Thursday, 16 May 2013

Labour must speak up for the poor

Labour must speak up for the poor. It would be easy not to. There aren't that many votes in doing so. The government have been allowed to 'win' the war on benefits. The recent study by the Rowntree Foundation shows that more people are inclined to blame individuals for their  poverty than to consider societal problems as the cause.

Two-thirds (66%) of the public, for example, are willing to believe that child poverty relates to the characteristics and behaviour of parents, compared to the 28% who say it is the result of broader social issues.

Even among Labour supporters there is an increasing view that welfare recipients are undeserving (from 21% in 1987 to 31% in 2011) and that the welfare state encourages dependency – 46% say if benefits were not as generous, people would learn to stand on their own feet, up from 16% in 1987.

Harold Wilson once said that the Labour movement is a crusade or it is nothing. We need that sense of crusade. Poverty in Britain is increasing. This we cannot tolerate. No fair and just society should  allow it. The government talks of fairness in its benefits reform, but hitting the poorest hardest is not fair. The poor are losers in good times and bad. The rich are winners in good times and bad. We need a new social priority. Labour has done little to set the agenda. It is afraid of its own shadow. But the argument can be won, if only it is put. 


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