Where now for Labour on welfare?

3rd January, 2012 9:57 am

Leaked quotes from a future speech by Liam Byrne – in which he denounces the ‘evil’ of‘scrounging’ – have caused an online storm amongst Labour supporters.  Understandably, many of us are bewildered and disappointed by the leadership’s apparent pandering to right-wing prejudices about the welfare state.

The furore caused by Bryne’s comments about benefit recipients raises profound questions about where the party as a whole stands on welfare reform.  Out of all the Coalition’s policies, there is a widespread sense that it is on welfare reform they are most ‘in tune’ with public opinion.  This has enabled Osborne to introduce huge and profound cuts to the social security budget, with troubling consequences in stow for those reliant on welfare for their economic survival.

This apparent sync between the Coalition and the public on welfare has led Ed Miliband into what many on the Left view as a spineless, deeply unimaginative position on welfare reform.  Few of us genuinely believe that Miliband believes what he says about welfare, but that he does so out of a desperate, perhaps even cowardly, desire to appeal to mainstream public opinion.

But where should Ed Miliband and Labour be on welfare?  For many on the Left, there is still a considerable stream of support for a universal, social rights approach to benefits: i.e., unconditional social security provided as of right and based upon need.  But this is an untenable position, for two reasons.

First, there is – I think – a desirability to some form of welfare conditionality.  While the workfare approach of the Coalition is certainly of a punitive nature, not all forms of conditionality need be so.  As the political theorist Stuart White has argued, a certain structure of conditionality – which White labels ‘fair reciprocity’ – can be conducive in achieving social democratic aims of cooperation, social inclusion and mutual contribution.

Second, the public is so far away from supporting a universal, social rights approach that even if this was a desirable approach, to advocate it would be political suicide.

This means that it is not a question of whether or not Labour supports conditionality, but what formof conditionality it advocates.  As numerous academic studies have shown (such as Lodemel and Trickey’s and Dageurre and Etherington’s), active welfare can take multiple forms.  Welfare activation is naturally about carrots and sticks – but political parties have choices about how much carrot and how much stick to use.

In the early days of the New Labour era, welfare reform took a qualitatively different form to what it did towards the end.  The New Deals were about developing a well-financed, social investment approach to unemployment as opposed to the later obsession with sanctions and threats.  Equally, back-to-work help for harder to reach groups – like the disabled and lone parents – was much more about client-focused, personalised support than it is today.

This is the kind of approach to welfare reform which Ed Miliband should build upon.  Yes, we must support a degree of conditionality to ensure norms of reciprocity and contribution.  But we should also advocate a much more intensive programme of support for those looking for work; one which seeks not just the goal of quickfire re-employment, but that of ensuring benefit claimants get the right skills training and simultaneously remain social included in their communities during times of economic isolation.  Genuinely supporting those in need is a much richer Labour tradition than the craven benefit bashing we have witnessed under Ed Miliband.

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  • The Coalition have taken the initiative on sorting out benefits so that the Working Class are supported, and the Scrounging Class ( benefits abusers ) are forced to work.  This is actually a good thing in principle, but surprise surprise is being implemented in an out-of touch and harmful way.


    Stuff I’ve spotted so far includes:

    Setting up the Universal Credit to mimic a monthly wage.  Great for Jobseekers, but not so great for the ill and infirm.  With some mentally ill people they won’t be able to manage a monthly budget.  They’ll get it wrong, and spend the tale-end of the month hungry.  They may even end up homeless as they spend their rent money, build up arrears, and…  Simply because they’re too ill to do it.  Or too over-powered by addiction in some cases.  The harsh reality of the Mental Health Sector.

    Basically, you’ll need to employ more Care Coordinators to manage their funds/ budgets.  So that they do not starve or end up homeless.  IDS has really not thought this through at all.  His model is not as much ‘good & simple’ as TOO simple.  Under the current system rent can be paid directly to landlords, and sickness benefits come in fortnightly.  So it’s harder for the ill to cock it up.  IDS is removing these safeguards.


    Obviously, cutting Disabled Kids under the Universal Credit is an utterly deplorable act.


    The principle of ‘it always pays more to work’ is a good one, and Labour should embrace this.  But after some number crunching the conclusion I came to was that IDS would have to cut JSA or increase The Minimum Wage to The Living Wage to actually do this.  And, sure enough, when Osborne announced JSA going up by 5% due to inflation in late 2011  IDS complained as it was too high.  Even though living on JSA is a very harsh life, and can make you ill if you’re stuck there for too long.


    Also we have the Benefits Cap.  Fine in principle as it stops people breeding their way out of poverty, rather than working their way out.  But there are 2 problems already.  Firstly £26k pa seems to be too low.  God knows how many people are now facing homelessness.  Would £28k pa be safer?  And secondly we have the lack of London Weighting in the new system.  Under the old rules London Weighting happened, as your rent was covered generally.  No matter where you lived.  Now it’s only covered up to a certain amount.  And the Benefits Cap is the same in Inner London as it is in Inner Manchester.  No London Weighting.  Again, an ill thought out policy based on a fine morality.


