For one week only in the only national newspaper to have backed the right Miliband for Leader, Owen Jones writes:
It’s not your bog-standard scrounging-family-with-loadsa-kids-passed-off-as-the-tip-of-iceberg story. Unemployed mum Heather Frost doesn’t just have 11 mouths to feed – her daughter even has a horse. Pun-happy headline writers couldn’t believe their luck. “Benefits mum of 11 is taking us all for a ride” screamed one paper – get it? If you’re slogging your guts out for hours a day and struggling to look after your own kids as gas and food bills soar, it’s the sort of story guaranteed to wind you up.
And that’s exactly the point.
Ever since the Cameron-Clegg love-in at No10’s rose garden, journos and politicians have scoured the country for the most extreme, shameless examples of benefit “scroungers”. The idea is to make us believe that anyone taking benefits is a workshy baby-making machine dribbling on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle on repeat all day – courtesy of you and me, the hardworking taxpayer. The details of the now notorious Frost family don’t matter that much.
It was hardly mentioned how they had a working dad who abandoned them and the daughter with a horse is in work and paying her own way. The family just don’t really say anything about anyone else. There are 1.35million families with kids where at least one adult claims benefits. Guess how many have more than 10 children: Half a million? Ten thousand? The truth is there’s just 190 of them.
But what really winds me up is we never talk about the millions of people desperately looking for work. This week it was revealed 1,700 jobseekers desperately applied for just eight new jobs on minimum wage at a new Costa store in Nottingham. Or take the revelation back in October that up to 66 young people were applying for every job in shops and supermarkets. Many of them didn’t even hear back when they applied. Instead we hear about the Frosts of this world – however tiny a minority.
It certainly suits George Osborne, though. From April, he’s cutting tax credits for working people, benefits for people thrown out of work, making the low-paid and unemployed pay council tax, and slamming households with the bedroom tax. Debt is rocketing, the deficit is going up and there’s no growth. Of course he wants us all to talk about the Frost’s horse. But don’t forget – it’s really him taking all of us for a ride.