I'm wondering if, rather than dogmatically plodding on with Universal Credit, apparently disregarding every indicator it will be catastrophic for many claimants (and landlords), the government secretly does understand what's at stake and is busy building infrastructure to mitigate some of the risks. I may be crediting them with too much and, in any case, I don't believe it's enough to make UC work without crippling many subjected to it.
Take Basic Bank Accounts. If the government knew how excluded from appropriate banking services prospective Universal Credit claimants are, they'd ask the banks to make sure everyone had access to accounts with standing order and direct debit facilities. The FCA would ask banks to sign up to the principle that anyone needing an account can have one, even if it's because their existing one is mired in overdraft and any payments in will just get swallowed up in excessive bank charges. And, of course, this is what's happening...
But perish the thought anyone might admit that it's part of a grand strategy that recognises how online and direct payments of UC pose a huge threat to claimants and their landlords. That's not how politicians work. That would mean admitting the scale of the experiment they're conducting. And what's at stake.
Now consider the hijacking of the Living Wage discourse. George Osborne's budget heroically claimed ownership of a mandatory living wage, which would then be no different to a minimum wage. (It won't nullify the noise about what price can be put on a decent standard of living. In fact, it could backfire as benefit claimants fall even further behind this level even though the average wage , against which the benefit caps are set, will go up.) Again, if a government knew that the only way to get the working poor off benefits was not really to beat them round the head for being responsible for their own poverty but to compel employers to pay them more, then this is what they'd do.
But the government can't admit that either.
It's as if there is a baying public that will not settle for compassion and common sense. Or as if most politicians have given up on leadership at all and conceded to crowd-pleasing and spin. In the context of the SNP landslide and the Corbyn/ rest of them debate at Labour HQ, it might not be the Left but the Right who could learn a lesson. A lot of the electorate are crying out for a softer tone in politics and if there really is a masterplan to cushion the impact of the DWP's game of hardball, the public might like to hear it. It doesn't require more spin, but less.
It won't happen, though. There are too many frenzied rightwing backbenchers and media interests to please... And benefit claimants to put the fear of God into.
Shame because they might just have a plan. And the good stuff might just be worth supporting... given the prospect of the bad.