I, Daniel Blake – prologue
In the 90s, a volunteer at a night-shelter in Camp Hill (right), watched in horror as payments were delayed and records lost, causing huge distress to claimants. At that time, fear of their anger, born of frustration, caused screens to be erected to shield staff from physical attack.
Many job centres in the city were dismissive and unhelpful, some lacking basic information, until complaints about one particular centre reached Cllr Theresa Stewart. She, who later became an excellent council leader, arranged a survey of these centres by a researcher assumed to be an out of work claimant. The recommended changes compiled from good practice seen in some centres were made and on revisiting the failing centres the researcher found a very different regime in place.
However, once the Labour government with all its failings had been superseded, and the bank funded private sector property bubble had caused an economic crash, full rein was given to politicians urged on by wealthy corporate donors, to squeeze the poorest in the land, dignifying their extortion as austerity.
Elite opinion continues to focus on slashing deficits, using the alleged dangers of debt and deficits to justify cuts in benefits. They continue to call for hard choices and sacrifice – by others.
Despite good advice from distinguished economists Paul Krugman (Princeton) and Richard Layard (LSE) the vocal New Labour residue still accepts the need for making substantial cuts in the years ahead whilst acquiescing in tax concessions for the wealthy.
Krugman and Layard presented the widely supported ‘Manifesto for economic sense’ in 2012, pointing out that budget cuts are not inspiring business confidence because companies only invest when they can foresee enough customers with enough income to spend.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, agrees
In one of a series of 2015 policy documents, given little or no media coverage, he advocates a strategy for a more highly skilled, productive economy that works for the many not the few, in which the state has a vital role to play:
“Without that role, we have the casino economy and the chaos of underinvestment, debt bubbles, and grotesque inequality between rich and poor, and a widening regional inequality. Our vision is of an economy that works for all, provides opportunity for all, and invests in all – rich and poor, north, south, east and west. It means we judge our economy not by the presence of billionaires but by the absence of poverty; not only by whether GDP is rising, but by whether inequality is falling.
Meanwhile we have ‘disbenefits, dysfunction and despair’.