    This is the theme I wanted to highlight really.  The morality of what the Torys are doing is fine.  Seriously.  This country is skint, we can’t have scroungers exploiting the system.   There has to be fairness, as well as Taxpayer Accountability.

    It’s the processes they’re bringing in that are highly flawed.  And that is where Labour can capitalise and move ahead.  As the Ill & Infirm suffer, and The Poor face homelessness and ‘Benefits Ghettos’ , Labour can highlight the plight of so many of the vulnerable out there and show the true Victorian agenda The Torys have.

    One where The Poor are disposable, thrown scraps, and are ultimately left to die.  Typically through under-funding Public Services and trying to cover up the terrible suffering that then causes.

    The stuff of the 1980’s, that Cameron wants to take us back to as he tries to justify NOT taxing The Rich.

  • Another sabotage job from the top table – blame unemployment of the unemployed, blame poverty on the poor.

    You couldn’t make it up.

    • GuyM

      Alternatively blame it on hundreds of thousands of non jobs now disappearing, unlimited immigration and a group of badly educated near feral youth.

      • Blame it on the people like you who refuse to participate in society and attack the poor at every opportunity, making sure there are no opportunities unless you’re born with a silver spoon in their mouth as you were.

  • Dodgydosser

    The Tories demonise the unemployed  (blaming the victim)  to hide the inhumanity of cutting welfare costs. 

    I expect anyone who calls themselves a socialist, on coming across someone lying on the floor being kicked in the head, to come to the aid of the person on the floor not join in the kicking!

  • Anonymous

    Ed and the Labour Party are finished. 

  • Jonathan Roberts

    I think the response from the leftist twitterati has been typically ridiculous.  There is a difference between the unwillingly unemployed and the willingly unempleyed.  The former deserve empathy and support, and the latter deserve to be treated with contempt.

    Taxpayers are happy to pay to support those who have fallen on hard times, all they ask in return is that they play be the rules – those rules are that if you can work, you should be doing all you can to find it.

    The standard response to this argument is ‘well what about the tax dodging rich?’  Well the answer is surely that we must go after both – all those who are cheating the system should be punished.

    I’d also like to see much tougher rules on criminal activity.  If you are on benefits and are being helped by society to survive, if you then break the law of that society by commiting a serious crime you should expect to see those benefits cut substantially.  Rights with responsibilities should be the cornerstone of Labour thinking.

  • Anonymous

     But we should also advocate a much more intensive programme of support for those looking for work; one which seeks not just the goal of quickfire re-employment, but that of ensuring benefit claimants get the right skills training and simultaneously remain social included in their communities during times of economic isolation

    Fine words. Just  male cow excrement.

    I have been in former mining villages where the remnants of an old community live on benefits with no hope of ever getting a job. In any normal life they would get up and move to where work is  but under present policies there is no incentive to do so. 

    History is full of former communities which in the past outlived their usefulness and closed down. But the welfare policies of the past 30 years have stopped that happening. And to what end?  

    The reality of life is that jobs change and their location changes. And the skills needed change.

    The education system  – that is the state system – fails to produce leavers with enough skills to be employable…in at least 50% of all cases… 

    And to gain those skills requires a degree of concentration, aptitude and hard work – attitudes NOT fostered by current society – or not by large sections of the populace… many of whom are obese, unfit and kept in unhealthy lifestyles courtesy of an unending flow of money from taxpayers.

    Well the money is no longer there. The taxpayers are fed up and see no need to support people producing unemployable children..

    If you want to continue the trends, then more shame on you.. It’s a failure, and social mobility has collapsed due to such policies.

    But hey… by all means adopt failed policies as your mantra…

    • Anonymous

      I have spent ten years seeking work, and the fact is employers are not interested unless they can get something for employing the disabled , tax breaks or what ever.

      Labour took all three of the work programs from the Americans but removed all the bits which allow the Americans to employ the disabled, google workfare America you will find a different set of rules in America then to what Freud wanted and that socialist Purnell.

      But in the end why the hell would anyone want the problems associated with disabilities, if I was an employer I not employ me and that’s for sure, so unless your not willing to help the employers, all your  doing is cutting benefits

    • I see, so, unless the parents make 20k kill the kids at birth?

  • Anonymous

    Jesus what can I say to labour which would not insult the lot of them.

    The New Deal was a waste of money so was the Pathways to work and so was the workfare unless you do something to make employers take me on, you have to either  pay the employer or give them tax breaks.

    I’m disabled I will not be able to do the same as a person who is fit and healthy, whether you put a jet engine on my wheelchair or fit roller skates to my crutches I will not be able to do the same as a fit and healthy person, end of story, so why the blooming hell would an employer want to employ me.

    Now like  most of what labour has done the disabled have been dumped into jobs in the NHS some people of course with a degree went on to do great work with the Tax offices until labour closed them. Most of the jobs on offer to us were in the Public sector and most ended up working as I say in the NHS for six months , you only have a six month contract, now of course most are not employed they were first out of the door.

