Monday, December 31, 2007

Good Old Boy #45: The Story of Mr and Mrs Boggs

Thanks to Daily Kos for this heart-warming story. Twenty years ago, Senator Chris Dodd put forward a proposal to guarantee up to 18 weeks of job leave for parents who give birth or adopt or whose children are seriously ill. Right-wing critics suggested that this would only benefit yuppies, because it only guaranteed leave without pay. This is a frequently used right-wing argument on both sides of the Atlantic, that lefties are out of touch with real people, only interested in their liberal elitist chums and so on.

Sen. Dodd's response?

"He brought the Boggs family from rural Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to testify at a hearing on the bill. The mother testified about losing a job because of time spent waiting in hospitals with their baby boy, born with a defective windpipe. The father, a traveling salesman with a thick Carolina accent and a down-home manner, talked of a parent's constant worry.

"Mr. Boggs, are you a yuppie?" Dodd asked.

"No, sir," the man replied, leaving no one unconvinced."

This story is part of a wonderfully well-written endorsement of Dodd, an outsider for the Democratic Party nomination, which is well worth reading here.

Good Old Boy #44

Using statistics to assess the performance of footballers is increasingly popular. David James has a good story about possible drawbacks to this approach:

"Peter Schmeichel best showed how numbers can be fiddled. Years ago there was a story going round that Schmeichel got the hump because of the introduction of ProZone, so decided to prove a point. The very next match, so the tale goes, every time the ball was down the other end, Schmeichel did sets of sprints across the edge of his area to raise his high-intensity running stats. Anyone watching probably thought: 'Oh look there's Schmeichel keeping himself warm'; but he ended up beating one of the forwards on stats for that game."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Non jobs

The Taxpayers' Alliance have a new report out, wittily titled the 'Annual Non Job report 2007'. It really, really isn't very good.

It is an analysis of the Guardian Society's jobs pages, and the total cost to the taxpayer of all of these 'non-jobs', which it estimates at £585 million (which Conservative Home in turn rounds up to £600 million). As the report says, "From positions directing quangos and commissions to advising agencies and local authorities, the jobs on offer are almost always taxpayer-funded – but strikingly different from the frontline roles that make an obvious positive contribution."

Now for a start, many of the adverts are put in by charities, and many of the public sector jobs are frontline posts in areas like youth work and social work. So the 'cost to the taxpayer is £585 million / £600 million' line includes jobs which aren't, erm, taxpayer-funded and the frontline jobs which they claim to support spending money on. They also point out that none of the jobs are in teaching posts, which would be a good point but for the existence of Education Guardian on a Tuesday.

The Taxpayers' Alliance is an independent campaign (it says so on their website), so of course they do take pains to mention that many of these non-jobs are advertised by Tory-run counci-, oh no, they don't. A lengthy and charming quote from the Tory Chairman of the Hertsmere Borough Council Personnel Sub-Committee explains that it's the Labour government's which is to blame, in part because:

“Local councils are expected to fulfill the government's social objectives, like promoting racial or sexual equality, which have very little to do with the core services provided by the council. Again, staff have to be hired to do this, and a council which isn't doing this can expect to be rapped over the knuckles by the Audit Commission.”


But the very weakest bit of all are their examples of these 'non-jobs'. They have picked ten examples. Presumably, these are the ten most outrageous and indefensible examples of taxpayers' money being wasted that they could find out of the 1200 job ads that they looked at. Before reading their list, I assumed that however objectionable their views, they did at least have the basic competence to find ten unarguable 'non-jobs'. But no. Just to highlight a few of their picks:

One of these non-jobs is that of being Chief Executive of Newham Council. It turns out that what they mean by 'non-job' in this case is 'overpaid' (they don't actually make the argument that Newham doesn't need a Chief Executive). It's worth remembering for future reference that a Tory front organisation believes that a salary of £200,000 for a Chief Executive is scandalously high. I happen to agree, but there are a number of interesting implications to this which they might want to ponder a bit further.

For the 'Carbon Reduction Advisor', the worst that they can say is that 'they wonder whether this job is value for money', because they are not sure what it involves - this for one of the ten biggest non-jobs in the public sector.

