Thursday, 21 October 2010

More Muddled Political Analysis From An Insider. (Mirthless Laugh.)

God, I do wish I'd had flu this week. Or taken a day off yesterday. It's so unfair to expect constituency staff to react to major policy announcements when they haven't any time to watch the news, PMQs or even to read the papers during their working day.

I'm still trying to make sense of the Spending Review now - though that's a pretty tall order, given the breadth of its reach. The detail is impossible to understand - probably deliberately, if my long-held suspicion of statistics is anything to go by.

I gather Georgina* is being accused of playing fast and loose with some of the numbers, as The Boss nearly had a stroke over some of the stuff he said George had pinched from Labour.

My head's hurting and I just want to go and lie down quietly in a darkened room. Maybe if I took the economy with me, we might both feel better by tomorrow.

I need to get away from Max yelling at the public sector representatives on the TV, too. Every time one of them comes on, and claims that the public sector is taking the sole hit for the bankers' failures, he goes mad.

Part of me can't blame him - they do rather talk as if the private sector hasn't been feeling any pain whatsoever. Do they only socialise with others who work in the same field, I wonder? Surely they must know someone who doesn't even have a pension, or has already taken a pay cut or lost a job this year? You wouldn't think so from the rhetoric - though don't tell Max that. I really don't want to encourage him.

The worst thing about all this is that the most vulnerable are - again - the most terrified by what's going on. The expert claimants can probably afford to be phlegmatic about cuts to the welfare system - they'll just work out new ways to get around it. I just wish that, for once, attention would be paid to ensuring that it's not reducing the numbers claiming that is the focus, but ensuring that you do pay those who are genuinely in need.

So often I see people with severe disabilities and terminal illnesses struggle to get DLA, while those who have a bad back that recovers miraculously at the thought of a rugby match or a night out get the higher levels of everything going. As usual, those who are the most ingenious survive, while those who are the most honest seem to go under.

Take Pat's new boyfriend. Well, that's a bit of a misnomer, actually - as he's fifty if he's a day. DLA, Incapacity Benefit, full Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. He hasn't worked a day in his life since he left art school thirty years ago. And how has he done it? By virtue of some very creative thinking indeed.

He sees aliens. Well, that's what he tells the Benefits Agency, anyway. Disprove that, if you can. His visitors from outer space don't stop him sub-letting his council flat, taking trips to Spain to sell the stuff he buys at car boot sales, or dealing in cannabis. (His long-term fondness for drugs may, of course, have something to do with his "illness.")

When she pops into the office today, Pat's full of how wonderful he is, even though she does squirm a bit when Greg starts ranting about having to pay for "this scrounger" out of his taxes - along with shell-suits and fat-mobiles, of course.

She looks even less happy when I ask her whether she thinks her boyfriend's mad.

"Um, no," she says.

I'm in a really bad mood so I press on. Forget elephants, I'm a bull in a china shop today.

"So, if you think he's telling the truth, isn't that even more worrying?" I say.

"How d'you mean?" Pat's getting a bit twitchy now.

"Well, if he really does get visits from aliens who do unpleasant things to his bottom and his mind, aren't you a bit worried they'll come round to yours one night to get him? You know, when he 's staying with you?"

"I hadn't thought of that," she says. She looks as if she wishes I hadn't, either. You can't say I don't have a forensic mind, however incompetent at statistics I may be.

*Georgina: George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Georgina is the name by which he is affectionately known to The Boss. He has an increasing problem with millionaires telling constituents that we're all in it together.

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