“Tory Welfare Waste” – why Reeves’ new attack line will cut through with voters

26th November, 2014 6:50 am

Rachel Reeves will make a speech today slamming the Tories’ handling of the welfare system, and will trial what looks like could potentially become a recurring line for Labour in the election run-up. “Tory Welfare Waste” is the takeaway line from today’s speech, and is likely to stick in the craw of the Tories, who have spent years trying to paint Labour as the party of profligate welfare spending.

Rachel Reeves

But annoying your opponents is not the only effective attack line. Fortunately, this hints to a shrewder positioning than that.

As Reeves will point out, the ideological manner in which the Conservative Party has gone about welfare reform has not been cheap:

“Today we are publishing new independent research which shows that David Cameron’s Government has spent £5 billion more than it planned on tax credits over the course of this Parliament.”

For a Government hell-bent on an austerity agenda with such a focus on making “benefit scroungers” pay, the amount of unnecessary money they’ve splashed out on their welfare policies is startling.

Take the now infamous Universal Credit. The introduction of Universal Credit has been mired in chaos, and has been widely perceived as a disaster from start to – well, not finish, because incompetent planning has left the policy in such a semi-permanent state of delay that there is sadly no end in sight for Duncan Smith’s failure. And what an expensive failure it has been: as LabourList reported yesterday, the DWP had aimed to have a million people on the scheme by this point, yet are currently 982,150 behind that figure. The cost so far? A cool half a billion pounds.

Bedroom Tax, too. Another policy that strikes society’s most disadvantaged hardest and does not prove cost effective: by pushing people out of the council houses they can no longer afford and into private housing, the housing benefit bill has exploded in many places.

All in all, Labour identify £25 billion overspend in welfare over the past four years because of failed policies and the state having to pick up the tab for companies who don’t pay their workers enough to get by on. This isn’t the end of it – the failure to tackle low-pay will another billion pounds in the parliament. While all this happens, of course, the Tories plan billions in tax cuts for people earning over £40k a year. Whatever happened to the balanced budgets of tomorrow?

However, what is so smart about the “Tory Welfare Waste” line is that it does not solely apply to budgetary concerns. Many people do not spend their time fretting over financial restraints in governmental departments (as important as they are), but are bothered by a different kind of government waste.

Waste of talent.

This Government is failing young people. The young are the new face of poverty – Reeves will highlight that 700,000 young people are unemployed, while those lucky enough to find a job cannot escape poverty.

Wasted money. Wasted time. Wasted talent.

This is exactly the sort of thing that will cut through. The Tories have had the front foot on welfare for too long. We can’t let them get away with it. They aren’t just wasting lives; they’re screwing the economy to do it.

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • David H

    And will the Labour promise to raise the minimum wage to £8 by 2020 make any difference to “The state having to pick up the tab for companies who don’t pay their workers enough to get by on.”??? That’s the comeback that this attack welcomes. I’d love to see a Labour promise to phase in the Living Wage: that would truly make a difference in the area of welfare spending.

    • Leon Wolfeson

      Remember, the plan is basically a CAP on minimum wage raises, and business will plan according.

      A living wage is one step, but it’s still unambitious. A party of the left would, afaik, be considering things like a Living Wage.

      • treborc1

        Labour did think about it for a while but I suspect Chuka said nope .

        • Leon Wolfeson

          Yes, I said a party of the left. Today.

          Even the centralist Greens have gone for it, although several have admitted that their energy policy means it wouldn’t eliminate poverty because of the scale of the energy price rises they’d be looking at.

          • treborc1

            New labour old Tories nothing much changes really.

  • Olly

    The idea that Reeves can ‘cut through’ to the electorate with this line of attack with only five months to the election is rubbish. Of course she can’t. Partly because Rachel Reeves can’t ‘cut through’ to anyone – she is an automaton who seems incapable of speaking engagingly. Also, the Tories have been pushing their line on welfare for three years now, and it has been very effective. Labour needed a coherent line to take much sooner than this late moment. Finally, Labour’s reputation as a party that overspends has been drummed in by the Tories, again, for three years. This has worked well for them. The notion that Reeves can turn this around, when Labour still doesn’t have an economic policy to speak of, is utterly ridiculous. Attacking the Tories on the issue of wasting money simply won’t work because it’s Tory territory. It’s an absurd approach.


      It’s not absurd. The Tories are vulnerable to a subtle and nuanced attack on their so-called strengths. There is no economic plan – long or short terms it is nothing but a prolonged fiscal and seemingly self defeating squeeze that the poor must suffer primarily. Also it seems that only Labour is worried about the deficit as the government have been embarked on a mini spending spree – like Hunt found £700M just like that! £600M for free school meals – just like that etc etc. More boldness please!

