There’s a trick we play on ourselves in which we pretend that people who are struggling are fine really, so we shouldn’t feel too bad. Experts at this game will pass a beggar and say “I wouldn’t worry, he’s got a castle round the corner. I think he’s the Viscount of Northumberland.” If they pass one with no legs they’ll say: “He’s got loads of legs at home. He’s half crab. Don’t fall for that old trick.”
It’s exciting when someone takes this art to a new level, and the columnist/bloke-who-pops-up-on-telly Toby Young has put in a magnificent effort in the Daily Mail with a review of the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake.
This is a story of a man who had a heart attack but is denied disability benefit, and was made following studies of hundreds of cases. But Young isn’t intimidated by that. He derides it as inaccurate liberal nonsense, because “the two protagonists are a far cry from the scroungers on Channel 4’s Benefits Street.”
Exactly. It’s the same reason we shouldn’t take any notice of David Attenborough, with his misleading films about orangutans; the ones he shows are a far cry from the ones in The Jungle Book that want to kidnap a child and learn to make fire.
He outlined his qualifications even further by saying, “I’m no expert but several aspects of I, Daniel Blake, don’t ring true.” This is why he’s quite reasonably become a spokesperson for Conservative ideas: he accepts he knows nothing about what happens on welfare, but isn’t afraid to insist he knows more about it than someone who spends their whole life in it, because he thought “that doesn’t ring true” while looking out of the window.
There should be a programme called “Toby Young Rings True”, in which, to get to the truth, he ignores people who’ve done things. “Tonight I’ll be talking about sailing round the world while telling Ellen MacArthur she’s full of shit, as she’s only done it a couple of times, whereas I thought about it once while having a shave. Next week I’ll be telling Dizzee Rascal and Raheem Sterling what it’s like to be black in modern Britain.”
He goes on to complain the film is “unremittingly depressing”, which is a shame because job centres are usually known for pastel shades and sing-alongs, where claimants gather round the piano for a medley of Madness’s greatest hits, and anyone who’s a bit puffed out after “Baggy Trousers” is given a mobility scooter.
So Loach should have made a feel-good film about a man rejected for disability benefit, in which he falls in love with his dialysis machine and the two of them go and live by the seaside renting out canoes and never sponging off the taxpayer again.
Even so, reviewer Mark Kermode said the film has as many laughs in the opening scene as some comedies do throughout – but he’s the country’s foremost film reviewer, so don’t take any notice of him. I’ve never reviewed a film and not seen it yet, so I’m more qualified to say how miserable it is.
Young complains: “Would a middle-aged man who’s just had a massive heart attack really be declared ‘fit for work’?” He could, if he wanted to spoil his credentials as not being an expert, look up cases such as that of Paul Turner, who was found fit for work after a massive heart attack and died a month later. But although that’s a true story, it must be made up if it doesn’t ring true.
The most ridiculous reasons people had their benefits sanctioned
The most ridiculous reasons people had their benefits sanctioned
"One case where the claimant’s wife went into premature labour and had to go to hospital. This caused the claimant to miss an appointment. No leeway given"
"It’s Christmas Day and you don’t fill in your job search evidence form to show that you’ve looked for all the new jobs that are advertised on Christmas Day. You are sanctioned. Merry Christmas"
"You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week"
"A London man missed his Jobcentre appointments for two weeks because he was in hospital after being hit by a car. He was sanctioned"
2011 Getty Images
"You’ve been unemployed for seven months and are forced onto a workfare scheme in a shop miles away, but can’t afford to travel. You offer to work in a nearer branch but are refused and get sanctioned for not attending your placement"
2013 Getty Images
"You are a mum of two, and are five minutes late for your job centre appointment. You show the advisor the clock on your phone, which is running late. You are sanctioned for a month"
"A man with heart problems who was on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) had a heart attack during a work capability assessment. He was then sanctioned for failing to complete the assessment"
Copyright (c) 2015 Rex Features. No use without permission.
"A man who had gotten a job that was scheduled to begin in two weeks’ time was sanctioned for not looking for work as he waited for the role to start"
"Army veteran Stephen Taylor, 60, whose Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was stopped after he sold poppies in memory of fallen soldiers"
2014 Getty Images
"A man had to miss his regular appointment at the job centre to attend his father’s funeral. He was sanctioned even though he told DWP staff in advance"
2014 Getty Images
"Ceri Padley, 26, had her benefits sanctioned after she missed an appointment at the jobcentre - because she was at a job interview"
Jason Doiy Photography
"A man got sanctioned for missing his slot to sign on - as he was attending a work programme interview. He was then sanctioned as he could not afford to travel for his job search"
2012 Getty Images
"Mother-of-three Angie Godwin, 27, said her benefits were sanctioned after she applied for a role job centre staff said was beyond her"
"Sofya Harrison was sanctioned for attending a job interview and moving her signing-on to another day"
"Michael, 54, had his benefits sanctioned for four months for failing to undertake a week’s work experience at a charity shop. The charity shop had told him they didn’t want him there"
"Terry Eaton, 58, was sanctioned because he didn’t have the bus fare he needed to attend an appointment with the job centre"
In fact, there are 2,400 cases of people who have died in the year after being declared fit for work, which shows how fair these tests are, because there are plenty of jobs for corpses. They can act as speed bumps in built-up areas or serve as maypoles in village fairs, but instead they choose to rot away at the taxpayer’s expense.
The company that carried out the tests, Atos, were despised by the disabled, but that’s because these claimants took notice of their own reality rather than what a Conservative commentator thought rang true, which just goes to show it’s the left that makes people miserable.
One woman told me she was terrified one weekend because the postman left a note saying she had a recorded delivery letter and she knew the notice informing people their benefits had been stopped always came by recorded delivery. But now I’ve read Toby Young’s analysis based on watching Benefits Street, it’s clear this woman was making it up. How could I have been so easily fooled?
The film, he grumbles is “absurdly romantic” because the main character – despite being on benefits – is “never seen drinking, smoking or gambling”. That’s the problem with politically correct portrayals of the working class, they don’t show the reality of them drinking foaming beer while singing sea shanties and screaming “woooooor” at a buxom wench while exchanging their kids for a scratch card.
The puzzling side to all this is that Toby Young set up his own school, but for some reason found it more difficult than he expected. You would have thought his project would be a huge success, especially with history teachers who say: “Today we’re learning about the Battle of Britain. There’s a book here with first-hand accounts of flying a Spitfire – so ignore that, as these idiots were actually there so their account doesn’t ring true. They’re a far cry from the realistic cartoon strip called ‘Kapow, take that Fritz’ I read in a comic’.”