Matthew Norman, David Brenteron and the end of the compassionate Conservative

21 January 2012

Until now I haven’t seen Matthew Norman as a radical figure in British journalism.
But his column in the Independent this week
was a genuine anti-establishment rant in the best tradition. The headline was a corker: ‘Cameron is the David Brent of welfare reform’ – clear, to-the-point and expressive of the
fury of the piece to come (he later describes the man he dubs ‘David Brenteron’ as a ‘galaxy-class hypocrite’ for his government’s betrayal of the disabled in its
welfare reforms). It is difficult to choose a single passage from the article as every single sentence drips with delicious anger, but the final paragraph is worth reading in full:

‘Whatever damage peers inflict on this snarling Pitbull of a Bill, however many of its teeth they remove, its advancement has taught us something chilling about the Prime Minister. For
all his personal experience, expressions of paternal goodwill towards the disabled and fraternal concern for their carers, at the first clanging of the alarm bells his instinct was to scarper,
and leave them in the stairwell to burn.’

I was struck by the piece, not just because of the purity of Norman’s vitriol, but because almost everyone else in the political class seemed to be turning on Ed Miliband this
week. It pulled me up short because, whether you agree with the coalition’s policies or not, it is the government we should be all be focusing on rather than the sideshow of the Labour
Party’s existential crisis.

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Thus far Cameron’s Work and Pensions triumvirate of Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Freud and Chris Grayling have been given the benefit of the doubt. The long years IDS spent wandering the country
with furrowed brow ministering to gangs and dwellers of Scottish housing ‘schemes’ has somehow protected him from the scrutiny he might otherwise have faced. But was there ever any
reason to believe he would be a better secretary of state than he was a party leader?

This week has significantly tested the ‘compassionate Conservative’ credentials of this government. The sight of ministers attacking migrant benefit claimants as youth unemployment hit
record levels was particularly distasteful.

Most of the political class (this journalist included) will always find it easier to ridicule the opposition than speak truth to those who hold the genuine power to do harm (and good). This is why
I salute those, such as Matthew Norman, who have the courage to tell it as they see it.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Your view is nice.

  • TrevorsDen

    Where were you when labour were ruining life for Britain’s youth.

    David Brent? What a lame hook to hang an argument on. If ever there was a David Brent it was Tony Blair.


  • Patricia Shaw

    Richard of Moscow

    Matthew Norman, is Jewish.

    Would you consider a non Jewish voice, or a voice not automatically predisposed to the Israeli Right?

    Would you consider a Muslim as a blogger?

  • Richard of Moscow

    Martin Bright wants an anti-Tory rant, so he quotes Matthew Norman, a far better writer.

    Fraser, could you not hire Matthew norman, and get rid of this ignorant champagne socialist clown Bright? Let’s all argue with the organ-grinder, not the monkey (apologies to monkeys everywhere)

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Simon, if we want to have a sensible debate about welfare, we cannot be doing with all the nonsense. I know there are people getting welfare who don’t deserve it. I know there are others who don’t get it and should, and other others who are under threat of losing it who shouldn’t. That has always been the case, regardless of party in government. Now, if the very first reaction to any suggestion of change is to run about finding egregious examples to do down the other party, how far are we going to get? There is an issue here that the state has an obligation, if it imposes taxes on all of us, to behave responsibly with the money. Creating a massive dependent class with no way out is not responsible, in my view.

  • Colin Cumner

    Look at it any way you like but the spending on social welfare has to be reigned in. We know there are often truly disabled people in the community – I happen to know of two such individuals in my own circle of friends – but there are an awful lot of shysters out there who would milk the Government cash cow (i.e. the taxpayer) for every last penny they could. It is this rorting of the system that has to be addressed and the present Government are at least making noises in this direction. As for Labour, they have always stood for the levelling of society – downwards. Except of course if you happen to occupy the higher echelons of the Party then it’s a case of ‘crack open the champagne, boys, we’ve made it’.

