Chris Skidmore: Ally of poverty

Meet the private-schooled and Oxford-educated Chris Skidmore, conservative MP for Kingswood.

Skidmore has written an article in the Telegraph suggesting that, for young people, Jobseeker’s Allowance should take the form of a loan, which you must pay back once in work. For Skidmore, this would create an added incentive to work, would save the government £1.3 billion, and the debt would only amount to 20 grand even if you were unemployed continuously from 18-25, less than the tuition fee loan.

Perhaps the most pathetic way that Skidmore defends his proposal is by hiding behind the enormous cost of tuition fees as a means of downplaying the viciousness of what he’s suggesting –  a ridiculous sleight of hand. Skidmore wishes to use the fact that students now leave university with a lifetime of debt – something his party had to fight hard to impose – as an excuse to saddle the young unemployed with debt in turn, and keep them in poverty once they have found work.

Skidmore, like all other Tories, simply assumes a priori that benefit claimants are uninterested in work, and that the solution to the mass unemployment is to harass and threaten the unemployed until they pull their finger out. To that end, we have seen:

The maximum sanction for JSA go up to three years.

Direct spying on claimants.

Workfare – slave labour for chain stores, which decreases the chances of future employment for the worker, and decreases job security for existing staff.

The threat to remove housing benefit from under 25s.

Hundreds of thousands of disabled people kicked off Disability Living Allowance.

This is to name only some of the attacks. Skidmore is naturally untroubled by the fact that economic crash, brought about by the neoliberal policies his party (plus the Lib Dems and labour) pushed for, has created mass unemployment. Never mind that. Never mind their huge program of job cuts. Never mind the 5.2 unemployed per vacancy. It is all the fault of the victims! The unemployed must be bashed over the head with debt, until their misery generates a viable job opportunity out of thin air!

The most disgusting part of Skidmore’s article is his agreement with the phrase “a democracy can only exist until the majority discovers that it can vote itself largesse out of the public treasury”. After the scandal of MPs expenses, the vast scale of tax avoidance, the bankers bonuses and the £750 billion hoarded by corporations, you might reasonably expect some tactical hesitation from the Tories about making a statement like that, but no – through the wizardry of the Free Enterprise Group, we now know that it is the poor which abuses democracy and votes itself largesse.

We need to wipe the smirk off his face. A european-wide general strike ought to do it.