      • treborc1

        I think honesty more then boldness

      • barry

        Olly is right. The Tories have a 25 point lead over Labour on the economy – the largest gap since 1991. The public don’t trust us – they regard us as a party that overspends and doesn’t have a coherent line on the deficit. Patrick’s suggestion of “more boldness” (code for – let’s make a large number of unbudgeted commitments) would absolutely guarantee even greater distrust amongst the electorate and disaster at the GE. We need an coherent economic policy.

        • Leon Wolfeson

          The UK is facing deflation. Borrowing is not just sensible, it’s going to be needed. And not more QE, either, which I can guarantee would be the Tory option, hammering pension returns again and helping only the Bankers.

      • treborc1

        But of course labour are also following the Tory line in welfare. for example Miliband you will only get out what you have put in which means if your born disabled or have an accident illness early in life you get less.

        labour Tory the same colour

  • treborc1

    So a bit of New labour hype from Pope I bet he has dreams about the resurrection of Blair or that Progress will make a move soon.

    I’m not interested in what the Tories are doing it’s in the open and I know what it is.

    What I need to know is what will labour do, what is labour plans for people like me, I know that Reeves an ex Banker who left banking to to help people a real fairy tail, stated Labour will hammer down more then the Tories and on that I r4eally believe it labour has an issue of trying to out do the Tories because the middle class are out to protect themselves and labour is now middle class.

    Freud is labour’s ATOS is labour, the mess we are in now is down to a labour party which saw the disabled as scroungers cheats and work-less and they became a target for labour even before the crises low benefits rises to try and force people back to work but even lower for the pensioners .

    What the hell happened to labour. it’s move to the right and then putting right wingers like Freud, Purnell, and Byrne and now the pure New labour Progress Reeves , who loves hammers.

    I can tell you now this is doing nothing to make me think labour has any ideas just soap boxes and Band wagons most of labour’s whole policy for the deficit is to say sod all about it and go for easy vote winners which are pretty meaningless to most of us.

    The bedroom tax is nice but in Scotland the SNP sorted in Wales they are going to sort it by paying a lump sum to England and with Miliband hatred of anything socialist he is so scared of saying council housing or social housing or anything which is to the left in case his right wing front bench sneer at him or Alexander knocks on his door saying hello Progress here where are you going .

    This article is another from Pope which tells us how nasty naughty the Tories are without asking the real question what is labour solution.

    People like me are worried sick over the Tories, but we are just as worried over labour, and boy is Miliband lucky that we in England/Wales do not have a left leaning party like the SNP because I would be in it like a shot.

    Tell us what you would do have a go come on try it and you never know we may say yes I can accept that, if not I think people like me who did not vote in 2010 for labour may think OK I will give you a chance but no more crap articles like this, tell us your plans for the sick the disabled and the poor the pensioners all groups labour no longer speak for all groups which can if they vote make a difference.

    But I’m afraid hammers are out and maybe work camps with signs saying work sets you free would be a bad idea, so your going to have to sit down and come out with a plan no soap boxes and people like Pope are not helping they are the issue

    • Michael Murray

      You obviously won’t be voting for us then.

      • treborc1

        Us being New labour progress right wingers like you….. Nope I will not

        • Michael Murray

          You are confusing me with some one else.

          • treborc1

            Somebody else with your name on labour list doubt it.

        • Michael Murray

          I have always believed that people on benefits or who are dependent on welfare in this country are treated shamefully. I have never been a member of Progress or a supporter of its policies.

          • treborc1

            Well some of your comments would make me think your New labour mate. You change with the wind. if your supporting the disabled god help us all

      • Leon Wolfeson

        No. And bluntly, I don’t have time for Labourites who still claim to be left wing these days.

        The modern Labour party seems to have mistaken 1984 for a manual;

        “it rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist
        movement originally stood, and it does so in the name of Socialism”

    • Daniel

      I’d rather vote Greens as a protest than UKIP – Thacherism on steroids would do a hell of a lot more damage than even the Tories would!

  • Doug Smith

    “Cameron’s Government has spent £5 billion more than it planned on tax credits”

    Goodness! Let’s all pull together to elect a Labour government that will hit these hand-outs on the head as a top priority.

    I for one am hoping Labour will impose austerity efficiently and effectively. The only way to produce the aspiration culture that is required is by removing the ‘something for nothing’ feather-bedding enjoyed by work-shy scroungers.

