Look Left – Paolo Di Canio, Michael Philpott and making work pay…by cutting the minimum wage

James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.

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Paolo Di Canio, an Italian footballer-turned manager who once declared himself a “fascist”, was appointed as the manager of Sunderland Football Club this week, provoking a storm of protest from supporters and the resignation of its most famous board member, David Miliband.

Di Canio has the word “Dux”, the Latin equivalent of “Duce”, tattooed on his arm and has in the past been pictured giving straight arm Roman salutes to fans.

“I give the straight arm salute because it is a salute from a ‘camerata’ to ‘camerati’,” Di Canio said after one incident for which he was fined seven thousand Euros, making sure to use the Italian words for members of Benito Mussolini’s fascist movement.

This week James Bloodworth looked at whether football should be above the moral norms the rest of society abides by, and John Millington asked whether it has become taboo to protest against fascism.

• After the recent controversy surrounding the death of Lucy Meadows, the Daily Mail was again embroiled in controversy this week for attempting to blame the manslaughter of six children by Michael Philpott on the welfare state.

Philpott, one Mail columnist said, “is a perfect parable for our age”. His trial “lifted the lid on the bleak and often grotesque world of the welfare benefit scroungers – of whom there are not dozens, not hundreds, but tens of thousands in our country”.

This week Left Foot Forward looked at how the Mail treats rich murderers compared to poor ones – when the poor kill they are “scum”, but when the rich do it’s “tragic”.

• In its drive to reduce the welfare bill the coalition likes to cite the importance of “making work pay”. The chancellor George Osborne said this week that welfare reforms are “about making sure that we use every penny we can to back hard-working people who want to get on in life. This month we will make work pay”.

Yet astonishingly, it was reported on Tuesday that the minimum wage could be frozen by the government if the economic downturn continues. So much for making work pay.

This week Left Foot Forward looked at the hypocrisy behind the government’s claim to be making work pay while contemplating cutting the minimum wage, as well as at the economic illiteracy of the idea.

Progressive of the Week:

Dom Aversano started a petition to get Iain Duncan Smith to try to live on £53 a week after the secretary for work and pensions claimed he could live on that amount if he had to.

The petition has so far attracted over 300,000 signatories. While superficially little more than a stunt, the petition does draw attention to the distance between the lives of some of our policymakers and those who they govern.

Salman Shaheen suggested that we put the entire cabinet on £53 a week, while Kevin Gulliver looked at how welfare reforms are cementing social tenants at the bottom of the economic pile.

Regressive of the week:

Daily Mail columnist A.N Wilson this week tried to pin the blame for the deaths of six children in a housefire caused by Michael Philpott on the welfare state rather than on the man who actually started the fire.

Like so many right-wing political commentators Mr Wilson applies the principle of personal responsibility selectively and when it suits: a man who burned his house down is a “product of the welfare state” whereas those who receive benefits through no fault of their own are lumped together with Philpott as “scroungers”.

Left Foot Forward’s James Bloodworth was on the airwaves this week arguing that it was obscene to try and blame one man’s evil on a system that helps so many.

Evidence of the Week:

Figures released over the weekend showed that families are on average £891 worse off because of tax rises and cuts to tax credits and benefits introduced since 2010.

Based on data published by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) in its Green Budget in February and its post Budget briefing earlier this month, the figures show the extent to which living standards are being squeezed by George Osborne’s policy of austerity.

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