A Conservative councillor has been suspended for her sneering racism and despicable prejudice regarding welfare claimants. Some media outlets have described the comments as a “joke”. It wasn’t.
Rosemary Carroll, a Conservative councillor, shared a post about a man asking for benefits for his pet dog, making offensive rascist comparisons.
She was Mayor of Pendle until last month but was suspended from her party after the post appeared on her account this week.
The local Conservative branch posted a statement about the “inappropriate post” on Facebook after the allegations came to light.
Councillor Joe Cooney, leader of the Conservatives on Pendle Council, said Councillor Rosemary Carroll was suspended pending an investigation.
The comments, which have now been deleted, compared an Asian person claiming support to a dog.
Speaking before the suspension was confirmed, Carroll said she had meant to delete the post but ended up publishing it “by mistake”.
Philip Mousdale, Pendle Council’s corporate director, said he received two formal complaints about the post at the time.
He said the complaints against the councillor, who represents Earby Ward, allege she had breached the council’s code of conduct.
“As monitoring officer for the council I’m looking into the complaints,” Mousdale added.
Cooney said: “We will not tolerate racism of any form. Rosemary Carroll has been suspended from the Conservative Group on Pendle Borough Council and the Conservative Party with immediate effect, pending a full investigation in due course.”
Carroll claims she planned to post an apology for her bigotry.
However, this is not an isolated incident, and the Conservatives continue to show utter contempt for both people of colour as well as people who need welfare support, as this extremely offensive post from one of their Councillors shows.
The obscene and extremely offensive original post
This isn’t a one-off, it’s how many Tories actually think
Who could forget David Freud’s offensive comments, made when he was a Conservative Welfare Reform Minister, that some disabled people are “not worth the full national minimum wage” and that some “could only be paid £2 an hour.” Cameron claimed the disgraceful comments made by Lord Freud at the Tory conference do not represent the views of government.
However, his government’s punitive austerity measures and the welfare “reforms” tell us a very different story. The comments came to light after they were disclosed by Ed Miliband during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Freud’s comments are simply a reflection of a wider implicit and fundamental Social Darwinism underpinning Tory ideology, and even Tim Montgomerie, who founded the ConservativeHome site has conceded that: “Conservative rhetoric often borders on social Darwinism […] and has lost a sense of social justice.”
David Freud was made to apologise for simply being a Tory in public.
Social Darwinism, with its brutal and uncivilising indifference to human suffering, has been resurrected from the nineteenth century and it fits so well with the current political spirit of neoliberalism. As social bonds are replaced by narcissistic, unadulterated materialism, public concerns are now understood and experienced as utterly private miseries, except when offered up to us on the Jerry Springer Show or Benefit Street as spectacle.
Conservative policies are entirely ideologically-driven. We have a government that uses words like workshy to describe vulnerable social groups. This is a government that is intentionally scapegoating poor, unemployed, disabled people and migrants. One Tory councillor, Alan Mellins – called for the “extermination of gypsies”, more than one Tory MP has called for illegal and discriminatory levels of pay for disabled people. Philip Davies has also said that the national minimum wage is “more a hindrance than a help” for disabled people, and proposed that we are paid less. A Conservative deputy mayor – retired GP, Owen Lister – said, unforgivably, that the “best thing for disabled children is the guillotine.”
These are NOT “slips”, it’s patently clear that the Tories believe these comments are acceptable, just as long as they aren’t made in public. We need only look at the discriminatory nature of policies such as the legal aid bill, the wider welfare “reforms”, the cuts aimed at disabled peoples support and services – which were unthinkable before 2010 – and to research the consequences of austerity for the most vulnerable citizens, those with the “least broad shoulders” and the least to lose – to understand that these comments reflect accurately how Conservatives actually think.
This is a government that is creating and manipulating public prejudice to justify massive socio-economic inequalities and their own policies that are creating a steeply hierarchical society based on social Darwinist survival of the wealthiest neoliberal “small state” ideology. The dispossession of the majority to ensure the relentless accumulation of wealth for an elitist and greedy minority.
The Tory creation of socioeconomic scapegoats, involving vicious stigmatisation of vulnerable and protected social groups, particularly endorsed by the mainstream media, is simply a means of de-empathising the population, manipulating public perceptions and securing public acceptance of the increasingly punitive and repressive basis of the Tories’ crass neoliberal welfare “reforms”, and the steady stripping away of essential state support and provision, for the public, which the public have paid for via taxes and national insurance.
At the same time that austerity was imposed on the poorest citizens, the millionaires were awarded a £107,000 each per year tax cut. It seems only some of us have to “live within our means”.
The political construction of social problems also marks an era of increasing state control of citizens with behaviour modification techniques, (under the guise of paternalistic libertarianism and behavioural economic theories), all of which are a part of the process of restricting access rights to welfare provision.
The mainstream media has been complicit in the process of constructing deviant welfare stereotypes and in engaging prejudice and generating moral outrage from the public:
“If working people ever get to discover where their tax money really ends up, at a time when they find it tough enough to feed their own families, let alone those of workshy scroungers, then that’ll be the end of the line for our welfare state gravy train.” James Delingpole 2014.
