The plain fact is that the benefits system doesn’t work properly

5th January, 2012 11:31 am

It seems a long time ago in the wake of Maurice Glasman’s New Statesman article detailing his steadfast support for Ed Miliband, but earlier this week Liam Byrne wrote a piece in the Guardian pointing out that this year is the 70th anniversary of William Beveridge’s famous report into social insurance. Byrne looked back at the principles that underpinned the Beveridge Report, and considered what had happened to the benefits system since the 1940s. In his article he echoed the language not only of Beveridge, but also of Ed Miliband in his conference speech last year when he said:

“Even after reforms of recent years, we still have a system where reward for work is not high enough. Where benefits are too easy to come by for those who don’t deserve them and too low for those who do. So if what you want is a welfare system that works for working people then I’m prepared to take the tough decisions to make that a reality.”

Beveridge himself, writing in his report into Full Employment in a Free Society in 1944, summarised the Beveridge Plan as ‘designed to secure, by a comprehensive scheme of national insurance, that every individual on condition of working while he can and contributing from his earnings, shall have an income sufficient for the healthy subsistence of himself and his family.’  (my emphasis added)

Beveridge was clear, as is Byrne, that no-one should take from the system without putting in, which is why he called it ‘social insurance’ not ‘free money for anyone who fancies it.’

What Byrne didn’t do in his article, unless I missed it, was call for a return to eugenics, involuntary euthanasia, compulsory athlete’s foot or witchcraft in the national curriculum, which you might have thought if you only read the intemperate and ill-informed responses. Some of Byrne’s attackers simply imagined what he’d said, and attacked that. They imagined he’d attacked disabled people, or people who’d lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It’s hard to argue with people whose senses are so dulled by fury and grievance that they attack you for what you haven’t said. There are many people, some of them quite young, who think the way to make a name or get noticed is to conduct public debate through a megaphone. But Byrne’s article is thoughtful, nuanced and balanced, and his arguments deserve to be heard and understood. Older, wiser heads – MPs such as John Denham and Caroline Flint – get this, and engaged in a comradely fashion. That’s the difference between those who’ve been in the party 30 years and those who’ve been in the party ten minutes, I suppose.

Another group, many self-identifying as ‘left wing’, attacked Byrne for daring to talk about reforming the welfare system at all. They accused him of adopting a Tory agenda by mentioning reform. Some demanded that he be removed from the Labour shadow cabinet, others that he leave the Labour Party altogether. The logic of this position is that the benefits system in Britain is so perfect that it cannot be improved; furthermore, that Labour’s policy at the next election should be to return the benefits system to the exact state it was in in May 2010, in order to recreate the perfection. Before you accuse me of reductio ad absurdum then I invite you to outline what reforms you would like to see? Unless the ‘left’ can come up with its own reform programme, then it will sit to the right of the Conservative Party, in favour of conservation of the status quo, and against all change. They may as well put the welfare state up for ownership of the National Trust, and we can all visit it on our days off.

The plain fact is that the benefits system doesn’t work properly, and as a result millions of pounds are misdirected or wasted. It fails to help people into jobs, but instead allows people to languish for years, sometimes decades without work. It fails to identify and help real needs, such as mental illness, which create barriers to people finding work. It lacks flexibility and common sense. It also creates the conditions whereby some people can choose not to work, even though they could, which is the precise opposite of what Beveridge had in mind when he identified ‘Idleness’ as one of the five giants to be slain.

Ask any pollster what they know about public attitudes towards the benefits system, and they’ll tell you the same thing: a majority of people think the system is unfair, that the wrong people get the most money, and that some people simply take the piss. Crucially, most people blame the Labour Party for the mess, and consider that not only did we create the conditions for people to be deliberately workless, but that we welcome them. These social attitudes are hardening in the slump, according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey. They are most prevalent amongst the people closest to the edge: people working more hours but taking home less money. If you’ve been canvassing Labour-voting areas recently, you’ll know this to be true. If we become the party of welfare, not the party of work, we may as well not show up to the next election.

