ty Arian Solicitors

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  7. Ma

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  8. Sarah Murison,

    RT @rattlecans @CPAGUK: Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/cUIYSxNK

  9. Stuart

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  10. NE CP Commission

    Ed Miliband's speech – myths and welfare. Read our press officer's take: http://t.co/rSK4jEkX

  11. Robert the crip

    Which benefit have Blair and his gang brought down and how much did it cost to stop these cheats lets call them.

    Because DLA is still at 0.4% and IB is still at 0.5% if as you say labour had done such a great job these would be down now.

    I’m disabled and I now feel how the people in Germany must have felt with Hitler hate of the Jews, I cannot go out these without thinking somebody is spying on me.

    Yet I had a medical not long ago by the DWP and I was show to still be Paraplegia.

  12. Ros Kayes

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/msGyMJjg

  13. London IWW

    Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/Am8bdJOQ | #UKpolitics

  14. Ma

    '1he relentless hate campaigns towards benefit claimants in much of the press' http://t.co/oUTyErkS Yes, HATE. Call it what it is.

  15. Amanda Wilkinson

    “@LondonIWW: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/wtT3Opx3 | #UKpolitics” excellent article #TAXTHERICH

  16. emma

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/vWkcRqA9

  17. Ma

    In my opinion Miliband is a nothing but a spineless wee shite. Too feart to tell the truth. Wee shite. http://t.co/oUTyErkS

  18. Ma

    'We have not had a serious industrial policy for years. ' http://t.co/oUTyErkS What's with the hate? #AskEdM

  19. Ma

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/k0jPr0ys

  20. Ferret Dave

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/k0jPr0ys

  21. A More Equal Society

    Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants, writes Tim Nichols http://t.co/8LwGOLcT #lab11

  22. Clare Jordan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/Pzj4MHGL

  23. Jules Clarke

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/Pzj4MHGL

  24. Pam

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/0YECrDFh

  25. Clive

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/0YECrDFh

  26. Rotherham Politics

    RT @leftfootfwd: Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants http://t.co/qNa7Xn51

  27. Micha

    Public hysteria about Benefits Cheats is all about turning those who receive them into scapegoats for further ‘punishment.’ In the same (frightening?) way as the hatred of Jews in Nineteen Thirties Germany was fomented from the top down: media taking part in the regular ‘witch-hunts’ and the public being aimed like an arrow towards those they were ‘told’ repeatedly were to blame for their situation. Miliband is another of those. Whatever ‘reasons’ he gives for his views, He is still an ‘appeaser’ of the mob. They make the poorest poorer to make the rest feel a little better about themselves. They spread lies and disinformation because the media, newspapers and Journalists are less than whores. By defaming those they seek to’victimize’ – they legitimise their treatment of the poorest in Society. My advice is get ready for a real conflict – a war of attrition against the ‘agents-provocateurs’ in Government, The Legal System and The Media. AS for Ed Miliband? My advice is to put him out of mind and Office.. he will NEVER be Prime Minister, because, at the moment, the Labour Party don’t want the responsibility. They want the Coalition to put all their horrible Policies into Law first – so they don’t have to! A**ehole!

  28. TheCreativeCrip

    Ed Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/jRIIttGK

  29. Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Ed Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/jRIIttGK

  30. Look Left – Tory obsession with Europe goes on. And on. And on | Left Foot Forward

    […] policy, Tim Nichols wrote on Left Foot Forward that Miliband should “stop spreading myths about benefit claimants”, […]

  31. Labour’s untenable position on social security and disability | Left Foot Forward

    […] Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants – Tim Nichols, September 28th […]

  32. bob

    at last people are waking up to the dispicable tories who would rob their own grandmas let alone disabled people let more come forward and stop this theft of disabled benifits before you end up paying even higher benifits keeping people in care homes. as for labour they should hang their head in shame for supporting this dispicable and bankrupt coalition pact to rob the sick and vunrable because they cant fight back lib dems and tories and labour are morally disgusting.

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