£53 a week? Of course we all could! - True grit in politics.
April 4, 2013 2:29 PM   Subscribe

On Monday, the British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, made a rather rash claim on BBC Radio 4. Hijinks ensue. 'Duncan Smith came under pressure after he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that he could live on £53 ($81/week) after he was asked about a market trader, David Bennett, who claimed that he had to live on that amount after his housing benefit was cut. "If I had to, I would," Duncan Smith replied." ' from The Guardian. Since then a petition has started challenging him to try it. Petition has gathered 429,261 signatures in 4 days. Original report. There is a secondary petition going: this one is guaranteed to be debated in Parliament if it gets 100,000 signatures.

I can't understand how a government minister with even rudimentary PR training could have made such a mistake. I also can't understand how come Conservative Central Office hasn't taken a good hard look at that Wikipedia entry and edited it accordingly.

There are a lot of details about the benefits system in comments to the Guardian posts, however £53/week is the lowest rate of Jobseekers' Allowance, paid to claimants under 25, and includes no extras of any sorts. The background to this, apart from the recession, is the introduction of a new system which is bound to make many more claimants worse off; and a recent, pervasive demonisation of welfare recipients.

P.S. In spite of my Nigerian, ex-colonial background, I've grown up with immense respect for certain aspects of British culture, one of which is the welfare state. As someone who has lived in a developing country - beggars on the street, terrible infrastructure, rampant profiteering, food adulteration, poor healthcare, people begging for medicine in hospitals etc etc - I cannot understand at all why anyone thinks a civil society should do without it.
posted by glasseyes (3 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: This is a super interesting topic but the editorializing is going to make the thread problematic. Would you mind doing a bit of a rewrite and posting it tomorrow instead? Thankyou. -- jessamyn

Good post overall, but in the future you should probably avoid the editorializing at the end.
posted by chimaera at 2:32 PM on April 4, 2013

I did not realize that the Brits had something similar to the white house petitioning site. And I hope he really does follow through with it, because £53/week is so very little. A little dash of reality may be just what's needed to create some compassion.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:36 PM on April 4, 2013

In case anyone else was confused, in the UK, a market trader is somebody who operates a booth/stall at a market.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:36 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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