    • Leon Wolfeson

      Well yes, of course, that’s why the benefit cap will exist.

      As has been noted, it would have been breached if it already was in force, so there will be sharp cuts in benefits when it’s brought in…and every three years after that.

  • Michael Murray

    An excellent article Connor. Another example of waste that we should be committed to abolishing is the unnecessary expenditure the Tories and the Lib Dem stooges have incurred by allowing private companies to make profits from the delivery of welfare to benefit claimants. The administration, organisation and delivery of welfare should be entirely tithe province of the state.

    • treborc1

      yes which of course was a labour plan and idea…

      • Michael Murray

        So you are disagreeing with me?

        • treborc1

          Why not it’s so easy, Labour offered Charities they offered Unions they offered Churches the chance to take on the paying of benefits so making the DWP much smaller and these Charities Unions and Churches would be taking on those tasks as Private companies making money.

          So like Pope you attack the Tories for doing what labour stated they’d do.

          • Michael Murray

            So you don’t agree that welfare should be entirely delivered by the state and not private companies?

          • Leon Wolfeson

            In fact, renationalisation should only be one option considered.

            There’s space for transferring functions from for-profit companies to charities or non-profit mutuals as well, and those should be considered.

          • treborc1

            Why? on this I disagree all you do is then make a charity a company and they then pay the min wage while the DWP lay off it workers which will have a better working conditions and pensions, no good making profits from the workers.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            I suggest you read the New Economics Foundation’s paper on this.

            Basically, the idea that the state is always the best non-profit provider is often wrong. And there should be decent pensions available for everyone, not just state workers.

          • treborc1

            Well I think after working for Charities now for twenty years of my disability I think I’ll stick with the Government paying them out

          • Leon Wolfeson

            So you’ve read the paper, right?

          • Michael Murray

            But if the Tories are returned to power with a majority you can be assured that what’s left of the Welfare State will be placed in the hands of private companies. They are the ones who will be profitting from the welfare budget and less and less will be paid out in benefits to claimants.

          • treborc1

            So what they would with labour as well or did you forget the New labour.

          • Michael Murray

            Benefits are not charity and should never be delivered by charities. Many charities waste far too much money on salaries and perks and an insufficient proportion of the money contributed by the public gets to the front line. Putting benefits delivery in the hands of Charities would only stigmatise benefit claimants further.

            Not -for – profit organisations can be good at running institutions such as care homes when they can re-invest any profits but how can we be sure that such organisations won’t just reward themselves with larger and larger salaries, creating another drain on the benefits bill and reducing further the money that should be going to Benefit claimants? The only reliable mechanism for organising and ensuring the safe and ethical delivery of benefits to vulnerable and needy people is the State. But then I am Old Labour and know what a wonderful country this was before Thatcher and her clones launched their pathological dismembering of the State.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            You’ve not read the NEF’s paper on this, have you?

            I get you’re a big stateist, but not everyone on the left is. Dosn’t make us any less on the left.

          • Michael Murray

            Define the Left. For me it’s key aims are equality, redistribution, public ownership and a strong role for the State.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            I’m not here to try and break your Politically Correct view of the “left”.

          • Michael Murray

            I have now read the NEF’s paper. It’s main premise seems to be that the Welfare State is not sustainable and needs to be replaced by some woolly synthesis of Cameron’s Big Society and Blair’s Third Way which, of course, are the Tory way. This revisionist document may impress you but it doesn’t impress me.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            You’ve read something else entirely.

          • David Battley

            “Putting benefits delivery in the hands of Charities would only stigmatise benefit claimants further.”

            Yes, I felt particularly victimised when I took those NCT classes…

          • Sylvia

            Many Charities already pay their staff, especially senior staff, nearly as much as FTSE 100 comanies’ CEOs. No, keep all public services in-house so they are guaranteed decent wages & terms & conditions of employment.
            Can you name some charities who run Care Homes? I’ve never found one. They are all private & exist to make huge profits for the owners.

          • Michael Murray

            If you are saying that all public services should be run and delivered by the state without the involvement of profit making companies I entirely agree with you. I assume your concluding question is rhetorical.

          • gunnerbear

            What a wonderful country….was this during the Three Day Week or the Winter of Discontent……

  • Michael Murray

    And for that reason you disagree with me?

  • treborc1

    The same question we the disabled keep asking, and what labour seems unable to answer. WHAT IS YOUR POLICY.

    Come on tell us and then lets have a real elections.

    what is the final solution.

    Pope you must have an idea tell us since your good at attacking the open policies of the Tories.

