Hunting the Poor - The Tory Bloodsport of Choice

28/10/2012 21:31 GMT | Updated 28/12/2012 10:12 GMT

Well, now we know... the search for a new blood sport by the Tories and their supporters since foxhunting was banned in 2004 is over. Instead of hunting foxes, the Tories' new favourite blood sport is hunting the poor.

The recent announcement of a cap on child-related benefits reveals that even the children of the poor are fair game now. After all, babies grow up to become adults, don't they? So if we're serious about eradicating the bastards, let's get them sooner rather than later. Or so the logic goes.

It's the naked brutality of this reform of the benefits system that leaves you in awe, packaged with the kind of semantic audacity that Orwell himself would have balked at including in his novels for fear of being accused of over embellishment. The deployment of the word 'fairness' to justify this latest stage in the Tory's all out assault on the poor is the semantic version of a smoke grenade, designed to occlude the purpose behind it - namely increasing the share of society's surplus for the rich at the expense of the poor under cover of an economic recession brought to us courtesy of those very same rich, doing so by pitting the working poor against the unemployed and benefit claimants.

When it comes to housing benefit, which the government has exerted great effort in painting as evidence of societal moral decay, the inconvenient truth is that the vast majority of claimants are in work. A recent report by the National Housing Federation (NHF), Home Truths 2012, reveals that the number of working people claiming housing benefit in England and Wales has risen by 417,830 since 2009. At the same time rental costs have risen 37% over the past five years, with the NHF predicting they could rise by a further 35% over the next six. The situation in Scotland is comparable.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

"We now have millions of families struggling to keep on top of their rents, priced out of the housing market and nearly 10,000 more working families every month are now reliant on housing benefit to help pay their private rent. These people are the 'strivers' the Government wants to help, yet their future is looking bleak. This cannot continue; we need action now to address the causes of rising housing costs, not just the symptoms. Only by addressing the chronic undersupply of new homes can we stem the financial pressure on families and Government."

This unmasks the perfidious shift in emphasis on the part of the Tories and their cohorts in the pages of the right wing press away from the causes of the nation's soaring housing benefit bill, which currently sits at £20 billion each year. Those causes are a housing crisis defined by a crippling lack of social housing, married to private rents that have spiralled out of control as demand has increased in line with the sharp downturn in mortgage lending. Add to this a concomitant spike in unemployment as a result of the recession and the impact of austerity, combined with the downward pressure being exerted on wages for those in work, and you have yourself the economic equivalent of a terminal disease.

For all the fanfare which has heralded the latest GDP figures this week, figures that have registered a 1% growth in the last quarter, the brutal reality in today's Britain is a low wage economy increasingly dominated by part time and temporary work.

If this can be described as success in a 21st Century developed economy, it's hard to imagine what failure would look like.

But even so, attacking children is surely a step beyond depravity even for a party whose stock in trade is a feral hatred of the poor. Even Thatcher balked at making children pay for the poverty of their parents to this extent. The furthest she was prepared to go came with her decision as secretary of state for education in Heath's Tory government of the early 1970s to cut free school milk.

This latest attack on recipients of housing benefit and the born and unborn children of the poor are merely the latest in a wider and continuing class war, unleashed when this coalition government came to power in 2010. In this regard, cynical moves to divide society into the deserving rich at one end of the spectrum and the undeserving poor, workshy scroungers and their progeny at the other, will only be as successful as the ability of the Tories to divide working class along sectional lines, which as previously mentioned means employed against unemployed, able bodied against disabled, non immigrant against immigrant, and so on.

Meanwhile, the misery of another winter descends on millions of households as people cling on to a semblance of existence, struggling to meet increasing fuel costs, food prices, rent, and other basic necessities.

This is the story of Tory Britain in the year 2012.