    I myself would have thought Miliband would have employed thought Police, after all Miliband knew when he knocked on a door that a person was fit to work just by looking at him.

    fact is labour and the Tories have worked  on welfare, did welfare need sorting out of course it did, was Freud and Purnell the right people yes if your New labour.

    As a Disabled person I feel the Tories are better at welfare then labour have been.


    • Anonymous

      The New Deal was a failure: the Flexible New Deal was a bigger failure: the Work Programme will also fail. When the next general election is held in 2015, assuming the coalition lasts that long, there will STILL be somewhere between 2.5 to 3 MILLION people unemployed and actively looking for work: if Europe tanks and/or the world economy goes into a slump unemployment will be WORSE than this and STAY like this possibly for MANY years.

      I really don’t think that people properly realise how bad things look set to become.

      Any idea of “forcing” people into jobs by means of further “conditionality” and “sanctions” won’t work. Nor will “encouraging” people to travel or to move to new locations in order to secure gainful employment succeed because the lack of paid jobs will be homogeneous throughout the United Kingdom. 

      Perhaps some of us remember Iain Duncan Smith’s advice to the unemployed Merthyr Tydfil in the Welsh Valleys to get on the bus and go to Cardiff in order to find work before realising that Cardiff itself had 9% unemployment and a lack of advertised vacancies suitable for such an influx of nomadic Jobseekers itself at the time. Still, I have to give IDS his due. Unlike Norman Tebbit he did advise the unemployed to get on the bus rather than their bikes! – Merthyr to Cardiff represents a round trip of about 50 miles or so as far as I can remember, so you really would have to be a very athletic Welshman to do that on a daily basis! – and it would be even worse for those trying to commute to a part-time job some ten miles away every day on a unicycle!

      Without growth and economic bounce back to create hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs that the unemployed can get to with enough hours to enable those people to support themselves even the threat of summary execution couldn’t “drive” the unemployed into work. You simply cannot “force” people into jobs that don’t exist or into jobs with employers who don’t want them. Which is why ALL government schemes designed to “force” people into work fail during downturns and in fact, based on past evidence, pretty much universally fail even during booms in a similar although less obvious fashion.

      Byrne truly is a poisonous and disingenuous individual.

      But Miliband as leader of the Labour Party is an absolute disgrace.

      ” Few of us genuinely believe that Miliband believes what he says about welfare, but that he does so out of a desperate, perhaps even cowardly, desire to appeal to mainstream public opinion.”

      Supposing that this sentence is indeed true who in their right minds would invest confidence in a man so cowardly – with such little spine and mettle – to be willing to falsely demonise armies of completely innocent men, women, and families, whom his Party would once have defended, simply in order to win a scintilla of temporary political capital from a fear ridden nation convulsed by international economic melt-down and disaster?

      But seriously: Who now will be willing to vote for a Labour Party led by Ed Miliband – the petroleum jelly man – a man so conspicuously and transparently bereft of a backbone?

      And so it’s “game over” as far as I can see.


      • Anonymous

        Yep totally agree with you.

      • Well yes, but mass “sanctioning” people saves cash. Gotta follow the PRIORITIES, Jeff.

    • Why NOT insult them all when this sort of **** is being thrown around?

      • Anonymous

        I do  insult them, I do not vote for them

  • Stuart

    Broadly agree with you. I’ve just finished reading the Fabian Society’s excellent Solidarity Society e-book, which I would fully recommend to anyone and which I hope Liam Byrne has read. I was also very worried when I heard these rumours about Liam Byrne’s speech, but his article in the guardian today (I think it’s today) is a bit more balanced than those leaked comments suggest.

    For me, the most important point Labour have to make (and that Mr Byrne sort of does) is that a welfare system that asks for responsibility and contribution from people must also be one where people get the same from government – chucking people on the dole and doing bugger all to create new jobs and them stigmatising people for not having jobs is the true evil here. Reciprocity has to, by definition, work both ways.

    But at the same time I don’t think defending things as they are does anyone any good – the polling and focus groups done by the Fabian Society showed people have a much more nuanced view of welfare and redistribution than the Daily Express/Mail. But at the same time, if people feel that they’re being taken for a ride then that just makes it easier for right-wing governments to cut back on select parts of the welfare state. One way or another Labour has to re-build a welfare state that people believe is fair, because this is the best way to protect people that – in times in their life – rely on it. This probably sounds like so much hot air so I really would direct people to that fabian book here – http://www.fabians.org.uk/publications/extracts/the-solidarity-society-online

  • Anonymous

    For Christ’s sake ! Liam “There’s no money left” Byrne. The man is a total joke – a complete  twit.

    But Daniel, before we castigate the coalition too much, can I just remind you it was Jimbo Purnell who foisted David Freud onto Parliament as a “welfare expert”.

  • Anonymous

    Under the old rules London Weighting happened, as your rent was covered generally.  No matter where you lived.  Now it’s only covered up to a certain amount.  And the Benefits Cap is the same in Inner London as it is in Inner Manchester.  No London Weighting.  Again, an ill thought out policy based on a fine morality.

    So you think it is acceptable for a taxpayer on the average wage to pay for someone in benefits in inner London to receive more in (untaxed) Housing Benefits than the taxpayer earns?

    And then you wonder why the money runs out and you lose support? 

    • Anonymous

      I have totally  finished with labour, my days of listening to that bunch have long gone, once upon a time I would have argued with you on the issue now  I cannot be bothered.

    • Considering the Housing shortage out there I’d say ‘yes’.  I think £26k pa is too low, and £28k pa would be safer.  And yes I do feel London Weighting should be paid on benefits.  London Weighting is an extra 3 grand a year, not the older ‘no top limit’ system, after all.   The benefits cap is fine in principle.

      But then I don’t want homelessness going through the roof basically.  This is a bill this Govt can’t dodge, no matter what morality it conjures up to justify leaving people on the street.

      And seeing as only 1/8 of all Housing Benefits claimants in 2007/8 were unemployed I think you’ll find the Scrounging Class is not as big as you think.  7/8’s of claimants are either elderly, disabled, or working on low wages.

      Do you really want to see the Ill & Infirm, and low paid workers for that matter, made homeless by badly thought out Coalition policies?

      • Anonymous

        yes but of course Labour also thought of it with the great socialist Caroline Flint, the problem for people right now is not Labour the socialist against the evil  conservative, it’s which type of conservatism you like the Labour new labour type or the Tory  kind, so far labour did not make to many U turns the Tories will so it likely we might be able to win more from the Tories then we ever could from New labour.

        But fact is I cannot for the life of me tell the difference these days.

      • Anonymous

        Do you really want to see the Ill & Infirm, and low paid workers for that matter, made homeless by badly thought out Coalition policies?

        Of course not.

        But money is not infinite and there are cheaper alternatives like moving to lower cost areas…

        • Anonymous

          If they can of course find a house to rent in those low cost areas, how far it is away from your job or if your disabled your family if they are your carers.

          It easy to say move people to lower cost area, because they are lower cost the waiting list will be much higher, this is why labour came out with priorities for nurses and teachers who of course would not live in social housing, but it brought home that labour were on the side of the workers not the shirkers

    • So you think that driving the poor out of two thirds of the country and away from jobs is acceptable. On leaving people cold and hungry.

      Of refusing to consider alternatives like rent caps, which would SOLVE the problem rather than create misery?

      No, you want the misery for the poor. It’s not like they’re Human, after all.

      • *shrugs* Victorian Values are all the rage in the well-to-do homes.  And that means policies that blast the ill, infirm, poor & generally unlucky, back to the workhouses.

        As IDS et al are happily showing with these cuts and so-called ‘reforms’.

      • Anonymous

        Rent caps would solve the problem. The supply of rental housing would dry up..

        Anyone who read any history would know that – it’s been tried before.

  • Anonymous

    OK lets go down the American ideal of getting anyone on food stamps back into work, the unemployed the sick the disabled. New Deal, Pathways, workfare are all American but the American idea is people work for benefits, and then after a while training and retraining they would move into employment.

    Good article I have talks about a women who has a disability, she now goes around the streets cleaning the streets of litter, to cut cost she does not get a Uniform as full time employee’s do, she does not get a place to sit in the canteen, she does not get a place to change, she comes in picks up her trolley with bucket brush and off she goes, she worked six hours a day and then goes home five days a week.

    Now then comes the good bits all educated people with disabilities are hired to run the  states disability program, some are trained to run the benefits  section, others are trained to become file and clerical, others are trained to become on site disability advisors  which is a good idea. The  New York state also has a program in which not for profit coops are run by disabled people who contract cleaning and office work from the state.

    Notice anything all these people are employed by the state, they all get paid the min wage which is twenty five percent more then they get on benefits.

    Now then the government in America has a program to get  disabled people  to run their own business, for example the canteen and cattering in Iraq is done by disabled soldiers, any cleaning of  offices in the military camps will be offered to disabled people , especially those people who are blind or have had  loss of limbs from within the Military .

    In other words the Americans help the people find work by allowing the disabled to help the disabled.

    Now in my years of looking for work using the New Deal or Pathways to work or workfare I have never been seen by a disabled person, and in fact I was turned down for a job within a job provider because I was to disabled and would not be able to do the job, she then mumbled I was to old, the reason of course I would have needed to be paid the full min wage.

    Most of the people I have seen are young under twenty five and to be honest have no idea about anything, they have this knack of upsetting many people for example one young lady put on cotton  gloves to shake people hands, another would wash her hands after shaking your hand, and another refused point blank.

    New labour is dead, long live Newer labour.

    • We’d need food stamps first.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Depends on what you call a disability of course, some people would say Stress related disability would be normal stress, we all get stress, I do not know you tell me.

    The biggest reason I get turned down for work is simple your to disabled and the insurance would not cover you, so we cannot employ you, I have had this dozens of times so what would you want me to do, commit suicide so the tax payers do not suffer, not forgetting I have worked for 31 years without claiming anything.

