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I am not in receipt of any benefits, apart from roads of varying quality and occasional firework displays. And policing, I suppose. And a fire service, should I need it. And museums, parks and art galleries. And free healthcare. And the advantages that have flowed from a free education to tertiary level. And some other bits and bobs. But that’s it.
So, by rights, I should be livid that asylum seekers are given a free house on arrival, that prisons are like holiday camps and that unemployed single mothers are paid more than the prime minister. Except I know that these things are not true.
I don’t wish to suggest that people are stupid, merely ignorant. As a rule, only people who are in receipt of benefits, or who administer them, know how much they are. No one who’s never been inside a prison has any grasp of the realities of incarceration. Only a refugee knows what it’s like to be one.
But most people are not cold-blooded and are quite shocked when they learn how low benefits actually are. If they were to spend one night in a cell, they would cry throughout it. When asked what sentences they think are appropriate for various offenders, they show themselves to be more liberal than judges. And if they were to meet an asylum seeker and hear their story, they would probably want to open their own wallets to help them out.
There are three types of ‘you couldn’t make it up’ stories: the ones that are about very rare instances, the ones that are misrepresented, and the ones that are made up. The duty of politicians of conscience is to say so. To listen, yes, for a bit. Then to say, ‘I hear your concerns, but they’re bollocks.’ That’s just common sense.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now argues that after years of colonial domination and dodgy trade deals, the UK must make amends and support Zimbabwe in this uncertain time.
Last month's mass far right demonstration can be linked to a toxic mix of government tolerance of fascism and neoliberalism on steroids. Ewa Jasiewicz investigates.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana