Friday, 17 June 2011

Phillip Davies is a despicable coward, and not just for the obvious reasons

I think we can all agree that it's a pretty shitty thing to suggest that disabled people should ask for less in order to secure employment. It's totally backward thinking: society should be tackling the prejudices that disabled people face, rather than seeing them as a cut-rate Tesco-value version of "real" employees. It is such a blatantly offensive and shameful thing to suggest that even Phillip Davies' own party has distanced itself from his comments, so we might hope that his future career as an MP is now likely to be a short one.

But I'm not sure his comments are really about disabled people. I think it's about the minimum wage.

Now, the minimum wage is something of a scam, since when it was introduced it was accompanied by a loss of benefits that actually meant those receiving it actually had less money prior to its introduction. That is not the point: I think that most reasonably minded people would now agree that the institution of the minimum wage- the concept that there is a minimum standard of income that should be provided to all employees to insure an acceptable standard of living- is fundamentally a sound idea.

Some Tory commentators might raise objections about the implementation, and may even be opposed to the principle. That's not unreasonable in itself, though it is a bit uncharitable. Today's comments suggest Phillip Davies is one of those opposed to the minimum wage, and that today's statement is meant as a direct challenge to it.

If one Sets aside the discussion about disability in particular, one could apply his suggestion more broadly and claim that to the able-bodied unemployed would also be better served by agreeing to work for a reduced wage. And if employers know that jobseekers are prepared to work for a reduced wage, then there is no motivation for them to stick to the national standard. They could even set their own, sub-par, wage, and the jobseeker would be forced to either accept the reduced wage or look elsewhere.

This is a worst-case scenario I have devised for rhetorical effect, a Dickensian dystopia where all employees are hired and fired by the day for a pittance insufficient to feed their starving children. After all, the minimum age is barely a decade old. But it does reflect the ideal of certain economic conservatives to do away with the minimum wage in order to encourage competitive business practices, even at the expense of the average standard of living.

There are therefore two possible explanations behind Davies' statement. The first is that he is simply an idiot, so out of touch with both popular mood and the realities of life on the dole that his perspective has been warped. In his eyes, people should be grateful that they have a job at all. He might earnestly believe he is doing them a favour by standing by standing up for the little man's right to be treated like shit. If that is so, then his plan seems to have backfired spectacularly

The second explanation is that he is simply a Tory dickhole who wants a job market where employers can set any price they want, and rely on the fact that there will always be someone desperate enough to apply. In this scenario the mention of disability is a smokescreen, that allows him to present his views as if they were shared by the unfortunate minority that he has decided to champion whilst claiming the moral high-ground against those wicked lefties who would rather the disabled were unemployed before they sacrificed their minimum wage sacred cow. His Twitter feed suggests he is indeed using the issue of disability to defend his views. That would make him a coward as well as an asshat who uses the vulnerability of the disabled to disguise an attack on the unemployed in general.

Davies might well be deluded enough to believe he speaks for the vulnerable in society. If that is so, we can hope that the overwhelmingly negative response to his stupid statement jolts him out of his fantasy. But I suspect it's far more likely that he honestly believes there people should be grateful to receive less than their peers for doing the same work.


  1. Hi - thanks for this very readable/interesting blogpost. I just went onto his website to see if he had anything to say about the furore on his website but appears not to have added any press releases since 2009. A look at his depressingly predictable voting record nudges the debate towards 'Tory dickhole', I'd wager. (strongly against more EU integration, for a stricter asylum system, against equal gay rights, against removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords, against laws to stop climate change). Cheers.

  2. ps - you've got a rogue apostrophe in "want's" in your second to last paragraph.

  3. Drat. Thanks for pointing that out. *fixes*

  4. I'm 49 years old, have Asperger's syndrome and have never had a job.

    I need to be able to offer an employer something so that he will at least just consider giving me a job; and I reckon that his being able to pay me less than statutory minimum wage might just do it.

    I doubt I would be any worse off than actually being paid a proper wage because of the complex interactions between the various benefits I receive and the amount of money I have to pay to social services for my care. In effect a wages subsidy would be in operation.

    I desperately want to work, and need to work, so that I can fully contribute to, and participate in, society; and strive to become the best person I'm capable of becoming -and the minimum wage legislation is hindering me in my quest.

  5. Lee, you have my utmost sympathies- I'm currently unemployed myself, and Lord knows I sometimes wish there were something I could do to make myself more attractive to employers. Compared to the challenges you undoubtedly face, my own travails must be pretty minor. Nonetheless, I don't want to live in a world were anyone is treated is cheap labour for things they can't help. The solution lies in challenging the perception that some people are less valuable as employees simply because of the challenges they face, especially in an age when more and more people face mental health problems yet discrimination remains widespread.

    More to the point: even if you disagree with me about the minimum wage- and you have understandable reasons for doing so- I don't think people like Phillip Davies should be seen as champions of the vulnerable. The man doesn't give a toss you, me or anyone else who is struggling to find employment, he cares about upholding ridiculous outmoded dogma. The man is clearly ignorant about the status of disabled workers if he doesn't realise 1) that they can be as productive as anyone and 2) that a significant proportion of his own constituents will face some form of mental health problems in their lifetime. I simply do not believe that his statement came from any kind of genuine concern about disability. Even if you agree with his agenda, I think you can agree that and it is cowardly and cynical to use vulnerable people as a smokescreen.

    Good luck finding a job- if there's anything I can do to help, just yell. :)