The Taxpayers' Alliance fume that 'we need real doctors, not spin doctors' in criticising the London NHS Trust for advertising for a couple of Media Managers. Good soundbite, but it doesn't really seem unreasonable that an organisation with a £7 billion budget serving 7 million people should have at least a couple of people whose job it is to respond when journalists ring up, or when a right-wing think tank makes up a shock horror story about the NHS. I don't think there are many examples of private sector organisation of this size which spends nothing on media officers.

The Welfare Rights and Anti-Poverty Team at Sandwell Council have, in the last year, helped people claim £21 million in benefits which they were entitled to but not receiving. The Taxpayers' Alliance suggest sacking these 'bureaucrats' and instead making the benefits system simpler. It is unlikely that Sandwell Council would be able to accomplish their feat on their own, and there is a nasty sting in the tail with this one. One way of making benefits simpler is to make them less complicated to claim by reducing the amount of hoops people have to jump through to claim. Child benefit, paid to all families, costs less to administer than tax credits for this reason. Of course, the fewer the hoops, the more people can claim. Instead what they mean is 'get rid of benefits which particular groups of people are entitled to'.

Lastly, the Community Empowerment Network Programme Manager at Thurrock Council. This should be got rid of, apparently, because 'community empowerment and community involvement programmes should all be responsibilities of the voluntary sector, such as the Scouts and Neighbourhood Watch schemes. When councils need to make cuts, therefore, it should be in those areas outside its remit to deliver decentralized services to taxpayers, not in frontline services.'

If the voluntary sector were to be given responsibility for this (which is David Cameron's plan), they would still need to hire people to do these jobs. If you make the cuts and save the money, then these things won't happen. Instead, there will be a load of talk about how the voluntary sector should do more and more, but no money to make this possible. Net result - less community involvement.

So the devastating conclusions of this report? They can't find even ten examples of 'non-jobs', and their headline claim about the cost to the taxpayer is wrong. I guess 'some jobs advertised in the Guardian have long names, and we don't know what they mean', didn't have quite the same appeal when it came to writing up their findings. An organisation which pays people to come up with this sort of tat is in no position to lecture others about 'non-jobs'.

It's not because this is a shoddy and hypocritical report that it is interesting, though. It's because when it comes to tackling poverty, improving the health service and other public services, tackling climate change, or empowering local communities and the voluntary sector, their sole interest is in a soundbite, a lie and a cheap jibe. They think that people who spend their time working on all of these issues are 'bureaucrats' doing 'non-jobs', and that racial and sexual equality are 'very little to do with core services' and instead are examples of 'the government's social objectives'.

The Wisdom of the Crowds revisited

John Rentoul writes in the Independent that it is all over for Gordon Brown at the next election. He cites analysis earlier this month by Andy Cooke on the Political Betting website that at every election since 1979 there has been a swing to the Tories as the election approached. (Just to be clear, I'm not saying the two articles are the same - Cooke's is a good piece of analysis).

Regular readers, of course, didn't need to find this out from the Independent or from Political Betting, because they read all about it here, back in October 2006. And fourteen months from now, Rentoul and the commentators on Political Betting will be explaining how it was that 2008 proved to be the year when people took a look at what the Tories would do if elected - and Labour regained the lead in the opinion polls. Remember, you read it here first.

Monday, December 24, 2007

One bright idea for 2008

Will Hutton, in the Observer:

"Charles Karelis [a Yale professor] argues that for too long, right and left alike have been crippled in their thinking about poverty, imagining that generosity will only create more dependency, more disincentives to work and a general fecklessness. It won't.
Unlike the rich, extra cash really matters to them and, paradoxically, that is the route to help them make rational choices not to be dependent or gamble.

Even Conservative opinion is shifting. It was at the Conservative party conference this year that, unexpectedly, Iain Duncan Smith's passionate speech against poverty won the plaudits."

First off, it's good to see arguments for wealth redistribution and someone writing in a newspaper that what is needed to reduce poverty is extra cash.

It's worth nothing, though, that what Karelis is arguing is totally obvious, and has been known for many, many years to anyone who has experience of poverty or, indeed, knows anyone who is poor. But those are not people who write books or have a newspaper column, so Will Hutton presumably hasn't been aware of what they think.

It's also a bit cheeky of Hutton to criticise the left for being 'crippled in their thinking about poverty' after years of his friends attacking lefties for clinging to the idea that redistributing wealth is a good thing. And Karelis' argument is not like that of Iain Duncan Smith, but is in fact its direct opposite, as the Quiet Man's whole argument is that tackling poverty is not about redistributing wealth but about changing the behaviour of poor people - lone parents don't need extra cash, they need to get married.

