The negative narrative surrounding benefits claimants is now so pervasive and popular that it is almost impossible to work out where truth ends and propaganda begins. A fascinating piece in The Guardian recently found that some of the meanest and most vicious attitudes towards claimants are nursed by...other claimants. It's the realisation of the surveys three years ago that found seventy odd percent were in favour of 'cuts' but seventy odd percent also believed they would be unaffected by them.
One of the many benefits of my job is the ability to talk daily and at length with people who have different perspectives from my own. Most 'pundits' either cannot or choose not to do this. It's easy to see why. When opinions are your livelihood, and their pungency determines your reputation, then having to review or revise them according to someone else's reality is not an attractive prospect.
The only way in which the Conservatives' policy of social division and deliberate impoverishment of all but their most traditional voters can succeed is if we all see the same thing when we hear the word "claimant". They want us to see Wayne and Waynetta Slob, fictional characters who enforce cliched and largely false stereotypes, and they use emotive cliches built improbably on envy and a sense of injustice to do it: flat screen TVs; Sky subsctiptions; fags; booze.
So who do you see when you hear the words? Wayne & Waynetta? Or your gran (all pensioners are benefits claimants)? The working father next door (93% of new Housing Benefits claimants are in work)? Your father? Your brother? Yourself?
I would love to be wrong and will happily admit to being so if the facts change but, without opposition and resitance, the target will move on. Today the unemployed of Camden face being deported to areas where the chances of finding work will drastically and permanently diminish, tomorrow it could be you. Because, thanks to the rancid rhetoric of scroungers keeping the curtains closed while we drag ourselves to work, nobody sees themselves when they hear the words 'benefits claimants', not even the tiny number of people who actually come close to fulfilling the frenzied criteria.
In other words, nobody thinks they will be targeted next by a Government interested only in the welfare of the wealthy. Until, of course, they are.