A Tale of Two Newspapers

“Calculating our cost to the public is fascist ideology, even when dressed up for the gentlemanly broadsheets.” As poverty soars in the Union, post-Brexit Britain descends into framing disabled people as subhuman and the poor as a burden on the wealthy. 

Last weekend the Sunday Post, a remarkably improved paper, published a story by their Chief Reporter Marion Scott ‘Shocking survey exposes ‘devastating’ poverty as young Scottish families forced into destitution’. The survey from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation focused on the impact of the cost of living crisis on families with young children and how, as we have detailed here before, those already on low income are being propelled into destitution. Chris Birt, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s associate director for Scotland, said: “It’s heartbreaking to see that families with babies and young children are struggling to make ends meet, with nearly eight in 10 going without essentials such as food, clothes or fuel, and nearly one in 10 having to access a food bank.”

He continued: “The Scottish Government has talked for some time about making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, yet we have families with babies struggling to even afford the basic necessities like nappies and baby formula. This is an outrageous and mind-boggling situation in a country like ours.”

“In spite of the Scottish Child Payment, families are still going without. In short, the basic level of social security is not based on what things cost, and maternity and paternity support are woefully inadequate. The UK Government has responsibility for the Universal Credit system, and levels of statutory support for those with babies, and needs to make sure that, at a minimum, everyone is able to afford the essentials and that Universal Credit is always enough to meet the costs of basic household items.”

Many of us know this already.

Only a few days ago new data revealed that a “staggering” 920,000 households in Scotland are estimated to be suffering from fuel poverty.

It’s in this context that we need to look at another newspaper’s coverage this week.

The Daily Telegraph has created a calculator to help readers ‘Exactly how much of your salary bankrolls the welfare state?’. In a piece by Alex Clark and Tom Haynes the duo explain that “Millions are claiming benefits without ever having to look for work, helping to push the tax burden to hit its highest point since the Second World War” and “how much of our hard-won salaries are spent on the benefits of those who do not work? With the calculator below, Telegraph Money can now reveal how much of your salary goes towards bankrolling the welfare state.”

We live in parallel worlds where the journalists and readers of the Telegraph indulge themselves in a sort of poverty porn and blame game seemingly devoid of the most basic traces of humanity.

As the disabled rights campaigner and writer Frances Ryan has written: “The Telegraph newsletter today has an online tool to help its readers calculate “how much of your salary bankrolls the welfare state” – and the 4 million people too sick or disabled to work. I feel quite sick. They are literally baiting their readers to ask what a burden we are.”

This is, she explains quite rightly: “A truly shameless bit of journalism that openly relies on fascist ideology that casts disabled people as useless burdens. Throughout history, disabled people have been cast as subhuman – not people with feelings and needs, just a burden that leaches off normal, moral, hardworking people. Calculating our cost to the public is fascist ideology, even when dressed up for the gentlemanly broadsheets.”

She is absolutely right, and disabled people have been demonised for years. As she has noted: “It is exactly a decade since former chancellor George Osborne launched cuts to the benefits system totalling tens of billions of pounds, and with them, fuelled rhetoric so toxic that it caused an increase in hate crime towards disabled people. This was the era of Benefits Street and the Sun’s Beat the Cheat campaign, where it was quite normal for a national newspaper to invite readers to report their disabled neighbours to the benefit fraud hotline.”

This atmosphere has been culminating for years, carefully nurtured by the petri-dish of daytime tv, tabloid editors and columnists like Richard Littlejohn who last week published a piece so deranged it shocked people outwith the narrow band of people who are not yet immune to such bile. Littlejohn’s piece in the Daily Mail argued that there was a ‘coup’ going on in the UK and that the plotters included such unique characters as ‘the ultra woke civil service’ and the Left-wing media’.

Such drivel is typical of a paranoid tradition on the far-right, which imagines enemies everywhere – Reds Under the Beds – or Thatcher’s famous ‘Enemy Within’. Now, with Brexit tanking as beautifully articulated by Chris Patten on BBC Question Time new enemies and traitors will need to be re-imagined.

