Welcome to Britain, land of the rising scum…. We’ve cornered the market on welfare layabouts, drug addicts and feral gangs

Another one I’m not going to spend too much time on, because it says everything it needs to. No point, no arguments, and no conclusion. Just overtones of misplaced superiority, self-pity and nihilistic defeatism.

“Then again, they could just have been scum.

You know what? I’ve just thought about it again. I’m going with scum. Sorry, but there’s no other word for it.”

The word he’s looking for is ‘people’.

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For years he made fun of the absurd, gold-plated public sector jobs in the Guardian. As unemployment in the REAL world heads for 3m, Littlejohn’s patience runs out

Rather unimaginative column today from Richard Littlejohn, in that it’s clearly (another) well rehearsed argument¹, but also in the sense that it rests on the premise that if Richard can’t think of a reason for something, that thing must be useless.

“But you have to ask why the NHS needs equalities and human rights ‘champions’.”

Well, off the top of my head: because we’d like everyone to have access to treatment from, and employment within, the NHS. Not only is that demanded by justice, but in the long-run will ensure we’re all healthier.

“Barnet Council, in North London, is desperately seeking a Head of Internal Audit and Ethical Governance, on £80,000 a year, plus the usual perks. How on earth have they managed without one all these years?”

As one of the comments on this column points out – it’s actually a very good question². Without auditors, who would keep a track on spending? If Barnet have genuinely been operating without one, that’s a bad thing.

He even manages to tacitly acknowledge the usefulness of one group in his rogues’ gallery, while busily reaching the opposite conclusion

“There was the great Aids scare, when no self-respecting council could bear to be without an army of HIV prevention workers. At one stage, I worked out there were more people in Britain earning a good living from Aids than were actually dying from it.”

Somehow here the lack of deaths from Aids is proof that the prevention workers weren’t necessary, not that they were a good investment that reaped results – obviously they couldn’t have been, because they were local government employees. This cynicism is circular – the job must be useless, because it was created within the public sector, and the fact that it is useless confirms that jobs created by the public sector are useless. This argument reaches its fulfillment somewhat unexpectedly in:

“Local government, in particular, is increasingly a conspiracy against the paying public, extracting ever more taxes in exchange for an ever-worsening level of provision. They’re more interested in dreaming up exciting new rules, fines and punishments and finding elaborate excuses for not doing what we pay them for  –  such as emptying the dustbins once a week.”

If we were putting together an argument, logically building up from our premises and the evidence we had, and we reached that conclusion, it would be safe to say that we’d got something wrong. What it claims is no less than that public bodies, across the nation, are actively and deliberately deciding that rather than achieve the aims of the democratic bodies from which their legitimacy stems, they will make life harder for people for no better reason than that they don’t like doing what they were originally appointed to do. On the balance of probabilities, it’s not a conclusion that does too well.

The reason conclusion is ridiculous is that the premises don’t stand up, entirely due to Littlejohn’s imaginative failings – local government is necessarily a Utopian exercise and his view of the improved society is very different from that of the person appointing lesbian defence instructors. The latter’s involves vulnerable members of the community being protected so they can play a full role in it; Richard can’t imagine that as a reason, even as he motivates his argument on the vulnerability of the those in the ‘competitive’ economy. The idea that there might be a good basis for these posts is never considered, entirely because he can’t see that there are inequities to resolve. His utopia doesn’t encompass the marginalised, the vision of a better world is this one but with more security and money for the lower middle-classes. The posts don’t benefit him, so he can’t imagine that they are beneficial.

This limited view of the world will ensure that he will always feel that people are misspending his money – as times change, the marginalised change, and so do the drains on taxes for him to object to. I hope for his sake that his patience hasn’t really run out, because there’ll be a lot more to come.

———–

¹ “My columns and TV shows have featured regular Nice Work If You Can Get It sections, diligently spotlighting the ingenious and often hilarious jobs invented by councils and quangos to expand their empires and devour our taxes.”

² Its worth clarifying that the role of internal audit is to help management identify and manage its risks across all parts of the organisation. I am sure you will agree, especially given the global financial crisis, that helping to create a culture of risk awareness and ensure a professional approach to the management of the many risks facing any given organisation (not just local authorities), is in fact a very worthwhile investment.” – Phil Gray, Communications Director, Institute of Internal Auditors.

As £170,000 a year is spent on an Afghan single mother… A story that sums up the howling insanity of modern Britain

Just so we’re under no illusions, Richard Littlejohn has nothing but respect for people seeking asylum

“Let me make it clear, I don’t blame anyone for coming here to make a better life.”

it’s just that

“we get more than our fair share”

You see, it’s about fairness.Why should

“those in secure employment [who] are pulling in their horns in the face of soaring food and fuel prices and the mounting burden of taxation”

watch while the government spends their money on asylum seekers who

“would clearly be happier in a country with which they were more culturally aligned”?