  • bob jones

    I rarely read the Spectator, preferring Private Eye, or old editions of Punch. This seems to be a fair article, as does Matthew Norman’s. The comments here make me want to reach for my stash of molotovs and hunt down the tax evading off shore boyos ignored by the benefit bashers here. The ConDems are taking the proverbial and so are the Nude Blue Labour lot. Leave the poor alone to get on with their miserable lives and applaud good journalism.

  • anxiouswarrior

    you sum up the tories perfectly always wanting to blame the poor for the economic plight, i do not understand you people you have been shafted by the same system that the poor have,one day you wil wake up and face the truth

  • Douglas Carter

    Martin – how will permitting migrants to recieve benefits to which they are not entitled assist indigenous unemployed youth or those having difficulty claiming disability benefit?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Rhoda Klapp : 3.51pm

    Tory-bashing? Maybe, but Norman wrote an equally scathing article, also about government’s approach to disability welfare, in response to James Purnell’s Freud-inspired propsals late in 2008. So at that time, I suppose, he was Labour-bashing.

    Maybe his concern is disability welfare, not party-political points scoring?

    (trying to access the link this evening came up with an error message. I hope this will be fixed)

  • ButcombeMan

    No one really knows the rate of “disability fraud” because it hardly gets investigated in the public sector.

    There is plenty of evidence for it in the Insurance Industry so the probablity of plenty of it in the public sector, is very high indeed.

    It would be very surprising if this area was not being hit along with the general increase in fraud in other areas. Standards of morality in claiming public funds have dropped, why should this area be immune?

    From my little knowledge, the most consistent fraud is where sufferers have recovered yet continue to claim Disablity Living Allowance.

  • Matt

    And somewhere, a Labour Party sheep when “Baaaa!” And all he other sheep said: “Baaa!” in response.

    The stupid bleating fools in the Labour Party are like a mother who showed her ‘love’ for her children by feeding them so much food that, by age 15, they are both over 20 stone in weight.

    If you REALLY cared about the poor, the disadvantaged and the sick, you would help them to help themselves better themselves. Not make them remain poor, disadvantaged and sick for ever.

    I was on long term incapacity benefits until, with no help from the DSS, Job Centre or Disability Resettlement Officer, I helped to get myself back into work. Otherwise I’d have still been sat vegetating. Or dead. People need your help, not your bloody mealy-mouthed sympathy!

  • Leo McKinstry

    Sarah, how do you know that the disability fraud rate is only 0.5 per cent. I recognise that this is the figure constantly trumpeted from the Spartacus report, but since there has been no systematic, comprehensive assessment of disability claims, then it seems to be based just on guesswork. And it is precisely that sort of comprehensive assessment which the noisy welfare rights lobby has so vigorously, almost hysterically, opposed

  • Sarah

    with a disability fraud rate at 0.5% and them loosing more in so called errors….where are those ball room dancers? So very few obviously. You better pray you never become disabled, its not something disabled people enjoy! But bare in mine 1 in 3 get Cancer

  • alan scott

    Admirably spot on, Rhoda.

  • Steve

    I agree with Rhoda Klapp this is just mindless tory bashing. There’s no more justification in calling this bigotry ‘delicious anger’ than there is calling anti-semitism or homophobia ‘delicious anger’.

    I actually support government policy on this issue, but even if I didn’t, I would not use Norman’s vitriolic piffling prose to voice my opposition.

  • Sam gold

    What you do not understand is that we, the people, have had enough of the socialist experiment of opening our borders, paying benefits to feckless eastern Europeans and seeing disability benefits go to ballroom dancing cheats.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    This is whhat passes for speaking truth to power in your tiny tribal mind? It just looks like tory-bashing to me, even though bashing may be what they deserve, it goes nowhere towards solving the problem. Tell us what you think is right, not what you think is wrong. Tell us how you would fix the problem of the money having been spent, most of it more than once. Don’t just give us empty shroud-waving, or even, in this case, vicarious empty shroud-waving.

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