Over at the Telegraph (again) Allister Heath here claims the real problem is that after 13 years of Tory rule (get this) “Gramscians are running the UK”. We are about to face “the final takeover of Britain”:

There may be an air of desperation about all of this. Those that backed Boris Johnson – or Liz Truss – have been found out, and the unprecedented actions to try and prevent the Cabinet Office seeing Whassap messages have more than a whiff of panic about them. This is a Tory party plummeting in the polls and doing what it does best: lash out at scapegoats and smear others.

Everyone knows Brexit’s a disaster. Now it’s clear it is amplifying and accelerating the descent into poverty and inequality. But its also become sacrosanct and unmentionable. No-one, least of all the government-in-waiting (so we’re told) known as the Labour Party, can utter the ‘B’ word. Meanwhile as the Irish writer Fintan O’Toole muttered this week: “The problem with a revolt against imaginary oppression is that you get imaginary freedom.” That”s where we are now. 

As the brutal social reality of thirteen years of Conservative rule is revealed, and as mass poverty becomes endemic Scotland is experiencing a form of direct rule. This isn’t being talked about either. So here we are experiencing all of the glorious benefits of the union, as the alternatives are strangled. Any path to independence is shut down, and now devolution itself is under prolonged attack. The solution as proposed (vaguely) by Gordon Brown is that Scotland has to move on from “nationalism” and embrace “patriotism” instead. It’s beyond credibility to read of the scale of social crisis people are experiencing and say that the solution is to “embrace patriotism”. It’s astonishing, belittling, humiliating to hear such cant uttered from the former Prime Minister. To escape the brutalist world of the Telegraph and the Mail and the paranoid fantasies of Richard Littlejohn and Allister Heather we need independence and the ordinary powers of an ordinary country, nothing less, nothing more. There is precisely nothing remarkable or difficult about this and to argue in favour of the Union as a bedrock of economic and social security now, today, is an act of surrealism.

Comments (11)

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  1. Graeme McCormick says:

    the Scottish Government have the power to raise tax on the acquisition of an interest in land. Thatenables them to raise enough to abolish all other Scottish taxes and set a zero rate for income tax while giving everyone £200 a week as a Universal Citizens Income. That kind of money will lift people out of poverty immediately. Most people haven’t thought through just how extensive and wide that power is. Almost everyone will be far better off. Why won’t the SG use the power instead of playing with it through LBTT?

  2. Joe Killman says:

    Aye Mike, excellent expose of the real situation. Sickening that none of the so-called ‘newspapers will print it. Even more sickening that some so-called ‘citizens’ support these greedy right wing thugs. Keep up the good work Mike & Co..

  3. Isabel Cooney says:

    Excellent post, terrifying but real.

  4. John Wood says:

    Yes indeed.

    Unfortunately there is not a single major political party that will deliver genuine self-determination for Scotland. Every one of them has betrayed its loyal supporters. behind the cheap PR industry driven consumer politics, none of them have anything to offer us now but the same, globalist agenda – look at the fascist HMPAs and so-called ‘smart cities’, for example. The SNP and Greens are now bought and sold for the same oligarch gold as the Unionists. What is the SNP thinking of when it votes to allow the WHO to destroy our sovereignty and take control of our health and environmental policies? (https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/one-health). There is a worldwide neofascism on the march – but if you dare say so, you’ll be accused of being a ‘conspiracy theorist’ (whatever that really is). What is ‘misinformation’ but propaganda, psyops, what the UK government calls ‘behavioural psychology’, what NATO calls ‘cognitive warfare’. What I call ‘Orwellian’.

    It’s time to wake up and face this – or accept that our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents suffered and died in vain. Nazism may have lost the war, but in its more subtle, 21st c version, wearing a business suit rather than jackboots, it is winning the peace through corruption and bullying. It may now be blatant in Westminster – on both sides of the House – but its effects are here too. Watch as sooner or later we find ourselves under martial law in all but name. In Tolkein’s terms, England / America may have Sauron, but we have Saruman the multicoloured.

    As Kate Forbes said of the so-called ‘green’ Freeport ( a contradiction in terms!), ‘it’s the only show in town’.