    The idea that people can walk into jobs are really funny especially when most ask the person to go through a medical.

    • I consider The Disabled to be those in receipt of Disability Living Allowance.  The Ill are those in receipt of sickness benefits generally.

      So I am Ill and Disabled.  I’m guessing you are as well.

      • Anonymous

        well it seems then according to labour we are both work shy scroungers, after all we are both on here writing..

        • That I doubt.

          • Anonymous

            It’s not  when you consider the WCA put in place by labour, that’s the problem it’s not that labour state  people like us are work shy they put in place the most draconian  method of making us look work shy.

  • Scarlett

    We NEED to support unconditional social security…go back to being a proper labour party

  • Anonymous

    The stuff of the 1980’s, that Cameron wants to take us back to as he tries to justify NOT taxing The Rich.

    which other party did that…….

    • GuyM

      50% tax is “not taxing”?

      • Anonymous

        Of course it is but then again being a Non Dom is not even if they pay a few thousand pound in a fee, the large employers who get away with billions. I bet the people who pay that 50% tend to have a few accounts to help them.

        But fairness is needed

      • You pay NOTHING like 50%. That’s what they pay in the Nordic countries. You’re lying again.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Perhaps you would like to explain how the Nordic countries are all over the last 40 years slipping down the OECD Prosperity Index, a measure of the entire of society?  Even Belgium scores better, a country without a Government.  Of how despite fixed or slightly increasing rates of tax, the proportion of tax payments in all of the Nordic countries has declined in the last 20 years?  Of how many Nordic companies are relocating their HQs to such places as Switzerland?  Can you explain why the allocation of investment in Sweden in the last 3 years saw a large increase in gold holdings, after the Government made Swedish Kroner non taxable if held in gold?

          People don’t like paying tax, and will try to minimise it.  People also know that paying too much tax beggars a country.  It is a pity that parties of the left try to ignore this, as an insight into human behaviour would allow them to tune policies better.  Perhaps a little bit less tax taken, for a larger overall contribution?

          • The Torys always go for low Taxes with a small state.  And the result is usually the neglect of the ill & infirm.

            Hence why The Left taxes more.  It understands the money needed to run The State properly has to come from somewhere.

            It’s a shame so many of the UK populace are so greedy.  That gives The Torys votes every time.  They want low taxes, and genuinely do not care about the ill & infirm.

            What the Left needs to do is waste less on spin and get back to proper Social building and creating a fairer society.  And we need to explain where the Tax money goes a lot better as well.

          • Peter Barnard

            @ Chris Wilcox,
            Bit of a correction needed here, Chris (“The Tories always go for low Taxes ….”).
            That’s what they say ; what they actually do is something else, eg in fiscal 1978/79, net taxes and NI contributions were 33.1 per cent of GDP. In the subsequent 18 years, they were lower than this level in just three years (1992/93, 1993/94 and 1994/95 – and they were recession/emerging from recession years, when the tax/GDP ratio automatically falls anyway).
            In Lady Thatcher’s final year in office, the tax/GDP ratio was 34.9 per cent : higher than under Lord Healey who, allegedly, “squeezed until the pips squeaked.”
            When the Conservatives left office in 1997, the tax/GDP ratio was 34.0 per cent : higher than the inherited ratio.
            (Source : Public Finances Databank, published by HM Treasury).
            It’s the same Conservative spin story on (i) crime (more than doubled between 1979 and 1991, according to figures reported to the police – the figures that Chris Grayling favours) and (ii) “family values” : births “out of marriage” almost trebled between 1979 and 1990 (up from 78,000 to 223,000) when the Grand Matriarch herself was in charge.
            The Conservative spin machine is awesome. If it was a steeplechase, New Labour would lose by a distance.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            @ Peter B,

            as always, your data is most interesting.  I’m honestly not sure what to make of this  set of data, as I’m not convinced that I was arguing a case you are either for or against.  I’m certainly not making a pro or anti any UK party argument.  In this case, I try to contrast “UK” (of either flavour Government) against the Nordic countries, whose higher taxes Newsbot9 appears to favour. It has become fashionable for left wing people to champion the Nordic model; all I do is merely point out that there are some significant flip sides to that Nordic model.  Like the people not liking it when they get their chance to take their money into less high tax regimes, and of course I hint at long-term unaffordability for high taxes, but long-term affordability for less onerous regimes.

          • Daniel Speight

            and of course I hint at long-term unaffordability for high taxes…

            And yet Sweden has had a fairly long-term imposition of high taxes. When I visited the middle class seem to live well, as least as good as ours in the UK. I guess the big difference is the rich are hit much harder than in the UK but as I doubt they are all moving to London.

            I met one of the Wallenbergs, a venture capitalist, a few years ago in Asia and he didn’t seem to be looking for an exit from Sweden.

            It gets interesting when you look at the Gini coefficient on incomes between Sweden and the Britain. In this measurement ‘1’ would represent a society where all the income went to just one man, and ‘0’ would be where everyone had an equal income.

