A Left Leaning Look

Month: October, 2013

An Obvious Agenda

Channel Five have followed the recent television trend by making their own set of documentaries focusing on the more disadvantaged groups of people in society. The BBC and Channel 4 had programmes such as Skint where the focus was on people living in poorer areas of the United Kingdom (Skint followed the lives of those living in Scunthorpe, and area in rapid decline since de-industrialision).

One may see this as positive thing, for it is rare that working-class voices heard among the talent shows that plague our living rooms, but there is a worrying trend that runs through all of these shows, and that is the negativity that is associated with the working poor and unemployed.

The Sun newspaper revealed that with a lot of editing, and intervention by the filming crewthe Channel 4 documentary Skint, already had a view of the people that lived in Scunthorpe, and the purpose of the documentary was to confirm that view on a large viewing platform. Unsurprisingly, the show made out that the majority of people that lived on the estate were lazy criminals, that were more concerned about buying stolen goods than looking for work (the steelworks that employed the majority of the town’s population has been on a downward spiral for many years).

If that was not damaging enough for today’s poorer communities, Channel 5 have taken up the baton for bashing the unemployed with their new series. The first episode was named On Benefits and Proud and looked at people living on unemployment and disability benefit (an amount of money given by the state for those looking for work, or for those unable to work due to ill health), in areas such as South London and Liverpool.

Of course, the majority of the people were made out to be useless, lazy scroungers, and whilst some of the people featured did irritate me (one lady was complaining that she did not get enough money from the state, whilst having subscriptions for Sky TV and Virgin Media), There was little, or no attempt to address why people are in this situation. It was mentioned that Liverpool has very high unemployment rates, but it made out as if this was the fault of the people, and not the rapid de-industrialision in the North of England and South Wales under Consecutive conservative government.

What shocked me the most though, was that the next episode in this series was named Shoplifters and Proud, and the one after that? Pickpockets and Proud. It seems strange that in this run of television programmes, Channel 5 have kicked off with the unemployed, and swiftly moved on to criminals. With the same titles and set up, it is very easy for viewers to associate people receiving benefits, with criminal acts, especially as they seem to give the impression that the people dong the stealing are doing it because of addiction, or to feed their families, whereas the people on benefits are just lazy.

I believe that this is very irresponsible from Channel 5. There is enough stigma associate with receiving state benefits, and lumping them in with criminals will just divide society and cause conflict. I am not saying that this will happen from one Channel 5 series, but the constant hounding by the press and the government means that eventually, people will be judged by receiving help that they are entitled to.

I had to claim unemployment benefit for a few weeks over summer, as I was on a zero hour contract that was giving my around 8 hours of work a week, and whilst I was actively looking for work after graduating, I was treated with discontent from certain people working at the Department of work and Pensions.

It needs to be pointed out that whilst the welfare bill is high in this country, it is there for a reason, and that is to make sure that those vulnerable people in society do not fall to the levels of poverty that we saw at the turn of the 20th century, and I believe that we are better as a country to spend money on the people who need help, rather than burn through billions of pounds on vanity projects such as High Speed 2, the Trident replacement, or the new aircraft carriers that are currently being built.

“Remember, the …

“Remember, the bottom line for a corporation is profits. If the claim is legitimate and they are going to lose money on it, they should be able to, in good conscience, deny the claim, in the interest of profit.” Ted Cruz

So I discovered this quote yesterday whilst trawling through twitter, and whilst I don’t know much about the Republican Senator for Texas, I do know that he is everything that is wrong with Capitalism.

The quote is relating to health insurance companies (the only way American citizens can get decent healthcare in their country), and Mr. Cruz is essentially saying that profit comes before human lives.

This is why you cannot have compassion and free market capitalism living side by side. If you own a health insurance company, you want to make money, and very time you pay out for a claim (let’s remember that this is not car insurance, it is people’s lives) you lose money. It stands to reason therefore, that a company will do everything in it’s power to stop the unfortunate person from receiving medical treatment.

Here in the United Kingdom, we are very lucky as we have free healthcare at the point of need. Whilst we pay for the National Health Service though out taxes, it is substantially lower in costs when compared the the price of health insurance for an American family of 4 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2013/05/22/annual-healthcare-costs-surpasses-22000/). However, thanks to three years of austerity implemented by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the unthinkable seems to be coming more of possibility. With private contracts being brought in for specialist care, we run the real risk of the NHS becoming a governing body of private companies, who’s real purpose is to make money off the most vulnerable people in society.

Whilst some may argue that subcontracting is a way of keeping down costs, I ask how this is possible? If one company can provide care for a lower cost (and this is how they win government contracts) then something is being done on the cheap, and I do not think that when it comes to people’s lives, you should be scrimping on the service.

We have seen how government contracts do not work with the likes of G4S’s rather embarrassing fiasco when it came to providing security for the 2012 Olympic games. Not surprisingly, the government had to step in and use the Armed forces to provide security (which would have been a better and cheaper option considering the Armed forces have sufficient training in counter terrorism). We also saw how the contracts for the running of the West Coast Main Line was botched, costing the tax payer millions of pounds before these lucrative contracts were even handed out, and most recently, a BBC article showed how G4S’s private prisons rank among the worst in terms of drug use and re-offending rates. It may be acceptable to use private contractors to provide vital services if they worked, but they clearly don’t, and instead we have the public lining the pockets of corporations. What makes this even more frustrating is that when the Treasury have a chance to get some money back from these companies, they find that their tax systems often voids them of any duty to pay tax here in the UK, meaning more money for them, and a worse service for us.

So this is my first blog entry, and as you can probably have guessed, it’s mostly a left wing rant, but I’d appreciate your feedback, and any tips or articles to keep my going!