Labour has a simple choice at the next election: a platform with chimes with the public’s view, which seeks to fix the broken system, and which gets the most help to the people who need it the most, or we can tell the people they are wrong, that the system works fine, and that we won’t touch it. I’m no expert, but telling people they’re wrong and we know best doesn’t strike me as a sound basis to win an election.

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  • Isn’t the problem about concentrating on welfare reform in isolation as if it can achieve far more than it can?  Without far greater access to secure, flexible (for families) and reasonably paid work and to secure and adequate housing (whatever the tenure) there are serious limitations on what welfare reform can achieve.

    • Nonsense! You can force people into grinding poverty, minimising how much they can drain from the system. It’s about “reducing the bill”, see, nothing else *matters*

      /Tory

  • John Slinger

    Well said Paul. The bulk of responses to Liam Byrne’s article, at a glance, seemed to be saying that Labour politicians, including from Byrne, who let’s remind ourselves, is Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary and Co-ordinator of the party’s Policy Review, (whom one might have thought had a special remit to discuss such matters) ought not to even consider the concept of reforming welfare. It would be disingenuous of us to insist on reform of the way business operates, of the City, of taxation, the housing market etc, yet declare a no-go zone for radical ideas when discussing reform of welfare or benefits. 

    We must be confident enough in ourselves to tackle this subject, or voters will not come back to supporting us. Indeed we have a special responsibility to come up with progressive policies on how to reform welfare, as only Labour can ensure that there will be fairness in the future. A confident, forward-looking party, should be able to have debates about these issues in the spirit of just that – debate. It is a shame that the debate on policy formulation can’t be conducted in a more comradely fashion, in a spirit of openness and of respect for one another’s perspectives and acknowledgement that we are all in the same party and seek similar outcomes.

    Pragmatic Radicalism, which I edit/organise, may well run one of our Top Of The Policies events on welfare reform in the coming months, at which people will be able to pitch their ideas. We ran a successful TOTP event at Labour Conference in 2011. The whole point is that people from the ‘great and the good’ to ordinary activists like me, can present a new policy idea in 2 mins, followed by 2 mins Q&A then a FPTP vote to select the top policy (and a…you’ve guessed it…Top 10). You can find out more at http://www.pragmaticradicalism.co.uk and follow us on twitter (@PragRad:disqus)  for updates about future events/publications.  It’s not about who you are, or which ‘wing’ of the party you’re from, it’s about the quality of the idea, which will be judged by those attending. The events are also fun and fast-paced – unlike the usual fringe-type event. Oh, and they’re in pubs, with the likelihood of a free drink for attendees!

    Our FIRST EVENT OF 2012 is on 17 Jan in the Barley Mow pub in Westminster – it’s on skills and is sponsored by @unionlearn and  PragRad 
    unions21  (thanks v much to both). If you’re interested in presenting an idea on skills, please get in touch.   @JohnSlinger:twitter 

    • Anonymous

      Bloody hell mate you had thirteen years and look at the mess you made , not only of welfare but the country

      • Oh yes, because your Tories would have done SO much better, given they called for even less bank regulation. At least we’ve had the NHS for 13 years longer than otherwise.

    • Anonymous

      ” as only Labour can ensure that there will be fairness in the future.”

      Come of it, stop talking rubbish. James Purnell set David Freud up as a “welfare expert” and then Freud sold himself to the Tories for a Knighthood. A political whore.

      There is little to choose between the rhetoric of New Labour and the Tories, and the people who object so much to “scrounging” – Purnell, Grayling and Byrne, in partkicular, have all been caught out fiddling their expenses, therefore they are hypocrites.

      However many fancy names you give your talking shops, how often you litter your prattle with the word “fairness”, the fact is you are no better than the Conservatives.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve just gone to the weblink Slinger gave and it starts off:


        Policy in the pub –
        15 ideas for the future of UK skills in 30 minutes”

        Facile, pitiable and condescending. Pragmatic horse manure more like it.