            In the late 2000s before taxes Sweden had a coefficient of 0.426 while the Britain was slightly worse at 0.456. After taxes Sweden’s was 0.259 and the Britain’s 0.345. The Swedes used taxes to improve equality by almost 15% more than us, 39% to 24%.

            Because of the dislike by some of the Swedish model maybe Germany would be a better example to be measured against. Their figures were a massive 0.504 before taxes but a very fair 0.295 after taxes. That’s a 17% improvement over us. I can understand why others see a culture of greed when they look at the Anglo-Saxon countries.

            Now if only it didn’t snow in Sweden.

  • Is talent and political acumen so thin on the ground in the PLP that Bryne is needed in the shadow cabinet?

    It appears to be so.

    This, and an number of other foot-in-mouth incidents, including the ‘there’s no money left’ stunt, suggest that, at best, he is in the wrong job and, at worst, he’s playing for the other team.

  • Anonymous

    I agree a few MPs who should now be  doing time one of them I think is the bloke now the Opposition minister for welfare.

    • Anonymous

      Yes. And the now ex-MP who was one of his predecessors. Not to mention the woman who “rocket the boat” – Bleary-eyed in Holloway….

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        I thought the TV pictures of her holding up a cheque for £13,000 (was it? Something like that) were about as disastrous of the tory minister feeding his children beef burgers during the BSE crisis, or the other tory parading his family after he had been caught out having an immoral relationship.  

        A cheque for £13,000 written out of petty cash, when £13,000 is not much less than the net gain from National Minimum Wage per year, and a smiley bright little chipmunk face prattling on about doing the right thing.  Not a vote winner.  What was she called?  “Tony’s little ray of sunshine”, or some such similar.

        • Anonymous

          yes she was Toni’s little angel

  • I joined Labour after the last election.

    Liam Byrne, and in fact almost all the Shadow team, make me despair.

    I never thought I’d say this, but from here, Gordon Brown looks like he had more socialism in his finger nails than the entire Miliband team.

    Giving succour to the Daily Mail is, indeed, equal to being a traitor:

    • Anonymous

      What angers me so much Paul is that both Byrne and James Purnell had so much to say about “scroungers” yet both were tainted with dishonest “expenses” claims. Purnell is no longer an MP but Byrne should keep his trap shut – he never has anything very intelligent to say anyway. The curse of Blairism  is back – extreme hypocrisy.

      • Anonymous

        And just like the infamous James Purnell poor old Liam Byrne doesn’t appear to be able to afford to buy enough food and groceries to survive out of his modest Parliamentary salary.

        Liam Byrne’s Expenses

        As they say: “It takes a thief to catch a thief”. Perhaps Ed Miliband had something like this running through his mind when decided to appoint Liam Byrne to be Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions entrusted to hammer all those “evil” scroungers hiding under his bed!

        Liam Byrne’s claim for expenses relating to food (£400 per month) is nearly ONE AND A HALF TIMES more than the MAXIMUM amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance (£270.00 per month) over the same period which is supposed to cover food, drink, clothing, heating, lighting, transport and all other costs in respect to an unemployed citizen. 

        Responsibility? Scrounging? Don’t make me laugh!

        You really couldn’t make it up could you?

        • Anonymous

          Exactly Jeff. In my opinion they should not be allowed to claim anything at all for food. If they don’t want to stop that scam, then a generous food allowance should be included to JSA payments, after all the very small amount paid to JSA claimants hardly enables them to eat well.

          There is also the question of self respect. If Byrne had any, he would not have accepted a job in the shadow cabinet, when it is the antics of people like him that cost political parties their reputation and credence

        • From where I stand, Brown’s worse mistake was appointing Purnell (who created the entire ATOS disaster).

        • From where I stand, Brown’s worse mistake was appointing Purnell (who created the entire ATOS disaster).

          • Anonymous

            I can trace ATOS  going way back to Blair and I think beyond they started with DLA, then went to ESA, then DNA data base and the ID cards.

            I suspect Blair will be a special advisor to that lot as well.

          • Anonymous

            Yes Paul and it is worth pointing out that 40% of the people ATOS alleged were fit for work appealed and were successful. It was bad enough Brown selected him for the job after the departure of Peter Hain, and an even greater mistake for Brown to allow Purnell, who,, when he wasn’t prancing round Soho losing his Parlimentary pass, was grooming multi-millionaire “investment banker” David Freud, anmd passing him off as a “welfare expert” when the man knew damn all about poverty. Alas, Jimbo didn’t treat his  political sugar daddy with the respect Freud felt he deserved, ( a shocking lapse of ettiquette from Jimbo, who, privately educated in France should have known better 🙂   and Freud flounced off to the Tories (where he belonged anyway) and was given a title

    • Anonymous

      I joined labour at 12 years of age in 1963 and left at the last election.

