I have the honour of having my Ch4 Dispatches documentary, now available online, reviewed by Michael White in the Guardian today. I think he was expecting me to lay into Labour, and critiques the show as if I did. In general, I seem to be charged with being in possession of opinions about inequality while being right-wing. I plead guilty, but would still like to offer up a few points in mitigation.
First, let’s take the original headline of his piece: 'Fraser Nelson’s Dispatches show blames Labour for inequality.' I don’t. As I say right at the start:
'Decades of government policy intended to help the poorest is now hurting them instead.'
Blame lies with all parties: hence 'decades', which extend into the Thatcher years and the start of incapacity benefit buildup in the 1980s (the policy I had in mind in that sentence). To me, the heroes (and the villains) lie on both sides of the House of Commons. Baker, Blair, Adonis, Gove. Murphy, Purnell, Grayling, IDS. And villains? Those who tried to stop them.
Now, IDS. This is the second part of Michael’s charge against me. He caricatures my documentary as saying:
'It’s going to be OK because IDS’s universal credit system (UC) will gradually cure that (when they can make it work) and make work pay better.'
If only I thought it was going to be okay. Instead of saying that Universal Credit 'will gradually cure' the problem of people caught in benefit traps, I confront IDS about the fact that UC won't be much of a cure at all. It will still leave people facing an effective 65 per cent of tax if they move from welfare to work (i.e. they lose £6.50 of benefits for every extra £10 they earn).
Here's how our conversation went:-