Dear the Coalition, please remember that Mr Chris Grayling is NOT SAFE to be let out without a RESPONSIBLE ADULT present to SIT ON HIS HEAD whenever he starts spouting reactionary nonsense. Thank you.
Mr Balloon knew this before the General Election and had him quietly bundled away and locked in the playpen with Master Gideon for the duration.
But this morning he somehow managed to slip his training reins and get into the The Today Programme studio and, before anyone could stop him, started saying he would set BOUNTY HUNTERS on BENEFIT SEEKERS.
Let me just say this: SIGH.
In the firstly place, would it be REMOTELY possible to get through just one week without pandering to the Daily Hate Mail's desire to criminalise poverty and LAY OFF the people on benefits?
Handy BBC graphic shows us that deliberate fraud costs us THE SAME as mistakes by the benefits people. Here is an idea for FREE: it is CHEAPER to give your own staff proper training than it is to employ some consultants to start snooping through innocent folks credit card histories. So sort out your OWN mistakes before you start getting heavy with the people you are supposed to be helping.
And it's not even a good TARGET. As Auntie Jennie points out, tax evasion costs the rest of us FIFTEEN TIMES as much as scamming benefits!
Just one fraud, the VAT "carousel fraud" – where a fake importer/exporter claims to import stuff, say mobile phones or computer chips or, these days, carbon credits, then sells the stuff to a "partner" who then exports it again (possibly without the goods ever physically moving), reclaiming the VAT on the UK purchase while the first fella makes off into the night without paying the VAT on the UK sale back to the taxman – was estimate to cost the British taxpayer between a half and two billion pounds in 2008/09 according to Customs & Revenue's own accounts (large pdf); and it is estimated to cost over SIXTY billion euros across the EU.
Let me put that another way: if you set out to clear up fraud, you expect some success and some failure. If you target Tax Evasion and your successes only succeed in cutting it by 10%, you will still save MORE money than if you cleaned up 100% of benefit fraud.
Just think about what is REALISTICALLY ACHIEVABLE: clawing back just ONE pound in ten sounds like it might be doable; saying you'll clear up all the cheating on benefits which has defied governments from the hard right (Queen Maggie) to the also hard right (Lord Blairimort)… ridiculous.
And as I KEEP on having to say: the more COMPLICATED you make the system, the more likely you make it that SMART CROOKS will get the money and NEEDY POOR PEOPLE won't!
But in the secondly place, what, I mean WHAT in the name of all that is fluffy are we doing hiring so-called "Bounty Hunters" to start electronically snooping on people?
No, I'm not going to make this a gag about coconut flavoured chocolate bars, this is SERIOUS.
I mean did we not just go to a LOT of trouble to get RID of a Government that trampled roughshod over such trivia as the INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED HUMAN RIGHT TO PRIVACY?
Government's SHOULD NOT be routinely spying on their own people, effectively treating every benefit claimant as a guilty-until-forever-cos-you're-NEVER-proved-innocent potential fraudster. Hard Labour showed that governments find it all too easy to stumble from treating their voters as potential Stasi-esque informants to collusion in rendition and torture.
As for Mr Grayling, saying "oh, but the information is commercially available" is NO EXCUSE, you slap-headed NINCOMPOOP. So are LANDMINES but that didn't stop us signing a treaty that said it was MORALLY WRONG to use them ever again.
There are LOTS of things that are "commercially available" – pirate videos, Thai lady-boys, black market uranium – but would Mr Grayling suggest that the Government should dabble in any of those? No, actually, let's not go there.
For all that the Hard Labour opportunists were "milking it" over the weekend, we know that the Coalition IS capable of seeing policies that are BLOODY STUPID and changing its collective mind.
So, never mind Dog, the Bounty Hunter; this is a DOG of a POLICY. Let's send it to Battersea Dogs home. Along with the MILK.