  • Anonymous

    Jonathan, The problem is  to try to ingratiate themselves with the Daily Mail/Express readership,  people like Byrne, and Purnell and Field before him try to give the impression that all benefit claimants are the same.

    And – forgive me for saying so – you trot out the old “rights with responsibilities” cliche’ – the New Labour version of that tired old Tory cliche’ “In Europe, but not governed by Europe”.

    Where are the jobs Jonathan?
    At a  time of high unemployment it is rather pointless to alienate people, like Byrne is doing because the jobs are not there anyway.

    And of couirse, Byrne is parrotting the twaddle of Grayling and Duncan-Smith. People will begin to think there is no difference between the two parties – Byrne and Duncan-Smith: two cheeks of the same ass, in fact.

    • Jonathan Roberts

      Alan you miss my point – perhaps wilfully.

      I don’t understand why the left has a problem with the ‘rights with responsibilities’ ethos.  Does the left not recognise that unemployed people have a responsibility to the society that supports and funds them?  Taxpayers willingly pay their taxes to help the worse off, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask that recipients of that money who can work should do all they can to find it.

      I agree that the lack of job growth is devastating, but with respect that does not invalidate my point.  New jobs will help those who want to find work, not those who do everything they can to avoid it.  There are people who refuse to work even if there is a job waiting for them – they genuinely exist and you know it.  These people are breaking the contract they have with taxpayers, and cheating hard working people.  Personally, I am sick of the left making excuses for them, it is hugely damaging to us politically and frankly immoral.

      As I say, the unwillingly unemployed deserve help, sympathy and respect.  Those who can work but choose not to deserve no respect at all in my view. 

      • Anonymous

        Jonathan, Yes of course some people abuse the system – just like MPs and ministers like Duncan-Smith, Blears, Gove, Purnell, Maude, Kaufmann, Jacqui Smith etc abused the expenses system. But as other MPs and Ministers were quick to point out, with great frequency, they were not all like that. However whether they were cheating or not they were all quick to claim it was all a “misunderstanding” or a “mistake”  and they got very upset when one or two of their number got carted off to court. It was only little minnows like pompous old Lord Hanningfield and
        that little pipsqueak David Chater who did time, most got away with it and many including current members of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet got away with it, and were promoted.

        Don’t they have “responsibilities” as well as “rights” as well?. Because if they do, many more of them should have been gujsts of Her Majesty as well.

        We have people like Stuart Bell  who haven’t tabled a question in the House in years, and doesn’t respond to his constituents letters (well documented in the press), we have Liam Fox and his (not so little) scams – lets start talking about people like that and their rights and responibilities. If a JSA claimant breaks the rules he/she is prosecuted – lets extend that to MPs  – after all it is the same tax payers who are fleeced by them –  but, with respect, people like yourself don’t seem so exercised about things like that. Yet there are very many MPs who make the laws for the little people who break the law themselves

        I repeat Jonathan, it’s all v ery well trotting out the old cliche’s and if we didn;’t have a severe unemployment problem, you might be justified, but where arfe all thjose jobs that, in your world, so many people are so stuiously avoiding to take?

        • Jonathan Roberts

          You’re avoiding my point again.

          Of course MPs who abused expenses should be punished – but that’s not what this debate is about and you’re using it as a diversion tactic. 

          When I stood as a candidate in 2010, I visited a factory where the management told me they had 20 vacancies and were crying out for local people to join their workforce.  Knocking on doors that same afternoon in the same town, I met a guy who was around 30 years of age, told me he’d never worked a day in his life because he ‘couldn’t find work’.  When I told him of the factory job available, and offered him a lift then and there to meet the manager, he refused saying he doesnt want a job like that.  Yes, a man with no qualifications, who said ‘school was a waste of time’, and who had never had any work experience, thought he was too good to work on the factory line.  As a result he turned down a job and remained on benefits having his life paid for by the hardworking tax payer.

          These are the people I’m opposed to.  Labour should not be on his side, they should be on the side of his neighbours who work hard and/or do all they can to find work.

          Too many on the left stick up for the scroungers at the expense of decent folk who are either in work, looking for it, or out of work due to ill health.

          • Anonymous

            Jonathan, You are obviously opf the Purnell/Freud tendancy. How kind of you to offer the man a lift to the factory. Perhaps he just felt you were interfering?

            Forgive me, but your cliche’s bore me  First the “rights and responsibilities” riff from the Blair/Blunkett school, now the “hardworking families” of every other fifth rate politician.

            My point is this – if people like Byrne want to talk about the evils of “scrounging” then we ought not to be afraid to point out that he is a scrounger himself – and a hypocrite and a fake.

            And threse “hardworking” MPS scrounge and scrounged far more than people on £60 a week.

          • Anonymous

            Something else occurs to me, Jonathan. You say this employer had 30 jobs which he could not fill?

            Did it cross your mind at all to wonder why this was, rather than just have the knee-jerk reaction of lazy u7nemployed people dodging the column?

            The fact that 30 jobs remain unfilled might be because this employer is not a good one, he may offer poor conditions or very low pay and long hours.

            With respect, I think you should have been canvassing for the Conservative Party! (I assume as you use the term “we” you are Labour, unless it is the Royal we)..

            Please don’t think I am implying bad faith, but it is amazing the number of right-wing Labourites who go out canvassing who come back with similar tales. I recall before her expenses disgrace the boat-rocker (Blears) rehearsed a little story on radio about how she was out canvassing at midday on a weekday (as if!), when she chanced upon a family all still in their night attire watching daytime TV (of course). I wonder if her story was any more true than her expense claims.

            I ask you again – where are all the jobs that everyone is so anxious to avoid?. And how do you sit in judgement on, say a 50 year old who is out of work and despite much letter writing and application form fillin-in remains unemployed. And what gives you the right to judge anyway?

          • Jonathan Roberts

            Hi Alan, I don’t want to revive this too much.  I have respect and synmpathy for anyone out of work who is trying to get back in the game. It must be truly dreadful.

            I also agree that the lack of job growth is hugely damaging. For me, the importance of cutting things like employers contributions to NI for all new jobs created cannot be overstated.  It would doubtlessly encourage investment from businesses small and large. Cameron promised to be a salesman for the country and so far he has failed to create the business environment suitable for job growth.

            The factory I mentioned was a good employer.  I had a tour of the facility before sitting down with a manager for a chat. I spoke to some of the workers there briefly who seemed happy.   The available jobs were due to eastern european migrant workers constantly coming in, doing a few months work and then vanishing.  They would try and hold new vacancies for as long as possible to ensure local people (who were more likely to stick around) had every opportunity to apply. This strategy usually failed.  The vacancies were also I seem to remember because of a new contract win but I can’t remember the details now.

            I don’t run from my New Labourness, and I know it must be frustrating for those further to the left seeing people with my point of view.  It’s just what I believe, and it’s not something that can be helped I’m afraid!

            Rest assured I am far from a Tory. I worked my arse off in my campaign at considerable personal expense – I wouldn’t have done that if I had any doubts as to my allegiance!

          • Anonymous

            Jonathan. Alas, you came along a few years too late – Blair and Mandy would have been proud of you.

            Factories which employ Eastern European workers aren’t ec
            exactly noted for their largesse where pay and copnditions are concerned. You say it is a “good” employer. The workforce “seemed” happy. You have, I take it, worked in the factory concerned to discover this for yourself, in addition to the tea and chat and tour of the works?.

            As for all your “personal ex;pense” I am sure you will get your reward in heaven – I doubt that New Labour will be back in power any time soon to reward you.

          • Jonathan Roberts

            haha well thanks for that! You may be right. But don’t expect a true left wing Labour party to be returned to Government again. 

            No broad left party has been elected to Government in the last 40 years, and no left wing Government has ever served a full second term.  The country simply doesn’t want socialism – but it does want a viable alternative to a Conservative Government.  This is precisely why New Labour did so well at the ballot box.

          • Anonymous

            Jonathan, Face facts. Blair’s majority was slashed from 166 to 67 at the 2005 general election. People in general were tiring of the New Labour “purer-than-pure” hypocrites that infested Blair’s cabinet.

            If you are one of those people who  dream of David Miliband taking over the party and transporting you back to 1997 – forget it.

            People DO want a “viable alternative” to the Conservatives. The trouble is Lib Dems and New Labour are so similar to the genuine Conservatives, people will stick with the devil they know. And they won’t want a cheap copy of Blair which is all D Miliband can offer. The man who wants to “take on” Iran. Another warmongering pretty boy? I don’t think the majority of the Labour membership will buy that one.

          • Jonathan Roberts

            Fine Alan. I am not going to get into an argument. 

            For me, the worst thing Labour can do is convince itself that the country wants socialism, and think ‘You know what? Michael Foot was right afterall’.  Do that and we’ll be in opposition until 2030.

          • Anonymous

            Nobody is suggesting  a return to the Michael Foot days, but are you seriously suggesting people want a return tlo the hypocritical days of Blair, and some of the objects that disgraced politics that supported him – the Mandelsons, the Jacqui Smiths, the Blunketts, Byers, Milburn , Blearsand Hoon.

            If you truly believe that the country would want all that garbage back then you are seriously deluded. One of the biggest reasons the country became sick of New Labour was because there were so many of that stripe in it’s ranks

  • Ah, right, so, parents who take time off to care for their kids need contempt. People who can’t find work because of disability need contempt. When the economics would COST a mother cash to go back to work because of childcare, she needs contempt.

    Typical Tory thinking.

    Try making it POSSIBLE for those people to work with the right support. And I see, if you’re charged with a crime by uniformed thugs then you should just go away and die.

  • Rot, Chris, it’s FULLY thought out. The social cleansing is INTENDED.

    They know precisely what they’re doing with the HB reforms (and screw the cap, try the massive slash and ongoing erosion in it’s value for claimants compared to actual rents!)

  • Anonymous

    Which kind of socialist the New Labour type or the Miliband type. is that  not the problem we do not have to many socialist these days.


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