Cait Reilly was out of order about Poundland, but not half as out of order as the Government

Cait Reilly shot to fame as the woman who was too special to work for her Jobseeker’s allowance because she was too busy with more important things to do with her time. In particular she wanted to do her work experience in a museum rather than Poundland.

Now my experience of work has usually be that he who pays the piper calls the frickin’ tune, so evenually when I came to be sick of the tune I had to tell the piper to get on his bike. Then you don’t get the pay, natch. So as far as I am concerned Reilly’s case doesn’t wash. In the end if the DWP is paying you, Cait, and they say you go  to Poundland, well, you go to Poundland. Or you stop claiming JSA. The choice is yours.

Cait Reilly in Poundland
Cait Reilly in Poundland

However, Reilly pressed her case through the courts, and the law of the land as it stood at the time found in her favour. Which in the end is as it should be. I’m entitled to shoot my mouth off here but the whole point of living in a complex human society is that you need organised ways of determining rules and we have one. And it found that Cait Reilly was right and the DWP and I were wrong.

We have Parliament, which makes the laws, and the judiciary, that interprets the laws, and that’s because tough experience in human societies shows that when the guys who make the laws do the intepreting and applying it all tends to go downhill and ends up with some Big Cheese saying “You lot damn well do what I say and I call the shots round here”. The more swivel-eyed nut-jobs think we’ve already got that but I’m not one of them. Although Britain has its problems at the moment they pale into insignificance compared to the issues of some human societies at the moment that have ended up with the “I call the shots round here”, and if the price of that is that the Cait Reillys of this world get their way and a free ride at the taxpayer’s expense then that’s not too bad a price to pay for holding the thin line against mob rule 😉

Parliament is perfectly entitled to say, having seen this debacle, that no, what they meant to happen agrees a lot more with my view on things than Cait Reilly’s. And obviously I think that’s a Very Good Thing. But what I am most certainly not happy about one little bit is the attempt by the DWP to create a retrospective law to avoid paying out the JSA that was denied to jobseekers up to now because they were wrong.

The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.

Hello Iain Duncan Smith and the government generally. What exactly is it about unlawful that you don’t get? We’re going to a bad place when the Government shows a disrespect for the laws they make, and retrospective legislation is always a disrespect for the rule of law. Law only has meaning when it is knowable, and if people can come back in time and change laws retrospectively, then anything can be made unlawful.

So back off, IDS and call off your dogs. By all means change the legislation from this point on, so that precious princesses like Cait Reilly do get it – claim JSA and you bloody well do what the Jobcentre tells you to do. But since that did not hold when her JSA and that of others was docked then bloody well pay it back, with interest and accept you screwed up.

After all, the West Coast cock-up cost 50m and rising simply because of a lack of common sense – that’s what you get when you run an operation with consultants rather than competence – you end up not knowing what you’re doing. So less of this ‘protect the national economy’ bullshit. You protect the economy by plugging this particular loophole from now on. You don’t protect the economy by overturning the rule of law, chumps. I wouldn’t go as far as to say Cait Reilly deserves the money that was withheld. But she should get it, as should anybody else who was in that situation, because the Government needs to  respect the law.