It's not that this is a particular bad article by Will Hutton (particularly in comparison with Denis MacShane's absymal effort on the page before), and Karelis' book does sound really good. But Will Hutton's articles on social policy would be a lot better if they were informed by the experience and ideas of his fellow citizens, not just books that he has read and found interesting combined with praise for politicians who he remembers as having spoken on the subject.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Complicated and tedious

Something surprising in the Independent today, via Freemania:

"Yet in reality there are few people – unless they have a vested interest – who give a stuff about climate change. It's complicated, tedious and it doesn't bear too much examination, or suddenly one's comfortable assumptions are overturned."


No, of course not. But substitute 'welfare reform' for 'climate change', and hey presto, instant Deborah Orr article.

So today's question - how can we make sure that welfare reform is seen by journalists as non-boring, like climate change and the environment?

Telling lies about poverty

Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt are Tory MPs who have written a pamphlet about how Tories are progressives. It is nice to see that the Tories also have a Pamphlet Tendency, who think this sort of stuff matters.

A quick way to read pamphlets is to start reading, and then stop when you find the first example where the authors either don't know what they are talking about, or are making stuff up to get round inconvenient facts. For example, they write:

"Labour's central view of poverty – that poverty is earning less than 60% of the national median income – has been narrowly and specifically financial."

Just off the top of my head, here's three of Labour's main anti-poverty policies:

1. Sure Start:

"Sure Start is a government programme which aims to achieve better outcomes for children, parents and communities by:

  • increasing the availability of childcare for all children
  • improving health and emotional development for young children
  • supporting parents as parents and in their aspirations towards employment."
2. Decent Homes Standard

"The government wants all social housing to be brought up to the Decent Homes standard by 2010.

Your council will survey your home to find out exactly what improvements need to be made. A home may need a new bathroom or kitchen or the electrical wiring may be insufficient and need replacing. Some houses will need greater improvements than others to ensure they meet the standard. In some instances you may need to move out of your home for a short while during the renovations.

A Decent Homes plan may often include wider community issues such as play areas for children, parking issues and the general communal standard of where you live."

3. New Deal for Communities

"New Deal for Communities (NDC) is a key programme in the Government's strategy to tackle multiple deprivation in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country, giving some of our poorest communities the resources to tackle their problems in an intensive and co-ordinated way. The aim is to bridge the gap between these neighbourhoods and the rest of England.

The problems of each NDC neighbourhood are unique, but all the NDC partnerships are tackling five key themes of: poor job prospects; high levels of crime; educational under-achievement; poor health; and problems with housing and the physical environment. We want to see outcomes that will bring real benefit to people living in our most deprived neighbourhoods."


Billions of pounds have been spent on these, and many other projects. Whatever your view of their effect, it would be terminally stupid to describe them as 'narrowly and specifically financial'.

Hunt, Clark, Cameron and Duncan Smith aren't terminally stupid. Instead what they are trying to do is spend less on reducing poverty, and more on telling people how to behave and punishing those who don't get married or aren't able to work. And these attacks on 'Labour's targets' and 'Labour's narrow focus on financial poverty' are because they realise that these policies aren't likely to reduce the number of children living in poverty and they want to be judged according to how successful they are in imposing their values on others, not on whether their policies make a difference. And that's a good deal more interesting than the question of whether or not the Conservative Party wants to call itself 'progressive'.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Inequality and social mobility

Antonia and Adrian think we should worry less about social mobility and more about inequality.

I would have thought, however, that this is a bit of a false choice, that there would be a link between greater social mobility and lower levels of inequality. In the UK and other Western countries, the thirty years since the Second World War saw social mobility increase and inequality fall, whereas over the last thirty years, inequality has risen and social mobility has decreased.

Richard Wilkinson's research found that as income inequality increased, social mobility declined and social segregation increased. T'internet also points to research from America, which suggests that high income inequality is a cause of 'high intergenerational persistence of economic status', along with relatively low levels of education funding.

