Is this the nastiest Conservative MP in Britain? - Spectator Blogs

19 December 2012

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.

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Show comments
  • Bill of Leeds

    Messrs Mustard and Shelbrooke miss the point. Tory ideology promotes personal choices and responsibility. But apparently they think that is only for Rich people who want to avoid income tax by moving profits abroad, not those deprived of a job by the present Government’s deranged economic policies. It was Osborne’s Chicago School heroes who said you were not oppressed if you were starving for lack of employment, provide no one personally starved you. The Chicago purists would give you the right to starve yourself and your children by buying ciggies rather than food.

  • John Moss

    Don’t agree with the specifcs of the proposal, but benefits should be adequate, not comfortable.

  • Alex

    Alex Massie – is this the nastiest, most stupid journalist in Britain?

  • Roy

    To the contrary; if the state is supplying the out of work with life giving sustenance until such time as they are in work, the State has every right to make sure such monies go to good effect for what they are intended for. This is a perfectly good system to make sure taxpayer funds are metered out and spent to good account. You might mention “whatever next” when for far too long funds have been given out willy-nilly for the recipients to squander as they so wish, when the cash disbursements are supposed to be a last resort before even harder consequences can accrue.
    Any government hand-out should not be taken for granted. More so today, when much of the welfare spending is either borrowed money (a debt on our children) or printed money without backing, which is worse, will devalue the standard revenue without anybody knowing.

    One of the reasons the country is in such a mess is people like you lambasting common sense solutions and encouraging people to wast and corrupt rather than be resilient, industrious and frugal when times dictate it.

  • benefit scrounger

    I bet this tosser has never seen hardship a complete and utter fool
    fat people will be next whats he going to do stop them buying cheap burgers
    I can’t belive this is for real

  • Mark

    Mr. Shelbrooke’s suggestion sounds perfectly reasonable. Unless of course Alex Massie would prefer welfare claimants to spend the money on a dozen wraps of heroin.

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