Despite strong competition, Alec Shelbrooke is the new front-runner for the coveted title of Nastiest, Most Stupid Tory MP 2012. Here’s what he proposes:
Mr Shelbrooke has drafted a Bill that would change the law to allow welfare payments to be made on a new “welfare cash card” whose use could be restricted by the Government.
“Introducing a welfare cash card on which benefits will be paid, claimants will only be able to make priority payments such as food, clothing, energy, travel and housing. The purchase of luxury goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, Sky television and gambling will be prohibited,” Mr Shelbrooke told MPs.
I wonder how many poor people, far less people on welfare, Mr Shelbrooke encounters. Some, presumably. But, my, what a vile little authoritarian he is. It has evidently escaped his notice that the reason many poor people spend a disproportionate quantity of their meagre resources on gambling is that they have such limited resources in the first place. It may not be an advisable or profitable policy but it is at least an understandable one.
For that matter, cigarettes and alcohol are not necessarily luxuries. They might instead be considered small pleasures that make life a little less ghastly. Especially when you lack means.
I notice, mind you, that Mr Shelbrooke makes no comment on whether it is OK for middle-class mothers to spend their child benefit on gin.
But whatever next? The state has no more right to tell jobseekers how they may spend their unemployment benefit than employers have the right to determine how their workforce may spend their wages.
Contrary to what stupid Tory MPs would have you believe the great majority of people on benefits would rather not be receiving this kind of assistance. It is not, despite occasional scandals or examples that may suggest otherwise, an especially comfortable or dignified way of living.
As Tim Worstall says, there’s a decent case for expelling Mr Shelbrooke from the Tory party for this ghastliness. And doing likewise to any MP who votes for his nasty little bill.
I hope Mr Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell (in Yorkshire) loses his seat at the next election. He deserves to and since he’s defending a majority of just 4,521 there is a pleasing chance he may. As always, vote for the best person not the party.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.