So one of the many good reasons for focusing on reducing inequality is the beneficial effect of helping to make sure that how children get on in life doesn't depend on how rich their parents were. Social mobility and high levels of equality are not the same thing, but you can't have one without the other.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Good Old Boy Petition

Thanks to Westmonster for finding the petition urging the government to stop wasting taxpayers' money, signed at time of writing this by 33 Good Old Boys, including the splendidly named "Neil Burrows - I won't hold my breath on this one".

Disappointingly, the petition restricts itself to only a couple of examples of taxpayers' money being wasted. It would have been better if the petition had mentioned other important issues, e.g.

when oh when will the government stop the constant attacks on the motorist and these people speeding down here I think their car must be stolen the road humps don't bother them but they ruin my suspension you see over there it's one of those houses where the hedge and the front garden are very messy the owner is a foreigner and he doesn't care who he has living there I think they are immigrants or students and they park their cars on the pavement and the rubbish will bring rats and other vermin and if you go round to have a word then they don't speak English and if you complain to the police they never turn up and say it is nothing to do with them and they say you should ring the council but that's just a waste of time and we have to pay all this poll tax but what do you get for it we don't even get our bins collected every week any more...

I looked to the government to help the working man

You know about the government departments which are not 'fit for purpose' and which they are trying to sort out. But have you heard about the one which Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems want to change so that in the future it is not fit for purpose?

Peter Hain announced yesterday that the government intends
to treat 'benefit claimants as active job seekers rather than passive dependents'. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats support this, and denounce the government for not having done more, quicker, to get people off benefit and into work. Whichever party wins the next election, there will be much more emphasis on people proving that they are looking for work before they receive their benefits, even if they have medical problems, or children to look after.

In recent years, there has been a steady growth in the number of jobs available. Many of these jobs have been low paid, required skills which people out of work don't have, impossible to combine with looking after children or whatever, but they do exist, and the policies are intended to make it possible for people out of work to get these jobs, be it with more childcare, skills training, compulsion for the 'workshy' and so on.

But it is not entirely fanciful to suggest that in the future, there might not be more jobs than at present. With the state of the global economy, trouble in the public finances and so on, it might well be the case that there are fewer jobs available, and that many people won't be able to get a job, no matter how hard they look for one.

So I asked one of the proponents of Welfare Reform what would happen in such a scenario. His answer was that the entire system is based on the assumption that the number of jobs will continue to rise indefinitely, and would have to be totally redesigned if this were no longer the case. (This is someone who supports the reforms).

There are parts of the country, and millions of people, who have still not recovered from the devastation of mass unemployment in the 1980s. If mass umemployment returns to Britain, then people will have to cope with benefits which are lower than under Thatcher, and be required by a system which is not fit for purpose to spend their time searching for jobs which do not exist. Those that don't comply will have their benefits cut or stopped entirely. Meanwhile, more of the resources available will be spent on advisers monitoring that people are searching for the jobs which don't exist, and punishing them if they fail to do so.

There are many different ways of addressing this risk and trying to deal with it, but what bothers me is that it isn't even being considered. So the point when support from the welfare state is most needed is exactly the same as the point when the new system becomes not fit for purpose.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Good Old Boy #43

Paul Routledge (himself a bit of a G.O.B.) has a good idea for improving the governance of the Labour Party. Instead of appointing 'teenage bag carriers' [by which Routledge means 'men in their thirties who are close to the Prime Minister'] to the post of General Secretary of the Labour Party, they should bring back Lord Whitty.

I think this is an excellent idea. Apart from being highly competent, experienced and effective, he is down to earth and a genuinely nice person. He's also an ace canvasser, unlike those in the Great and the Good who think they are too important to spend time talking to voters, he seems to enjoy nothing better than calling round to chat to people, introducing himself as 'Larry from the Labour Party'.

While I'm doing recommendations for appointments to vacant jobs, I note that the Green Party will be electing a leader for the first time in its history. On the grounds that it is those who do not seek power who are best suited to wield it, may I be the first to suggest the ideal candidate - Dr Derek Wall.

