Since early this morning there has been a furious battle to establish proper fact and true value in the argument over the government's proposed welfare benefit cap. As I write (17:30, 23 January 2012) it has just won the first vote in the House of Lords, but the arguments have been going the other way.
Following three defeats and one almost-defeat in the House of Lords in the past fortnight, the Report Stage of the controversial Welfare Reform Bill continues this week and then comes to the Lords one last time on 31 January 2012 before passing to the Commons and on to Royal Assent.
Everywhere we look see and hear the phrase “The Sick and Disabled”. It is as if somehow 'these people' are a separate commodity - other than us, says Karen McAndrew. A breed apart. Seeing ‘them’ like this is what allows politicians and journalists to discuss ‘their’ future in terms of statistics. Talking of ‘them’ in these terms makes it easier for people to dissociate and thereby give consent for actions which will have an adverse effect. The arguments over the deeply flawed Welfare Reform Bill are a clear example of this. The Spartacus campaign is a key part of the much-needed reversal.
The Welfare Reform Bill debate has now given way to open warfare, says Simon Barrow. These latest battles are as much about the soul (or lack of it) of the coalition project as they are about money or the demographics of power. The government can command majorities in both Houses. But it is losing the argument, losing good will and storing up massive costs - financial and political - for the future.