12 July 2010

This is a single issue newsletter asking for your urgent help in getting a government website closed down. The site, set up by the treasury to allow people to suggest ways to cut government spending, is full of hate-filled racist and disablist suggestions, including the sterilisation of benefits claimants, the return of the workhouse and the forced repatriation of asylum seekers and migrants.  Some of the site’s content is so extreme it may even constitute a criminal offence.

The Spending Challenge website was set up on Friday by the coalition government and features an introduction and video on its home page by chancellor George Osborne.

In his video Osborne tells visitors that “Your government needs you, please get in touch” and the introduction assures visitors that:

“A team has been put together right at the heart of government and their job is to make sure that your ideas and comments are taken seriously - and that the best ideas are taken forward as part of the Spending Review.”

Yet these ideas and comments clearly demonstrate how the demonisation of claimants by successive governments has succeeded in promoting open and widespread hatred.  One suggestion is to “Re-open the workhouses” for the unemployed, the elderly and asylum seekers. The poster goes on to suggest that:

“To prevent the problem of generations of poor people, release could be conditional on getting sterilised.”

Another idea entitled “Discouraging those who do not work from starting a family” goes on to say that:

“Where NHS staff have identified that a couple or single mother isn't in a position to support themselves and a child financially, they should be advised to terminate the pregnancy (if very early on), or be recommended to give the child up for adoption.”

Other ideas include:

“Benefits claimants to work in sweatshops” which urges the government to also send the unemployed to Afghanistan as cannon fodder;

“Let The Disabled Community Forge A New Industry” which suggests that disabled claimants should grow and sell cannabis for a living;

“Employ Crocodiles in Benefits Offices” to discourage claims;

the self-explanatory “Stop paying JSA etc to drunks, druggies & wastrels”; and

 “Stop handing out free laptops and internet connections to the unemployed” in which the poster goes on to say that “I worked fifteen years before I could afford to buy myself a laptop, some toerag who's never worked a day in his life gets it courtesy of the State.”

Even where the initial post appears to be an attempt at humour or irony, the baying mob of supportive posters demonstrates that many others take the ideas seriously.

Equally disturbing and possibly criminal are the huge number of racist rants being published by the treasury.

In one suggestion “Move immigrants in council houses out of cities”, the original poster wants the coalition government to “Tell immigrants that they are being moved to less expensive areas. If they don't want to, they can leave the country.”

However, in a subsequent comment, another poster responds with “I'm not sure that I want to see immigrants living in our villages - keep them in the ghetto's until such time as they can all be deported.”

Many of the suggestions target specific groups such as Somalis and the site is littered with the most ugly and examples of ignorance and prejudice, many so extreme that we are not prepared to reproduce them.

The Public Order Act 1986 makes it an offence to publish material which is likely to stir up racial hatred.  Benefits and Work believes that this is exactly the effect that the treasury website will have.  The content may also be in breach of discrimination and harassment legislation.  Whilst we do not have the legal knowledge to pursue this matter further, and don’t want to be accused of a publicity stunt, we hope that there are readers of this newsletter who will have both the knowledge and the sense of outrage to do so and that they will involve the police in investigating this site.

The site has a ‘Report to the moderator’ feature, but appears to be otherwise unmoderated.  To leave the responsibility for policing a government website to members of the public instead of checking each submission before publishing it is, at best, inexcusably negligent and, at worst, criminally irresponsible.  There are, in any case, so many vile sentiments being posted there, that it would be a full-time job to keep reporting them all.

If you are as revolted as we are by the use of taxpayers money to encourage racism and hatred of claimants, please consider doing the following:

Contact your MP today and ask them to tell the chancellor to close down this vile site, clean it up and don’t reopen it until it is properly policed;

Make a complaint to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission


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