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In a recent conversation that I had over Twitter (yes, Twitter…), I conversed with a Brexit voting, ‘ex-Labour’ supporter. This label that he had given himself was a misnomer – it emerged that he had never supported socialist policies, and had only ever voted Labour because his parents had done so. He informed me that he was now voting Tory. When pressed as to the reason for this seemingly radical change (rather than switch to the Liberal Democrats), he regurgitated many of the tired old myths that you so often hear from members of the far right and swing voters that are just confused about the facts. So, without further ado, here are a few of the more common myths that float around at just about every general election:
This country gives out too much benefit money – people should stop being so lazy and work
It turns out that our gentleman wasn’t referring to pensions – which, at £166.98bn for the fiscal year 2011-12, accounts for a whopping 23% of public spending. Nor was he referring to child benefits. What he was actually talking about was Job Seekers Allowance – which pays out the princely sum of up to £73.10 a week; that’s up to £3801.20 a year – and I want to emphasise the ‘up to’. Anyone who’s ever tried to scrape by on a student loan (my combined student loan and bursary was about £6000), or survive on minimum wage – a 40-hour week for someone over 25 would pay just shy of £15K, can imagine just how hard it is to be ‘lazy’ on £3801.
There’s too much benefit fraud going on
Again, another myth. Benefit fraud actually accounts for 0.7% of all claims – and there are far more people who are eligible that simply do not claim benefits. Corporate tax avoidance is a far greater cost to the UK taxpayer – if only this would evoke as much moral outrage in people.
A Labour government cannot be trusted with money
No government has been as wasteful as this Conservative government. In the five years, from 2010-2015, the Tory government increased the deficit by £555 billion and that’s while austerity was (and is) being inflicted upon the average Briton. Meanwhile, our pal George cut corporation tax by 15% – surely Britain should be worth more to the world than a cheap place to avoid tax?
The shortage of jobs is due to immigration
No. In fact, when there are more people, there is more of a demand for services – therefore, more jobs. The real job-killer of the twenty-first century isn’t that Syrian refugee, nor is it that Polish immigrant sending money home, it’s automation. In order for this problem to be addressed, the government must take note and regulate it – something that the Conservative government simple will not do. Why? Because it saves corporations money on human labour; a robot will never ask for time off, get sick, or unionise.
Let’s keep it real, folks, Twitter is not the best place to debate people – aside from the fact that 140 characters is not enough for proper political discourse, it was easy for my new friend to ignore every fact thrown his way. But, then again, I knew that before. I have a feeling that this general election is going to be a particularly joyous one.
Maddy is a freelance illustrator who lives in Glasgow. She's recently graduated and is working hard to make ends meet. Self-employed? Read Maddy's experiences here.