Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

It's time to copy Iceland and give our politicians the cold shoulder

If the government's Welfare to Work scheme were an employee, it would have been fired by now for not working.

With a success rate of only 3.2% of its applicants actually finding work lasting more than six months, it has failed to meet its own targets.

In fact, its success rate is actually lower than would have been the case if people had simply been left to find jobs on their own. So it's worse than doing nothing. Oh, and it's cost about £54m so far.

God, those dole spongers really are the pits aren't they? I can see why the coalition of toffs, sorry Tories and Lib Dems, deemed it a robust policy to spend millions to get the wasters off their sofas and into low-paid, short-term work. Makes sense. Because as we all know, it's the appearance of doing something that counts.

Why spend millions actually creating real work projects, like building social housing or better schools or community gardens? You know, real work, offering real jobs to able-bodied unemployed people?

Jobs that would put money into depressed communities, giving unemployed people back some self-respect and purpose, lowering dependence on drugs and alcohol, raising nutritional standards and generally creating happier societies?

Why spend money on that when you can throw it away on pointless paper-pushing to prove you're tough on the undeserving layabouts and cheats? Again, it comes down to preserving an old attitude of those at the top protecting those at the top.

We're told over and over that we're facing a crisis because of the international crisis and there's just nothing we can do about it.

Well, if you take a look at what happened in Iceland over the past five years, you'll see that there IS a different way to deal with the international crisis.

The people of Iceland sacked their government, refused to agree to austerity to pay off huge bailout loans and elected new people, arrested the bankers who caused the problem and carried on being able to provide public services and welfare.

This "quiet revolution", as it's been dubbed, has received almost no coverage in mainstream media. Put Iceland into Google, you'll get horse meat scandal, not people power.

Why? Well, most theories go something like this, "If people realised how powerful they were and that they don't have to submit to big financial institutions to bail them out, then that would hurt big business and governments don't want that to happen so they keep the lid on it."

In the UK we're most definitely not going to have a government backing a popular, quiet revolution. They'd rather spend time and money demonising those at the bottom of the financial ladder, getting all of us to demonise them too, so those at the top can carry on being well-off and the rest of us won't notice that the crisis hasn't actually affected them at all.

We are sleep-walking, in comparison to our Icelandic counterparts. And the government and media keep us sedated with stories about horse burgers and celebrity child-abusers and freezing weather conditions and single mothers sponging off the state.

God forbid we should ever wake up and say, "Hold on a minute! It's our money, it's our bank, we want those responsible to be prosecuted and we aren't taking no for an answer!"

Oh, I dream of such a day. In the meantime... isn't that Oscar Pistorious something else? Tut, tut...

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