Thursday, 11 July 2013


Margaret Mountford, Nick Hewer (BBC/Silver River Productions Ltd/Alex Maguire)

 Well, this is quite sickening. Here's the blurb from the BBC website:

"Four claimants and four taxpayers come face to face to explore each other’s lives, examine their values and speak their minds. Will the taxpayers feel that benefits are too high or not enough? And will the claimants decide that hard work is good for them or will the sacrifice be too much?"

When most "hard work" boils down to slaving your guts out for someone else's profit, why on earth is anyone going to decide that it's good for them? And I do like that term "sacrifice" with its (I think deliberately) sacral overtones. So working is a sacrifice, is it? Taking that seriously. we would have to ask to whom, and for whom? But the point seems to be fostering of negative solidarity, which translates as: "we have it shit, so you should have it shit, too". Like Ian Duncan Smith's constant mantra of "making work pay": you might think that that would mean making sure pay and conditions for most jobs improved; no, it means making sure that benefits are harder to get, worth less, and are easier to lose. The working population are expected to be grateful that someone is getting shafted more brutally than they are. More, they are told that it is claimants that are somehow making them work longer and harder for less money, and obscurely, that the precarity of work (zero hours contracts and the rest) is somehow down to the doleys. But if work is a sacrifice, it's not one that is made to claimants, claimants are not the ones who have kept wages stagnating for years.

"[...]in this second episode the experiment is reversed as the claimants spend time with the taxpayers. Getting up early, working alongside them through long shifts and seeing the effects on family life[...]"

So working "long shifts" (we're talking about most work that is done, the savagely underpaid variety) has effects on family life...But because it's a sacrifice (unclear to, or for, whom) it's worth it? The lack of affordable child care is somehow just a fact of life, like those long shifts.

"[...]the claimants experience the sort of work it takes to pay for their benefits and get a taste of the reality of working life. They must decide if they think that work is worth it. With the battle lines drawn between claimants and taxpayers, this series brings the two sides together to discover if any of them can agree."

At what point will we get to see the salt-of-the-earth-taxpayers get to have a face off with Lord Freud, for example, the charmer who recently said that the increase in food banks was due to the fact that they were giving away free stuff, and not because people might not have the wherewithal to buy food. Maybe he could be put in the position of explaining to them why he has so much and they have so relatively little. But no- that's not the way negative solidarity works. The working population are slaving so hard because of the unemployed, apparently, not because of their bosses.