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“Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.” These words from Disraeli's 1845 novel 'Sybil' could have been written for Norwich MP Chloe Smith.
In a recent BBC debate on unemployment, there was an unbearably poignant moment, when a middle-aged man, Michael, was asked how he felt about being unemployed. ‘I feel humiliated’ he said, close to tears, ‘I feel like it’s my fault’.
He went on to tell of a young woman he knew who had killed herself because she despaired of ever getting a job.
In their campaign to build support for welfare reforms, ministers have frequently said that the main cause of child poverty is worklessness.
The government claims that its determined attempts to cut the living standards of the poor are necessary to cut public spending. Many have pointed out that the Welfare Reform Bill and other changes have immediate and long-term costs attached, so will not save nearly as much as is claimed. The rationale for harsh new measures looks even flimsier since it has emerged that the government is shelling out public money to take paid work away from the poor.