Saturday, 29 October 2011

BBC accused of anti-welfare stance

Letter to The Guardian

•, Friday 28 October 2011 21.00 BST

We are outraged that the BBC is joining the propaganda war aimed at destroying the welfare state, Britain 's most civilised and civilising legacy (Last night's TV, G2, 28 October). In the 1940s, after years ofdepression and slaughter, working-class people who had sacrificed so much felt entitled to a life without the constant threat of war and poverty. Family allowance, income support, unemployment and housing benefits, disability benefits, a state pension, the NHS and free education have assumed that everyone contributed and deserved to be looked after "from the cradle to the grave".

Entitlement fostered not only dignity and respect, but decent wages and working conditions for those in work. Since 1979, Thatcher's love for the free market and her hatred for "the culture of entitlement" has determined social policy. We are now all expected to chase nonexistent jobs or work for our benefits, ie £1.63 an hour; sick and disabled people are found "fit for work" even despite terminal illnesses; older people have had their pensions postponed because living "too long" is a crisis; the vital work of mothers and other carers is disregarded and dismissed. The minimum wage is bypassed and we all stand to lose. Why should corporations pay a living wage if they can get claimants and prisoners to work without one?

We are expected to compete with Chinese workers, 600,000 of whom drop dead from overwork every year. Is that what we should aspire to? The Chinese, like the rest of us, are demanding better wages and working conditions – and the welfare state is part of that. Haven't they noticed people are getting together internationally to raise everyone's standards, not to lower them? The fight is on for the society Thatcher said did not exist.

Selma James Global Women's Strike

John McDonnell, MP

Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS

Bob Crow General secretary, RMT

Nina López Legal Action for Women

Kim Sparrow Single Mothers' Self-Defence

Claire Glasman WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)

Marie Lynam Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Prof Peter Beresford Chair, Shaping Our Lives

Noel Lynch Chair, London Green Party

Dave Skull Mad Pride

Johnny Void Benefit Claimants Fightback

Sam Weinstein Member of Utility Workers Union of America

Alan Wheatley Green Party Trade Union Group

Joanna Long Boycott Workfare

Anne-Marie O'Reilly London Coalition Against Poverty

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