Thursday, 24 January 2013

Hensher is not wrong, but he misses the point.

Philip Hensher wrote an article in the Independent, last Friday, which seems to have earned him a great deal of twittered opprobrium. Well, I must be missing something, because (while for political reasons I’d rather he’d taken a different tack) I can’t see anything unreasonable in what he wrote (with the possible exception of his reference to the bicycling disabled).

There is an element of the anti-ATOS/DWP/WCA campaign which wishes to see no examination – assessment – of claimants at all at. Such a hope (however understandable when the government is being so barbaric right now) is divorced from reality: the state not only has the right but the duty to assure check up on claimants. I can’t see that there’s even a moral case to oppose that right/duty.

As for Hensher’s widely held contention that there those who shouldn’t be on benefits: a part of an assessment system should no doubt be to establish the extent of the matter.

The problem is not with the idea of assessment but with the philosophical basis – the politicised, counter-scientific and plain counter-humanitarian (or do I mean inhumane?) foundation stones - of the assessment process that’s now in place.

The attacks on Hensher are neither kind, nor well-targetted. They do our case no favours at all.

But the point he misses is that positions are becoming so entrenched as they have done even more, including to his cost, however unfairly, as a result of his article because of the cruelty of the system which the government has set up, and the apparently gleeful cruelty with which the government watches its effects.


Hensher deserves engagement, because his analysis was incomplete. He does not deserve the abuse he appears to have received. Just as bad: the public attitude to benefits claimants boils down to hearts, minds - and votes. The attacks on Hensher will have cost us those...

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