Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The British right is increasingly attracted to the idea of forced labour

Isabel Oakeshott published an article in the Telegraph this morning under the headline:

Get benefits claimants back to work - cleaning our filthy streets

That article is behind the paper's paywall, but Vox Political has a few quotes. If they give a fair representation of the piece, it is designed to evoke disgust, not just of dirty streets, but of the people who live in them.

But Oakeshott's partner Richard Tice was in no doubt of its quality, retweeting it with the words:

Let’s make Welfare work…..

Let’s get Benefits claimant’s cleaning Britain….

Let’s ignore the howls of woke lefties….

And his deputy as leader of Reform UK, Ben Habib, chimed in:

Absolutely right Richard. 

The human condition requires work to be settled. It is good for the people and good for the country.

I like clean streets too, but I like them to be cleaned by people who are paid a good wage for doing the work and who belong to trade unions.

But this hankering after an army of unpaid workers is creeping in on the right of British politics.

When I saw tweets about Oakeshott's article, I was reminded of a an article by my own MP.

Blogging is what Neil O'Brien seems to do most of the time these days, which pleases me as a fellow exponent of a dying art. But this was not on his own Substack but Conservative Home.

And there he wrote:

In the 1990s, the visionary New York police chief, Bill Bratton, put Broken Windows policing into effect, and crushed crime. It has two elements: creating orderly places, and making sure lower level crimes get swift and certain punishment.

To create orderly places, community payback offenders shouldn’t simply beput (sic) into charity shops. Instead, they should be helping deliver a massive national drive to reduce graffiti and tidy town centres.

So there's another reserve army that can clean up Britain while undercutting council workers: prisoners.

What will be suggested next? Making this free labour available to private companies? That's what already happens in the vast US prison system - see this article from the American Civil Liberties Union.

And you could read Crime Control as Industry by Nils Christie, which long ago alerted me to look for this trend. It's one we should all fear.

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