Kirk convener condemns Chancellor's 'war on the poor'

By agency reporter
19 Oct 2012

Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, has called on Chancellor George Osborne to apologise for his "propaganda war on the poor".

In a commentary of the Chancellor’s recent Party Conference speech, Ms Foster-Fulton’s analysis highlights the unfair targeting of poorer people and those in receipt of benefits by the media and senior politicians.

The Church of Scotland is committed to working in Scotland’s most deprived communities, it stresses. A major report on the purposes of economic activity published earlier this year highlighted the Church’s fear about how an organised psychological war on the poor was being used as a pretext for welfare cuts, a news release says.

In a post on her new blog, Ms Foster-Fulton says: “George Osborne, in his speech to the Tory Conference in Birmingham, said: ‘We’re not going to get through this as a country if we set one group against another, if we divide, denounce and demonise.’

“A few moments later he contrasted a picture of a ‘shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning’ versus their neighbour, in bed ‘sleeping of a life on benefits.’ He later compared those in work to those without work, and implied those who received housing or child benefit were not as good as people lucky enough to have a job and a family home to live in.

“So, it’s not ok to divide, denounce and demonise. Unless you’re poor.

“I am not sure which makes me more disappointed, the arrogance of a millionaire who has known nothing but privilege and wealth preaching about how to talk about the poor, or the hypocrisy that he shows by saying it is wrong to divide groups in society before going on to do exactly that.

“Mr Osborne: you may have the political mandate to pursue your plans to reduce the deficit in ways in which you (and Parliament) see fit. However you have neither the right nor the legitimacy to continue this relentless war on the poor. If you seek to cut billions off the welfare budget, how can you have the gall and arrogance to at demean people who receive support at the same time?

“Dependency is not a sin; if you are born into poverty you need help and support, not cuts which put up barriers to opportunity.

“A public rhetoric pursued by some parts of the media and some politicians, re-introducing Victorian categories of ‘deserving’ versus ‘undeserving’ poor, and stigmatising ‘worthless scroungers’ as opposed to ‘hardworking families’, has the effect of individualising poverty and characterising it as the result of personal moral failings.

“This hides some undeniable truths:

· That much poverty is structural and systemic.

· That the majority of poor people in the UK are working poor.

“There is a growing crisis in our society, from a reliance on food banks to keep people from hunger, to proposals to treat the homeless and unemployed as a blight on our streets rather than as human beings made in the likeness of God.

“Devastating inequality robs the poor of their basic human right to dignity and respect and it robs us all of our empathy. When we can no longer see each other as brothers and sisters but only as adversaries, then we lose sight and hold of the real purpose of society - to look after each other! Love your neighbour as yourself is the law on which everything else depends. Jesus said you cannot separate love for God from love for each other.

“This divide and rule strategy of ‘poor-bashing’ simply pits the not quite-so-poor in this country against the poorest, in an attempt to deflect attention from the ways in which wealth has actually ‘trickled upwards’ to the well to do. The combined impact of cuts, rising prices and this psychological assault is effectively a war against the poor.

“C’mon George – will you apologise for your propaganda war on the poor? Otherwise we really are not all in this together,” concluded Ms Foster-Fulton.

* The Convenor's blog can be found here: http://cos-vps01.squiz.co.uk/blogs/church_and_society/

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