Monday, December 08, 2008

Deflecting The Issue

We all know that a favourite tactic of Labour's is to essentially misquote Conservative and other opposition figures to make them appear uncaring, foolish or wrong. James Purnell has just done this regarding David Cameron's article in the Mail on Sunday. Some on the right - particularly the Spectator - are full of praise for Purnell, and not just in relation to the welfare reforms he plans to unveil this week. They forget that there's a difference between what Labour says and what they actually do, and I personally don't think we should praise the government for trying to sort out a mess they said never existed. But on to what Purnell has said:

"I think it lets people off the hook if you say that somehow it is the responsibility of the welfare state... It was her [Karen Matthews] responsibility and hers only. I think it is slightly insulting to the millions of people who are claiming benefits and looking to get back into work... to say that they are at risk of turning into Karen Matthews. So I think that there is a danger in what David Cameron is saying."

Except that isn't what David Cameron is saying, at all. The only time he mentions five million people on benefits is when he says:

"Today in Britain, there are almost five million working-age people out of work and on benefits. This is a tragedy. Work gives life shape. It gives people esteem and responsibility. It powers our economy. So we’re going to end the something-for-nothing culture. If you don’t take a reasonable offer of a job, you will lose benefits. No ifs, no buts."

And in relation to the Matthews family, which is mentioned much earlier in the article, Cameron said this:

"The details are damning. A fragmented family held together by drink, drugs and deception. An estate where decency fights a losing battle against degradation and despair. A community whose pillars are crime, unemployment and addiction."

Cameron shows family breakdown, drink and drugs and the culture of benefits as problems which can be linked, but which require various methods to tackle. At no point does he say that everyone on benefits is the next Karen Matthews. What says that is the title of the article, which was very clearly assigned by the Mail, in full 'disgusted' mode: 'There are 5 million people on benefits in Britain. How do we stop them turning into Karen Matthews?'. It seems that all Purnell has done is look at the title and form his attack on that basis, with no recognition of the perfectly valid points the article makes. And there is a point to all this - to make Cameron look like he's attacking everyone on benefits, and not just those who deserved to be attacked. How typical of a Labour politician to fail to look beyond a headline when the detail is the most important part.

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