    Of course I do not back the Tories on welfare it’s crippling me, but the fact is it was when you were in power.

  • Graeme Hancocks

    “Whatever happened to the balanced budgets of tomorrow?” It was smoke and mirrors.

  • Theoderic Braun

    As a politician Rachel Reeves is simply awful. It’s not her fault that she hasn’t been gifted to shine in the political arena but she comes across about as persuasive and charismatic as a wet fish on a fishmonger’s slab.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      ‘she comes across about as warm, persuasive and charismatic as a wet fish on a fishmonger’s slab’.

      What you mean whereas Ian Duncan Smith doesn’t?

      • Theoderic Braun

        On the same scale of charmlessness I would them a similar score. Which is the problem. Labour’s representative should be a whole lot better than that.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    Your problem is that while austerity is expensive, Labour are committed to austerity.

  • Obsidian Blade

    So when is Rachel Reeves going to commit to scrapping the WCA and PIP reforms and re instate the ILF. Labour need to apologise for allowing the insurance industry (such as UNUM) to infiltrate the social security system to the extent that the discredited neoliberal biopsychosocial model of disability has become the dominate discourse. Labour need to commit to including the disability rights campaigners who have been fighting the current reforms in any discussion of what replaces the WCA instead of relying on the big charities who tend to be in bed with the corporate’s who drove the very changes we have been fighting. Until Labour answers this they will still be viewed as part of the corporate nexus that controls political discourse in our society

  • driver56

    Rachel Reeves will never get through to voters simply because she has not got the people skills or the oratory skills. However if she makes the speech with some passion she might at best raise interest. Labour should be on an all out attack at this moment as we have all the ammunition needed to fight on all fronts. We need to unashameadly attack the coalition and UKIP. Above all stop apologising for the financial crisis, Rebut this false allegation every time the Tories flippantly say, The mess labour left us in. It was their friends the bankers that caused the world recession and financial collapse. even George Bush said it. so front benchers go after the opposition all guns blazing.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    A very important speech and the facts need to be set out to the public. This government’s policies seem to make no sense. Cuts that cost more to try to implement than they save but are totally divisive.
    Like everything else they do; there is no money so the poorest have to be given a good kicking, and if they are disabled then so much the better, and yet there are always billions to spare on any Tory scheme that feathers the nest of private shareholders and high earners.
    Reeves is right to point out that the Tory rhetoric does not stack up. It would also be more effective if Labour supporters got behind her on this as it is a message that needs to be punched through.
    We do however need to have in place polices that show how we are going to be better and above all, fairer. Then perhaps more voters would use their vote rather than waste it on sticking two fingers up at all of us be not voting or voting UKIP.

    • Leon Wolfeson

      But, again, Labour are committed to austerity and the same plans. Those expensive plans.

      • Sylvia

        Unfortunately you’re right. When are they going to learn that we do NOT need austerity like the Tories? We need to spend on infrastructure to get the economy moving & people in decent paying jobs.

  • Ben Gardner

    We already have a system where millions of low paid workers are subsidized by the state and couldn’t survive on wages alone. The way the Tories are going will end up with all low skilled work being transferred into a ‘Workfare’ limbo where people are working but don’t have real jobs.

    • Guest

      No, that’s the way YOU are going.

  • Ben Cobley

    Good stuff, liking it – and I absolutely don’t agree with all the whingeing and whining about Rachel Reeves on here. She’s an impressive and intelligent politician who can communicate with ordinary people and also makes an effort to understand them.


    • Doug Smith

      Well said.

      All power to Reeves elbow. I particularly admired her lobbying of Brown (when PM) for more privatisation of the NHS.

  • Jamie

    Rachel reeves is just one of many reasons why labour are losing Scotland. If Labour do not try to get back to even some of their roots, the old labour socialist roots, they will decline in England too. It sometimes seems like they are not offering a lot better than the Tories. Being a bit better is not better enough.

    This something for nothing she was going on about on Sunday politics is infuriating and why many people are calling labour red Tories. Get a bloody grip before it’s too late.

  • Sylvia

    But do watch out for the 11% rise that MPs are going to get. Has it been accepted by Labour MPs? If so, voters will, rightly, shout loudly when not even essential public service staff are not getting even 1% they should have!!

  • robertcp

    Reversing polcies that are wasting money is clearly a good idea. However, I do find the tone of Reeves depressing. I would actually like Labour to be unambiguously in favour of the welfare state without trying to out-Tory the Tories. This is perfectly compatible with being realistic and pragmatic.


LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends