Express delivers ignorance and idiocy on unemployment

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 14:37 -- nick

The Express has long vied with the Mail for the title of 'least informed newspaper on the issue of unemployment', so today's story comes as no surprise.

The paper has bestowed its own title on Peter Rolfe, whom it has called 'Britain's most feckless father' because he has 26 children and receives benefits to support some of them.

Rolfe, from the Isle of Wight, has apparently been on benefits for 20 years, and the Express has gone to a favourite Tory rent-a-mouth for a hate-quote.

Recent Strictly Come Dancing contestant - and ex-Employment Minister - Anne Widdicombe gave them all she could, saying:

"This must be Britain's most feckless father. It is an indictment on Britain that we allow somebody like this to live on the dole while the rest of us work hard."

There are a couple of obviously troubling aspects to this case beyond the common Express desire to throw victims to the wolves.

First, Rolfe is 64 and just a few months away from retirement, when presumably he will be magically transformed, in the eyes of the coalition at least, from a scrounging scumbag into a doyen of all that is good and wonderful.

Don't forget that the government has given old people an income 'triple-lock', guaranteeing that the state pension will increase by the rate of inflation or above while capping working age benefits at a 1% annual increase even when the cost of living has been going up far more quickly.

Pensioners have been exempted from the kind of terrible insults the Conservatives have thrown at the workless; it is almost as if they are rewarding their regular voters with money and praise while punishing those they have often made victims because they do not vote in great numbers.

The other thing the Express overlooks concerns the benefit status of Rolfe. Despite Widdicombe's condemnation of him for receiving 'dole' money, and quotes from other islanders suggesting he should 'earn' his income, he isn't actually unemployed.

Far further down the story than it should be, and after we are invited to think of him as jobshy, comes the list of payments he receives: housing benefit, child benefit, income support and disability benefit.

In other words, he is disabled, not workless, and also needs a carer to help with both visual and physical disabilities.

The Express is far keener to stir up anti-benefit feeling than to tell the truth about the ruinous system it believes to be generous despite providing the lowest income for workless people of any western European country.

It isn't ruinous to the public purse - JSA makes up less than 3% of the total welfare bill while pensions are around half - but to those who have to live on its meagre income, and who have to put up with the kind of hatred the Express stirs up.

The paper is firmly on the side of wrong in this debate, and can only maintain its stance with some seriously misleading articles like this one.