Whom the Gods would destroy ...
The old saying, "Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad." appears to apply ever more strongly to Gordon Brown's Labour government.
You'd think anyone sane would have learned their lesson from the 10p tax fiasco when they increased the burden on the poorest working families and individuals. But apparently political sanity is in short supply within the present government. So here they are again, hitting the poor and clobbering the people who thought a socialist government would stick up for them. One can see why Tony Benn, when asked on "Any Questions" the other day what he thought of Sir Winston Churchill, said that Winnie was probably more left wing than New Labour.
This time it's housing benefit.
Once apon a time, Housing Benefit took the form of the government paying the rent for some of these in desperate need.
There was an obvious problem with this: it gives the landlord a huge incentive to increase rents, to the disadvantage of two groups of people, some of whom are little if any better off than those on housing benefit. The first people to lose out if Housing Benefit pushes up the level of rates are, obviously, the taxpayers who are paying to support it. But a second group who also used to get hurt by higher rents were those people in rented accomodation who were just above the ceiling level for Housing benefit and had to pay the extra rents without getting the support.
So the system was reformed to make Housing Benefit a specific allowance, which those on HB are paid and from which they pay their rent. Landlords no longer had such an easy opportunity to raise the rent, and those HB claimants who found somewhere cheaper to live could, quite legally, pocket the difference. Some people did so - the figure quoted on the BBC for the amount concerned is up to £15 per week which is not really going to let anyone lead a life of luxury.
But then some bean-counter in Whitehall decided that this was an abuse and proposed that we go back to the government paying the rent in order to take this money away from people. The result if this happened would be that some of the poorest people in Britain would lose some of their income a month before a general election.
Frank Field MP reckons that the House of Commons will not stand for this, and I hope and expect that he is right. But the mere fact that it was considered demonstrates that the government is really losing the plot - and keeps trying to kick the very people they were supposed to have been elected to help.