The Conservative Party has adopted an aggressive set of campaign advertisements targeted at 60 constituencies contrasting "hard-working families" and "people who don't work." This divisive advertising represents once again their attempt to label the unemployed as lazy 'benefit scroungers'. It also demonstrates how little they understand unemployment and poverty.
The notion that there are 'hard-working families' and 'people who don't work' assumes these groups exist as separate social groups. One result of the recession is that hard-working families are affected. Company failures, factory closures, and lay-offs don't just impact on 'scroungers'. This is why the results of austerity are so devastating. It is indiscriminate in its effect. It is also why austerity doesn't work. It drives families, hard-working families, into poverty.
Unemployment is a key driver of poverty. Two-thirds of working-age adults in families where one or more of the adults are unemployed are poor. Unemployment, particularly long term unemployment, grinds away devastatingly on families creating poor housing, poor diet, and ill-health. It leads to a cycle of debt and targets for loan sharks. It leads to homelessness, eviction, repossession. It destroys lives. It leads to a loss of dignity and well being.
This is why it is unethical of the government to target those most affected by austerity, brand them as work-shy scroungers and attempt to turn those better off against them. Mr Cameron once said, 'we are all in this together'. Now the unemployed and those receiving benefits have become the government's scapegoats for the failure of their economic policies.
In the aftermath of the riots of August 2011, the Prime Minister said: "This is a country of good people." Now it seems he is saying this is a country of 'good' and 'bad' people; the haves are 'good'; the have nots are 'bad'; 'strivers' and 'shirkers'. It is a disgraceful turnaround, and he knows this is not true. It is cynical politics at its worst.