Delingpole was a close friend of Cameron’s at university. Apparently, they would get stoned and listen to Supertramp regularly, whilst hatching their profoundly antisocial and anti-democratic obscenities. Their plot sickens.
Poverty cannot be explained away by reference to simple individualist narratives of the workshy scrounger as the likes of Delingpole claim, no matter how much he would like to apply such simplistic, blunt, stigmatising, dehumanizing labels that originated from the Nazis (see arbeitssheu.)
Poverty arises because of the consequence of political decisions, and structural conditions.
Climbing Allport’s ladder
Gordon Allport studied the psychological and social processes that create a society’s progression from prejudice and discrimination to genocide. In his research of how the Holocaust happened, he describes sociopolitical processes that foster increasing social prejudice and discrimination and he demonstrates how the unthinkable becomes tenable: it happens incrementally, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries, and propaganda-driven changes in our attitudes towards politically defined others, that advances culturally, by almost inscrutable degrees.
The process always begins with political scapegoating of a social group and with ideologies that identify that group as the Other: a common “enemy” or a social “burden” in some way. A history of devaluation of the group that becomes the target, authoritarian culture, and the passivity of internal and external witnesses (bystanders) all contribute to the probability that violence against that group will develop, and ultimately, if the process is allowed to continue evolving, extermination of the group being targeted.
Economic recession, uncertainty and political systems on the authoritarian -> totalitarian spectrum contribute to shaping the social conditions that seem to trigger Allport’s escalating scale of prejudice.
In the UK, the media is certainly being used by the right-wing as an outlet for blatant political propaganda, and much of it is manifested as a pathological persuasion to hate others. The Conservatives clearly have strong authoritarian tendencies, as I have been pointing out since 2012, when the welfare “reform” act was pushed through parliament with unholy haste, with the excuse of “economic privilege”, despite the widespread opposition to that bill. The authoritarianism of the Tories is most evident in their anti-democratic approach to policy, human rights, equality, social inclusion and processes of government accountability.
Vulnerable groups are those which our established principles of social justice demand we intervene to help, support and protect. However, the Conservative’s rhetoric is aimed at a deliberate identification of citizens as having inferior behaviour.
The poorest citizens are presented as a problem group because of their individual faulty characteristics, and this is intentionally diverting attention from wider socioeconomic and political causes of vulnerability. Individual subjects experiencing hardships have been placed beyond state protection and are now the objects of policies that embody punitive and crude behaviourism, and pathologising, coercive elements of social control.
After seven years of Conservative governments, our most vulnerable citizens are no longer regarded as human subjects, they have become objects of the state, which is acting upon them, not for or on behalf of them.
This has turned our democracy completely on its head.
It quite often isn’t until someone Carroll, Freud or Mellins push our boundaries of decency a little too far. Then we suddenly see it, and wonder how such prejudiced and discriminatory comments could be deemed acceptable and how anyone could possibly think they would get away with such blatantly offensive rhetoric without being challenged. It’s because they have got away with less blatantly offensive comments previously: it’s just that they pushed more gently and so it wasn’t obvious, we simply didn’t see.
During a debate in the House of Lords, Freud described the changing number of disabled people likely to receive the employment and support allowance as a “bulge of, effectively, stock”. After an outraged response, this was actually transcribed by Hansard as “stopped”, rendering the sentence meaningless. He is not the only person in the Department for Work and Pensions who uses this term. The website describes disabled people entering the government’s work programme for between three and six months as “3/6Mth stock”.
This infrahumanised stock are a source of profit for the companies running the programme. The Department’s delivery plan recommends using “credit reference agency data to cleanse the stock of fraud and error”.
The linguistic downgrading of human life requires dehumanising metaphors: a dehumanising socio-political system using a dehumanising language, and it is becoming familiar and pervasive: it has seeped almost unnoticed into our lives.
As Allport’s scale of prejudice indicates, hate speech and incitement to genocide start from often subliminal expressions of prejudice and subtle dehumanisation, which escalate. Germany didn’t wake up one morning to find Hitler had arranged the murder of millions of people. It happened, as many knew it would, and was happening whilst they knew about it. And many opposed it, too. It still happened.
The dignity and equal worth of every human being is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equality of all human beings.
As a so-called civilised and wealthy society, so should we. It’s time we said goodbye to austerity, the right-wing politics of inequality and prejudice.
This is a government that thinks that PEOPLE are a disposable commodity – “collateral damage” of a failing neoliberal mode of organisation. People dying as a result of austerity cuts are passed off by Tory ministers as “anecdotal evidence.” The government claim there is no “provable causality” between their policies and premature deaths. Yet there is a well-established correlation, that requires further investigation, which the government has so far refused to undertake. But it is very clear that Conservative policies are driven by traditional Tory prejudices.
It really is time to say not one day more.
And never, ever again.
You can follow Kitty S Jones at her webpage Politics and Insights