    Well, if the only show in town is totalitarian denial of all sovereignty, democracy, human rights and freedoms, mass impoverishment, cruelty, and manufactured hatred, it’s a show that needs to get out of town, fast. The Unionists need to think again if they believe the SNP’s failures will drive us all into the arms of the Labour Party and give up our dream of real independence. It ain’t gonna happen.

    Whatever sort of ‘independent’ Scotland emerges, it must be our democratic choice. All that muddying of the waters over currencies and the powers of our parliament ; and the deliberate impoverishment of our people to make sure people are so dependent and desperate that they will do as they are told; it’s all just part of the new ‘Project Fear’. They mean to make sure we really become too poor, too wee, too terrified to challenge them. And that includes seeing to it that our votes are effectively worthless.

    Enough of our Putin-style ‘managed democracy’ where it makes no difference who you vote for, while the WEF blandly announce that they are taking complete control (with the approval of ‘king’ Charles, ruling with ‘divine right’). The Scottish Government and the Holyrood Parliament need to represent and stand up for us, not fearfully follow the instructions of plutocrats – whether in London, New York or Beijing.

    The only way to recover our democracy, our self-determination, is to insist that we will only vote for a candidate or party that will publicly commit to respecting the sovereignty of the Scots people – and be held to account on it. In other words Scottish self-determination. Nothing less will now do. And if no candidate will make this commitment, spoil our ballot in protest. To vote for a ‘least worst’ candidate is the real wasted vote. Let the parties argue over what an independent Scotland looks like, and present their proposals to us to judge. The principle of our right to decide our future is beyond party politics.

    But it goes further. We need at least one party that will commit to policies that we need, that put such a pledge into practice. If none of our existing parties will do this, we’ll need a new party. No more ‘rewilding’ or 30:30 agenda; or putting private profit before the public interest; a referendum to choose our head of state (Charles is welcome to be a candidate, and put forward his manifesto); we must debate and decide for ourselves on our relationship with the EU; we urgently need, perhaps above all else, decentralisation within Scotland – let’s build the new country on the Scandinavian model. Above all, a country based on wellbeing and mutual aid where the freehold of the land, all of it, and our energy, water and other resources, are inalienably vested in the Scots people, no-one else.

    Rant over, but seriously folks, this needs some real, practical action. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      “Fascist HPMAs” For God’s sake man, get a grip on yourself. Another one who won’t be happy until there’s not a fish left to catch. Utter drivel.

      1. John Wood says:

        Thanks for that knee-jerk Derek. “Utter drivel’ is it? I beg to differ. I stand by every word.

      2. John Wood says:

        Thanks for that knee-jerk Derek. “Utter drivel’ is it? I beg to differ. In fact I stand by every word, including the ‘f’ one.

  5. WT says:

    Thanks Mike, great article. Agree with almost everything in it. Two points if I may, and not a criticism,

    “This is a Tory party plummeting in the polls and doing what it does best: lash out at scapegoats and smear others.” This is the press lashing out FOR the Tory party (and perhaps labour), while their media colleagues remain silent. This is the press that is meant to hold our governments to account, there is no counterbalance to the right now that socialism has been locked out of the room.

    “Any path to independence is shut down, and now devolution itself is under prolonged attack.”
    No, there are other paths to independence, it just needs the will and backbone to drive it, but our parties of independence lack both.

    I had to look up Gramscians – never heard of the man before.

  6. Collie Dog says:

    Not a rethorical question, Mike: Where is the newspaper or blog which follows the trail blazed by the Telegraph and sets up a calculator allowing wage-earners to calculate how much of their tax goes towards baling out failed banks, sustaining oligarchal levels of global corruption and prosecuting war that only wins to the extent that it has flattened more than a few whole states entire in the name of their defence?

    1. John Wood says:

      Collie Dog, that is a really good idea! How do we set such a thing up?

  7. Raymond Reid says:

    In a nutshell,Scotland needs to be an independent country asap,because if it it doesn’t then the Westminster cabal will turn Scotland into a third world country and starve it of finances so it will be dependent on what comes from Westminster, mainly because Westminster knows only too well that without Scottish taxes going into the Westminster coffers England would be in one hellavu state trying to survive.

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