It is a description that was commonplace around our way when I was growing up.
My grandparents were fond of saying: “He’s all mouth and trousers” to provide a less than flattering summing up of a local politician who wasn’t anywhere near as good as he thought he was.
Although it has its origins in the North of England, this particular putdown was popular in South Wales during the 1970s and early 80s as well.
It is a phrase that has come back into my head in recent times, most recently when I received a missive from No.10 Downing Street in response to a petition I signed calling for greater recognition and support for carers in the UK.
The official response can be found here, but I decided to carry it in all its superficial splendour anyway:
We have listened to those who took the time to send responses to our proposals in the Green Paper ‘No one written off’. In the recently published White Paper ‘Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future’ we stated that we will not move existing groups from Income Support (IS) to a modified Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) until we have a clear and detailed plan setting out how we will reform the benefit system over the longer term. We will though take powers that enable the abolition of IS at a later date.
The proposal in ‘No one written off’ was to abolish IS, when resources allow, and move existing customers who do not migrate to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to JSA. The main groups affected by this proposed move would be lone parents with a child under the age of 7 and carers.
Recognising that these groups have responsibilities that take priority over job seeking, the proposal was to modify JSA so as to mirror the level of conditionality that is currently applied within IS. As benefit rates are also identical in JSA, the only actual change for both groups would be the name of their benefit.
Throughout the consultation period we received many responses from carers and their representatives opposing any move to JSA. Some of these were based on a misunderstanding of the proposal: some people thought we intended to move carers from Carer’s Allowance, which is not the case, whilst others thought they would be subject to the full job seeking requirements of JSA. A common thread running through the majority of responses was that the name of JSA itself was an insult to carers and suggested that their caring role is not work.
We recognise the important contribution that carers make to society and respect the work that they do. Moving to a modified JSA was not intended to suggest that caring is not work. The needs of carers will be central to our consideration of the future reform of the benefits system. We will ensure that proposals for a future system of support make appropriate provision for carers and fit well with the outcome of the Department of Health review of the care and support system.
The response is a supreme example of the art of saying a lot, without actually saying anything.
It is also further proof, if any were really needed, that this Government is best described as “all mouth and trousers”.
It looks good, it says the right things, but there is no substance to the style. The carefully constructed sentences are empty in meaning.
This response – and others I’ve seen – also raises another question.
What is the point of signing such e-petitions?
I can’t help thinking that this innovative use of technology is merely yet another example of a Government that is all mouth and trousers.
Along with the now almost ubiquitous Facebook group, viral campaigns and use of other online tools, I’m struggling to see the value of e-petitions.
They succeed in raising awareness, but how long does that last? This week it is an appeal for financial help to save Jaguar Land Rover, next week it is a campaign to give the Scrabulous replacement on Facebook a better name than Lexulous.
I might sound a little cynical.
Damn right I’m cynical.
Not to mention frustrated and angry.