Fame and Infamy

Sky Horses has a nice story about resistance to the Nazi occupation of Jersey, and their commemoration on the page devoted to 'Fame and Infamy'.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How to avoid a recession

Robert Reich, Clinton's Secretary of Labor, has a blog. It's extremely knowledgable (of course), and also very well written. Today's post is on how to avoid the coming recession:

"All we need do is recognize one simple fact: Lower-income people spend a larger portion of whatever extra income they get than those with higher incomes (in economic jargon, lower-income people have a higher marginal propensity to consume). So every dollar of a tax cut aimed at lower-income Americans packs a bigger stimulative punch than a dollar of tax cut aimed at those with higher incomes. By the same logic, every dollar of a tax increase on higher-income people has a smaller detrimental effect on their purchases than would a dollar tax hike on lower-income people. Get it? The best way to stimulate the economy without adding to the national debt is to cut the taxes of lower-income Americans and pay for that tax cut by raising taxes on those with higher incomes. Presto – a simple formula for being both fiscally responsible and also fiscally stimulative."

Nothing much to add to that except - if it's right for the USA, chances are it would be a good idea for us here in Britain too. Can we send away the rubbish American advisers to the Prime Minister like the man who has helped lose eight Presidential elections, and instead get this one to come and help us?

Points mean prizes

Liam Byrne gave a lovely speech to Demos about the traditional British values of tolerance and fairness, and the little things that sometimes mean everything; a cup of tea, pubs, cider, the BBC, queuing, proper chocolate, fish and chips, darts, fashion, the seasons and countryside, walks, warm beer, old maids cycling to communion through the morning mist and clubbing.

The reason for this impersonation of John Major is that the Home Office is going to bring in an Australian-style points system for immigration. It's nice to see our ministers announcing that what we need is to copy ideas from a government which was recently voted out after eleven years in power. So how will this new system reflect our traditional British values?

Liam was keen to stress that
"We are not running immigration policy in the exclusive interest of the British business community," and that the views of people who don't like immigrants have also been taken into account in developing the policy.

As a result, alongside qualifications, experience and ability to speak English, prospective migrants win points according to the amount of money that they have and their previous earnings.

So if you have two identically qualified workers, the rich one can come to the UK, and the poor one can't. What better example of those traditional British values which have made our country what it is today.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A different kind of democracy

Renaissance Virtues has a great piece on Hugo Chavez and the recent vote in Venezuala:

"The reason some accuse Chavez of being authoritarian is because they see democracy in a sort of Thomas Jefferson checks and balances sort of way - they don't like the dominance of executive and legislature by one party, they oppose any reduction in the power of the judiciary etc etc. It's true the Chavez model is not a Jefforsonian one - politics by horizontal negotiation, veto points that mean decision-making is slow and difficult, often to stop majorities getting their way. There is much to be said for this anti-majoritarian impulse.

But thats not the only model of democracy - there is another which is basically a popular rule model, government by the elected majority, accompanied in Venezuela to an unprecedented degree by government by plebiscite. This model is democractic too - its just a different kind of democracy, one which also has its appeals. What the defeat on Sunday showed was that, contrary to what its critics have claimed, this model too has some checks and balances - the check is the majority, that can constrain the president, force him to re-think.

In doing so, I think this defeat may do the Bolivarian revolution a world of good."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Surprise Supplies

Via Iain Dale, this is a good cause well worth supporting. Deadline is the 7th December, but do put something together if you've got a moment:

"Surprise Supplies is a scheme which aims to send parcels to every single member of the Armed Forces currently serving in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. A lot of them receive little in the way of support parcels from home and they really do make all the difference. We are all aware of the disagreeable circumstances these soldiers are working in and this is a small way of our acknowledging what they do on our behalf.

The scheme is very simple and all you need to do is to put together a small parcel containing a few goodies and then send it in the post addressed to one of the addresses below. It will mean such a lot to these wonderful men and women serving so far away from home to know that people are thinking about them and that we value and appreciate the sacrifices that they are making.

It would make even more of a difference if you could organise for a group of people (your friends, colleagues or staff for example) to put together as many parcels as you can. Please forward this blogpost to all your friends and family and ask them to do the same. There are over 14,000 servicemen and women serving overseas in Afghanistan and the Middle East so the more parcels that we can send out the better.

How does it work?

All you need to do is to put together a parcel (or parcels) containing a few ‘goodies’ with a value of not more than £10, address the package tp one of the addresses at the end of this post and then take it to the post office/put it in the post.

Royal Mail will deliver the parcel free of charge to the British Forces Posting Office who will then ship it on to the relevant BFPO number.

Padded jiffy bags and old shoe boxes are the best for packing things in but any kind of old cardboard box or packet will do. Use tissue paper, newspaper, bubble wrap and anything light to stuff the package and stop things rolling around.

