We would like to submit a complaint regarding the item on workfare on Newsnight broadcast on Tuesday 15th February 2011. We found this item both politically biased and a product of slip shod journalism.
The item comprised a presentation by Lawrence Mead, in which he put forward his ideas for abolishing all welfare payments for those out of work. We recognise that it is a standard format of Newsnight to allow controversial ideas to be put forward in the form of a mini-documentary like the one presented by Mead. However, political balance is normally obtained through the inclusion of opposed viewpoints in the subsequent debate.
In this case the only view presented was that of Chris Grayling, a Conservative Government Minister, who accepted Mead’s basic premise, and only differed over the issue of how practical it was to implement US workfare policies in the Britain. It is true that the Labour MP Frank Field was interviewed in the presentation but he is an adviser to the Government and the interview was used to back up Mead’s ideas.
As a result the assertion made by Mead that there are plenty of jobs out there for the unemployed if only they chose to take them, despite unemployment doubling in the last couple of years, remained unchallenged. Furthermore the issue of how workfare schemes may lead to job substitution and the undermining of the pay and conditions of those already in work was simply ignored.
The upshot was to make the Government’s proposals for draconian welfare cuts appear moderate. As such the entire item was politically biased in favour of the Government’s welfare reforms.
We expect Newsnight to present in depth analysis of issues that are in the news. Presumably this item was an investigation into the issues surrounding the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill. But dredging up twenty year old arguments over ‘welfare to work’ that were inspired by the Wisconsin workfare scheme introduced in the 1990s, without even considering what impact it has had on wages, poverty and unemployment, is simply a piece of slip-shod journalism that fails to address vital current issues surrounding the Government’s welfare policies.
The government’s welfare reforms will substantially cuts the incomes of nearly two million of some of the poorest people in Britain to pay for a financial crisis that was not of their making. With 2.5 million unemployed what is the point of compelling the old, the sick and single mothers to compete with them for nonexistent work? When will the problem of the welfare dependency of corporations be dealt with, not only the banks who expect hand outs to pay off their gambling debts, but also those employers who pay less than a living wage in the expectation that the government will top up the difference through tax credits and other in work benefits? All these vital issues were ignored.