Politics of divide and rule

PICKING up on recent strands in the County Times, I believe that those who can work should be encouraged to do so.

I frown upon benefit fraud but I dislike the climate in which it occurs even more.

Few benefit recipients live the life of Riley. I bridle particularly at efforts to set the low paid, some of whom will be in receipt of benefit, against those supported by benefit alone.

The outcome for both may simply be increased competition for low paid work.

That’s the politics of divide and rule and one of its aims is to deflect attention away from far more critical issues.

The amount of money calculated by the Department of Work and Pensions in benefit fraud is not small, £1.6bn or 0.7% of the benefits bill, but it is, for instance, substantially eclipsed by the totals associated with finance and tax fraud.

It needs a measured response, not one relying on a continual coating of hate.

In his editorial in the New Statesman, Archbishop Rowan Williams was exploring a need to review democracy.

As a central theme, it was virtually drowned in the torrent of press and web abuse that followed.

Selective quoting from his editorial fed a frenzy aimed at belittling him and shredding his case.

I question how many who offered criticism actually read the editorial or even the edition.

For the record, the edition contains a detailed interview with the Foreign Secretary and a defence of the benefit reforms by the Work and Pensions Secretary.

In an article, Philip Pullman, the author and self-described ‘Church of England atheist’, evokes a memory of the Church as having ‘a sort of humane liberal tolerance… Inclusive, not exclusive; more concerned with helping people in distress than in maintaining strict forms of worship and a literal reading of the Bible.’

Some might want to challenge Mr Pullman’s reflection but, as a statement of intent or current practice, it sheds better light than the mere reaching for biblical injunction that was used to scold Dr Williams.

ERIK SHOPLAND

Denne Road, Horsham