I have a theory. But before we proceed, let me lay the facts before you.
Retired people should be encouraged to do community work such as caring for the “very old” or face losing some of their pension, a peer has suggested.
Lord Bichard, a former benefits chief, said “imaginative” ideas were needed to meet the cost of an ageing society.
And although such a move might be controversial, it would stop older people being a “burden on the state”.
Imaginative ideas, eh? Not imaginative ideas which aim to stigmatise the elderly I hope.
Then we get Iain Duncan Smith arguing that families with more than two children should basically tell the successive ones that society doesn’t care to help them become employable workers and profitable consumers. Talk about rubbing the runt of the litter’s nose in it:
Iain Duncan Smith told the poorest families to “cut your cloth” according to their “capabilities” and the money available.
The Work and Pensions Secretary suggested limiting benefits to the children of the unemployed as he pledged to end the “madness” of taxpayers housing large families in expensive homes.
Madness, right? Not the kind of madness which aims to stigmatise the poor I hope.
(Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s a fact check on Duncan Smith’s declarations. Just if, by any chance, the truth still interests you.)
Finally, tonight, and – sadly, to my mind anyhow – from the pen of Fraser Nelson, we get this absurd piece of tosh on how the charitable opposition to this Coalition’s welfare reforms is completely down to Gordon Brown’s Secret Army of Labour subversives. Yes!!! It’s Fifth Column time once again in our country: on this occasion, mind, this Cameron-careering juggernaut of a propaganda-driven excuse for a government aims to blame the failure of its own policies on the Machiavellian powers of a supposedly once-vanquished – as well as impotently ineffective – enemy.
Thus it is that it’s not the government which is failing to convince the country its medicine is the right and only one: instead, it’s (still) all Labour’s fault that sensible people refuse to behave insensibly. As Nelson awfully sustains:
We saw this yesterday, when Iain Duncan Smith trailed a speech about welfare and poverty. A now familiar welcoming committee rose up early to greet him. The Child Poverty Action Group declared that there are no jobs to be had, so why punish those on welfare? A revered charity, Save the Children, has identified government cuts as a major threat to British children. Even the National Society for the Protection of Children warns that the “most vulnerable” children are “bearing the brunt” of Cameron’s cuts. And hearing them all, who would your average listener believe: a politician, or charity worker?
But these charities are not the kindly tin-rattlers they were. In 2008, Brown changed the rules so charities could join political campaigns. In theory, they could support any party – but as Brown knew, not many would use these powers to demand smaller taxes. It was a masterstroke. The charities sharpened their claws by hiring former Labour apparatchiks. Save the Children is now run by Justin Forsyth, Brown’s ex-strategy chief. The NSPCC has hired Peter Watt, a former Labour general secretary. Damian McBride is working for Cafod. Britain’s charities are nurturing a colourful, talented and efficient anti-Tory alliance.
Look. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t argue that Brown is a yesterday-politician one day and a tomorrow-politician the next.
Unless, of course, he wasn’t the yesterday-politician they so cruelly painted him out to be.
Now I hadn’t thought of that.
A matter, perhaps, for another post.
But back to this evening’s thesis: Lord Bichard announces there’s no money for pensioners who don’t work; Iain Duncan Smith announces two kids is all you’re going to get; and Fraser Nelson announces any opposition to Cameron’s Tory-led government is an evil throwback of secretive individuals burrowing under the very transparency of parliamentary democracy itself.
And so to our theory.
Does this really not sound what a Fifth Column of insurgents – who’d taken over control of Parliament by barely legal means (say a group of politicos practised in the Goebbel-like arts of advertising) – might say of anyone else who was looking to defend democracy’s integrity?
Well, quite. It does take a thief to catch a thief, after all.
If truth be told, I really don’t know what Nelson & Co are up to here. From no benefits for a third child, it’s a small step to legislating against families having more than two children. Once governments start fiddling around with such numbers and choices, the slippery slope of hubris leads them to all kinds of dreadful things. And just remember, big families help create future workforces and consumers who consume. Without biggish families down the line, they’ll be no one to pay the pensions.
Oh, but – bless him! – that’s where old Bichard comes in, isn’t it? In this brave new web of Coalition policies, pensioners will end up paying for themselves.
We don’t need big families any more. We don’t even need the poor to have families at all. All we need is a land army of old people prepared to die on their feet and a pool of little rich kids who, with the right kind of schooling, will acquire exactly the right sort of voting habits.
This is, in fact, the Big Society by force. People haven’t stepped forward in their droves to volunteer to make the state run for free, so now those in power have decided you will volunteer.
Or you won’t procreate.
Even when the English language and culture always taught us that both were blessed and honourable choices which humanised us.
So perhaps Gordon does have his Secret Army.
But in the Second World War, Western democracy couldn’t have beaten back the evil hoards if we hadn’t had our Resistance to hand.
Now could it?
The two big questions, of course, run as follows: does Nelson speak for Cameron tonight? And does Cameron really want to frame the next three years as a war amongst the people?