During her ITV Leaders Live appearance Theresa May smugly asserted that she thinks “work is the best route out of poverty”, which is an expression of the Tory myth of natural economic justice.
“If you work really hard at digging coal then maybe one day you could end up owning the coal mine” they’d say back in the 19th Century. And if the coal miner stayed in desperate poverty, it was obviously nothing to do with his boss paying pitiful subsistence wages so he could keep as much of the wealth as possible for himself, so as to live in a vast mansion with dozens of servants. No! It was because the lazy coal miner didn’t dig coal hard enough.
In modern Britain the myth of natural economic justice is pretty much exactly the same:
You’re not struggling to make ends meet because the Tories have been repressing your wages and rigging society even more in favour of the super-rich elitists and idle property speculating slumlords for the last seven years. Definitely not! It’s because you’re a contemptibly lazy bastard who just doesn’t work hard enough. That’s why.
This revolting Tory attitude is completely wrong, and the facts speak for themselves.
• 55% of the seven million British people living in poverty are from working families. [source – Joseph Rowntree Foundation]
• 67% of the four million British children growing up in poverty are from working families. [source – End Child Poverty]
• Since 2010 the Tories have overseen the worst slump in the real value of workers’ wages since records began [source – Evening Standard]. The situation is so bad that in all the developed world only workers in crisis-stricken Greece have had it as bad as the British.
• As well as overseeing the worst wage collapse ever, the Tories have also been ruthlessly slashing in-work social security (Working tax credits, housing benefit, child welfare payments, statutory sick pay, and parental leave pay) meaning not only are wages falling, but the social security top-ups for the working poor are being cut too.
The worst thing about this Tory attitude that the poor just need to work harder to get out of poverty is that it’s almost universally expressed by people who are so stinking-rich they wouldn’t have to work another day in their whole lives in order to maintain a standard of living that most ordinary working people could never even dream of.
The American novelist Herman Melville once pilloried this sanctimonious attitude when he said “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed”.
The really sad thing of course is that millions of working poor have been so bamboozled by right-wing propaganda that they’ll overlook Theresa May’s sanctimony and actually go out and vote for the party that has spent the last seven years repressing their wages, slashing their in-work benefits and even scapegoating the poor for the fact that they’re poor.
They’ll not even think about how much of a callous and sanctimonious right-wing windbag Theresa May is being. They’ll actually nod in approval because they’ve seen the warped myth of natural economic justice propaganda trope repeated so often in the mainstream media that they’ve mindlessly absorbed it and actually adopted it as their own opinion.
Yes work is a route out of poverty, but not when you’ve got a sneering Tory toff standing on your neck and telling you that it’s good for you.