Postage is only free of charge if the parcel weighs less than 2kg and they are very strict about this so we recommend that you weigh your parcels before taking them to the post office.

There are lots of women serving out there too so although the mailing labels says ‘a Serviceman’ if you would like to put a parcel together for a woman please just amend the label accordingly and it will be given to a female.

What do I put inside?

One of the main elements of this scheme is to provide a bit of variety. Therefore if you can, use your imagination to the full and think of a cross between Christmas stockings and tuck boxes and you will be on the right track. It is very hot in Afghanistan so please do not send things that melt such as chocolate. Alcohol (and pornography!) are forbidden but this still leaves plenty of goodies such as:

Biscuits, cake - homemade wonderful but bought wonderful too – but think long life like fruitcake, gingerbread or malt loaf. Anything in a tube, vacuum pack or tin to perk up their rather basic rations is great - toffee sauce, (M&S does a good range of savoury and sweet sauces in tubes) condensed milk, salsa dip and cheese straws, cream cheese, fish paste, chutneys, chorizo sausage, dried fruit and nuts, mint imperials, chewing gum and everyone loves Jelly Babies.

Soduko books and magazines – Nuts, Zoo and FHM we are reliably informed are the most popular but also the Week for current affairs and any kind of magazine will be very welcome, the more varied the better as there is lots of time for reading and magazines get swapped and shared around.

Candles (for illumination, not scent), lip salve, moisturiser, medicated talc, deodorant, toothpaste and cotton socks (M&S do a great range of cotton socks that are v. popular – black and olive green are good colours). They also have to drink vast quantities of water so any powder flavourings in a package like Berocca, Vitamin C sachets etc. would be both light and immensely appreciated. Finally old fashioned pick ‘n mix sweets are particularly recommended but please keep the contents within £10 for the sake of equality.

Who will get my parcel?

Your parcel is being sent to one of two addresses in either Iraq or Afghanistan. From there they will be distributed throughout theatre. You won’t know who has received your parcel but you can be sure that a deserving soldier will be very grateful. Please do write an encouraging message inside your card for your soldier but please sign with your Christian name only and do not give your address as we do not want the soldiers to feel obliged to write thank you letters.

What is Surprise Supplies?

Surprise Supplies came about because of an idea Lexi Douglas had whilst her son was serving in Afghanistan in 2007. She regularly sent him parcels stuffed full of cakes and other nice things and when Charlie wrote home he said how appreciated they were but that not all of the boys received parcels from home so he would share his out with them. Lexi told her friends and they volunteered to send parcels and the idea grew from there.

A British Soldier
c/o Capt. S Beattie MBE
HQ Task Force Helmand
Lashkar Gah
BFPO 715

A British Soldier
c/o Capt. S Beattie MBE
HQ Task Force Helmand
Lashkar Gah
BFPO 715

A British Soldier
c/o JI Branch
Op Telic
BFPO 641

A British Soldier
c/o JI Branch
Op Telic
BFPO 641"

Monday, December 03, 2007

Restricting rights

Labourista has an excellent post in response to the Home Office's idea of restricting access to GPs for 'failed asylum seekers and irregular migrants'.

The Migrants Resource Centre's 'Seeking Asylum' report details the consequences of trying to force people to leave the UK by making their living conditions intolerable - many go without food for more than one day a week, the staff that deal with them are unhelpful, rude or racist, they live in unsafe accommodation or are forced to sleep on the streets, they are desperate to work and contribute but are breaking the law if they do so, worried and stressed with the uncertainty of a complicated and very slow system. And having put in place policies which make people sick, the Home Office is now proposing to stop them being able to see a GP.

It would be pathetic and cowardly if all this were to reduce public concern about the issue of immigration. But, worse than that, it is totally counter-productive for that purpose. Because the whole case for restricting access to services for asylum-seekers is based on myth and anecdote, the more that the government does to restrict access to services, the more public concern about bogus scrounging immigrants getting things which they shouldn't be entitled to has grown.

For people who believe that they and their families will be murdered if they are deported, even extreme deprivation won't make them leave (up until the point where the UK government openly introduces death squads and torture). And the tougher the government claims it is being, the easier it is for racists to whip up outrage about real or imaginary examples of migrants who have managed to work, or get healthcare, or find somewhere to live.