Government in telling the truth shocker!

Philosopher Harry G Frankfurt once defined \”bullshit\” as distinct from lying. Lying requires an engagement with the truth, whereas the former represents instead a \”lack of connection to a concern with truth\” and an \”indifference to how things really are\”. And these two themes seem to run through the government\’s dialogue with the public over changes to housing benefit.

The housing benefit shakeup – a deficit-cutting measure from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) intended to remove £1bn of government subsidy from the private rental sector – was introduced to parliament with the remarkable claim from the chancellor, George Osborne, that \”there are some families receiving £104,000 a year in housing benefit\”. This figure, challenged at the time by the Telegraph and Full Fact, was shown to be misleading. The DWP refused to release data validating the claim, instead directing enquirers to a search of the Daily Mail and the Sun newspaper websites, neither of which is a conventional source of high-quality benefit statistics. Since then, the DWP has continued to use similar figures in press releases and media interviews to justify the fairness of policies where \”hard working families no longer have to subsidise people living in properties they themselves could not afford\”. Assuming, in good faith, that the DWP were not repeating discredited claims, we submitted an freedom of information request for their evidence:

Ooooh, gosh, that\’s interesting.

So, this FOI request showed that the Tories are a bunch of lying scumbags, did it?

The response (reproduced above) stated that in December 2010 there were \”around 10 housing benefit claimants eligible for £1,917 or more per week\”.

Err, no, it showed that they were telling the truth. Which is of course a result sufficiently unexpected that it makes the FOI request entirely justified.

5 thoughts on “Government in telling the truth shocker!”

  1. “hard working families no longer have to subsidise people living in properties they themselves could not afford”

    You don’t need people claiming £100,000 of housing benefit to prove that claim.

    Much as it may shock a Guardian journalist, there are many working people who are earning less than £100,000p.a.

    Average is, what, around £26k? About £6k tax & NI to pay on that, leaving about £20k. Is the rule of thumb still that you’re struggling if you’re paying more than 50% of your net income in rent? So an average worker is going to be paying £10k rent max.

    So the claim that working people are being taxed to pay for non-workers to live in places that the worker couldn’t afford? That’s basically a claim that there are people getting more than £10k housing benefit, not £100k.

  2. It didn’t stop the left claiming this vindicated them and sending it all round Twitter and the left-wing blogs yesterday, did it?

  3. One thing I have never understood about lefties is that they say very few people get stupid sums in housing benefit.
    If they believe that why do they mind getting rid of it?

  4. It seems to me that a typical response to a vindication of this sort of claim is best characterized as “It may be true, but I’m not the sort of person who believes it”.

    Perhaps it is an unfortunate side-effect of the decline of organized religion that this mode of thinking has been deflected from metaphysical claims – where, in a liberal democratic society, it was relatively harmless – to empirical claims where it is more pernicious.

  5. The comments are filled with people saying,

    “High housing benefit helps the land-lord, not the poor renter.”


    “Cutting high housing benefits will harm the poor renters.”

    If I read any further my head will explode.

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