Where do we start? Well, here’s the definition of ‘refugee’ (a word Littlejohn studiously avoids, in favour of ‘asylum seeker’, a phrase which implies the prefix ‘bogus’ by long association):

“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

[Source: UNHCR, Convention relating to the status of refugees, 1951 modified in 1966]

And, just for completeness, here’s a table with the number of refugees given asylum by the UK in 2007, set against the number refused by the UK and the number accepted by other selected nations.

Granted Asylum 3,800
Granted Exceptional Leave to Remain 2,335
Refused Asylum 16,755
Total refugees in UK 299,700
Total refugees in Pakistan 2,033,100
Total refugees in Tanzania 435,600
Total refugees in Chad 294,000
Total refugees in Iran 963,546
Total refugees in Ecuador 264,907

[Sources: above line, Home Office, below UNHCR]

I think that probably covers us – what we’re actually talking about is offering sanctuary for people who are being persecuted, we have an ‘open door’ policy which refuses admittance to around 73% of those who ask to come in and, as a result, end up with less than as sixth as many refugees as Pakistan (including considerably less Afghanis). This is a matter of human decency towards the world’s worst off, fair shares should not come into the discussion – but since he’s brought it up: we don’t allow in as many refugees as we could, our burden is a lot lighter relative to the size of our economy than it is for many countries and the real question should be ‘shouldn’t others be doing more’ and not ‘can we get away with doing less because that would be cheaper’.

But then, Littlejohn isn’t really interested in fairness. If he were, that question above would have been quick on his lips – he could have had a pop at the French (151,789 according to the UNHCR figures) and hailed a plucky British second place in the EU humanitarian admissions stakes. I doubt he would have suggested more money to help Chad, but maybe we’d be lucky. Instead, the ‘fair share’ is forgotten as soon as it’s mentioned.

He’s also not actually that interested in the government misspending our money as such – the headline is a world away from ‘Housing allowance blunder costs rate-payers 170k – give us more oversight of spending by bureaucrats’.  If this were the issue, the column would not hinge on an anecdote about a single council interpreting a regulation in a way he himself does not understand.¹ This is a localised error, not an example of systemic misspending. As such, it doesn’t serve to introduce government misspending as a theme. Which is just as well, since instead of picking up that theme, he immediately goes off on a tangent about immigration.

This tangent is introduced quite well, suggesting that, in fact, it isn’t a tangent at all. We have an immigrant, clearly doing better than the average Briton, who is completely unrepentant. We get the ‘like winning the lottery’ quote three times, just in case we missed it – these people are laughing at us. The focus shifts immediately from the council and onto the accidental recipient of their bounty. That this immigrant should be an Afghan, who are all here under false pretences (the Taleban of 2000 and the subsequent war are forgotten while Littlejohn remembers a criminal act eight years ago²) and only leave their mountain paradise because they fancy a council house from which to plot their latest international terrorist atrocity, only makes things worse. Meanwhile, you and I can’t get houses, because

“Mass immigration is one of the main reasons we have a housing crisis”

(Not the Tory sell off of council stock or any subsequent government schemes to promote take-up by tenants, nor demographic shifts towards one-person houses. Just in case you were wondering.) It’s immigration that is the problem – that we should be spending any money at all on refugees is a waste when all they do is sap our resources.

When the  well rehearsed argument about government spending does arrive, it’s to drive home this central point – immigrants per se are just another example of government mispending, and one we can’t afford at this difficult time.

To compare the care of those fleeing death and persecution with

“pulling in [our] horns in the face of soaring food and fuel prices and the mounting burden of taxation”

would be bean-counting of the most despicable kind were the motivation for it not so painfully obvious. The hijackers, the terrorists planning atrocities, the spoof game show with its wearying predictions of people outstaying their welcome, the fatherly concern about ‘cultural alignment’: dressing it up with the faint understanding of “I don’t blame anyone for coming here to make a better life” doesn’t wash. This is odious. The only thing worse than the fact that propaganda like this can find a publisher in this day and age is that it can find an audience. If we really are “all going to hell in a handcart”, columns like this are what’s paving the way.

¹ He’s not the only one. The Local Housing Allowance (LHA), as described here, does not, to me at least, appear to have a weakness for paying above market rents built in. My best guess is that the Broad Rental Market Areas do strange things when you’re looking at houses for 7 in West London. However, since the BRMA offers an upper limit to the allowance, not a full entitlement, something has clearly gone wrong somewhere in the application.

² Note that Littlejohn also fails to question whether they might have committed the hijacking in 2000 because they were desperate to leave the land of their birth for one “with which they were more culturally aligned”, probably because he means this in the apartheid sense of the phrase, rather than the self-determining one.