Skip to main content

Labour disappoint on welfare. It is time to speak up for the poor.

Recent pronouncements on welfare by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are disconcerting and disappointing. It is time the truth was put to the public on benefits. The government has been allowed to 'win' the presentation just as they fail to win the argument. They have succeeded in selling the image of 'scroungers', of 'shirkers versus strivers'. Sadly now Labour appears with the same message. 

There was a moment when Labour spoke up and Miliband put the case that the majority of those receiving benefits work, and work hard for too little reward. Now they appear to have abandoned that case. For the truth is that it isn't hard working people who have become 'welfare dependent'. The truth of it is that it is businesses, many of which pay insufficient taxes in the UK, who have become dependent on subsidised low pay. 

A 'living wage' must be at the heart of the alternative to the government's attack on the poorest. Labour should be putting that case. It isn't complex economics that prevents fair pay; it is bad economics. It is the economics of subsidised labour. The Tories always champion 'free markets', yet allow an unfair and skewed market in labour. The British people will respond to a campaign for 'fair pay for a fair days work'. It is the flip side of the 'scroungers' coin. For the poor in Britain, for too long it has been a 'heads I win, tails you lose' economy. This is why the poor have become poorer. This is why they are bearing the greatest burden of the failed capitalist economy. 

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

The secret life of Giant Pandas

Giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca , have usually been regarded as solitary creatures, coming together only to mate; but recent studies have begun to reveal a secret social life for these enigmatic bears.  GPS tracking shows they cross each others path more often than previously thought, and spend time together.  What we don't know is what they are doing when together.  Photo by  Sid Balachandran  on  Unsplash For such large mammals, pandas have relatively small home ranges. Perhaps this is no surprise. Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo. The only real threat to pandas has come from humans. No wonder then that the panda is the symbol of the WWF.  Pandas communicate with one another through vocalization and scent marking. They spray urine, claw tree trunks and rub against objects to mark their paths, yet they do not appear to be territorial as individuals.  Pandas are 99% vegetarian, but, oddly, their digestive system is more typical of a carnivore. For the 1% of their diet

Work Capability Assessments cause suffering for the mentally ill

People suffering from mental health problems are often the most vulnerable when seeking help. Mental health can have a major impact on work, housing, relationships and finances. The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) thus present a particular challenge to those suffering mental illness.  The mentally ill also are often the least able to present their case. Staff involved in assessments lack sufficient expertise or training to understand mental health issues and how they affect capability. Because of  concerns that Work Capability Assessments will have a particularly detrimental effect on the mentally ill,  an  e-petition  on the government web site calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to exclude people with complex mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders. Problems with the WCA  have been highlighted in general by the fact that up to 78% of 'fit to work' decisions are  being overturned on appeal. It is all to the good that they