  • Anonymous

    As implicitly stated in this article Beveridge’s welfare state went hand in hand with pursuit of full employment. While people like Byrne make hay criticising the former I have not heard one solitary voice in recent years raised in favour of the latter. Work and welfare are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other and during one of the biggest economic downturns that any of us can remember when cuts are rampant, unemployment rising and the number of available job vacancies falling, to suggest cracking down on welfare claimants generally because a minuscule minority of them are purportedly “work shy” or “evil” or “scroungers” is preposterous at best and desperately cold-hearted and cruel at worst.

    The Labour Party is NOT going to win an elections by scapegoating ANY minorities.

    The Tories always persecute the voiceless and helpless more full-bloodedly than Labour.

    Labour will never be able to defeat the Tories in the awfulness stakes.

    • Mario Dunn

      Jeff – that is just posturing. The fact is – as Paul rightly states – the majority of the public (many of whom actually receive benefits in some form) feel that the system is unfair and that Labour is not on their side. It’s a reality we have to first acknowledge and then decide whether we really want to do something meaningful about it. Only then can we start to rebuild trust.

      Or we can put our fingers in our ears, advocate for the “voiceless and helpless” – from a position of permanent opposition. Sadly many on the left feel far more comfortable there than they do exercising real political power.

  • Duncan

    It’s amazing how people always seem to “take the piss” when there’s a recession.   You’d almost think that the welfare state didn’t create unemployment at all.

  • Duncan

    Was my post removed?  My only expletive was a direct quote from the article!

    • Anonymous

      A few of gone missing it must have been a bit to socialist

  • Anonymous

    Lets see what do I remember being discussed, oh yes labour discussed giving mothers checks to ensure they have no children who had an illness or a disability,  if expecting they then be given the choice of getting rid of it, bit like 1939 in Germany really.

    In the UK every twenty five minutes a child is born with a life changing illness or disability, what we need are doctors with bolt guns , if you do not know what a bolt gun is google it.

    But I’m now leaning to ask oh hold on I did ask with FOI, how many disabled people are employed by government at the House of Lords and parliament, it came back as we do not hold that information, I wrote back then how do you know whom you help, then it came back as being 1.9% the lowest number out of all the public sectors . I was informed it was this low because  both houses did not have very good access for the disabled , but the DDA states this cannot be used as an excuse an excuse I notice has been used only a few months ago by an MP for not employing more disabled people, but most companies would use the same excuse.

    Plaid has meeting upstairs  no access for the disabled, labour has meeting which has no disability access in my area . My town hall only put in access two years ago ten years after access was part of the law of this country. The local access group now disbanded stated offices in my area only 20% had disability access , my own local health board does not have a lift when I was called down for a medical they carried me up two flights of stairs.

    The fact is you lot went to war, we are hearing soon injured troops who are unable to do duty on the front line due to injury will be laid off , will labour open up it’s offices to give people like this work will they become advisor.

    I cannot be bothered any more, new labour not dead and your the proof

  • Anonymous

    A typical Paul Richards article. Well down to his usual standard.

    And if, by the next election, the Mail rfeaders have lost their jobs and can’t find new ones, and change their mind about welfare payments, then I suppose it will be quite in order for Scrounger Byrne or whoever comes along to replace him, to champion more benefit payments.

    Sometimes, Mr Richards, you have to do what you feel to be right not just pander to popular opinion.

    If we took your shallow view we should all be campaiging to bring back the death penalty – because so many of the GBP want it.

  • Anonymous

    In the end this has now become Labour battle ground, it use to be education education education, then it was the NHS with million out marching, but the country has changed, seems they may well agree with the Tories view, I’m open to the private sector doing more why not, labour did it.

    Education well not a lot you can say really the Tories agree with you on Academies and you agree with private schools, so you have Welfare but again the Tories do have the upper hand they are in power, all you can do is moan about it, you had thirteen years to do something and failed….

  • GuyM

    The problem for Labour is if you were to get your average LL Labour supporter to be honest then if faced with:

    1 A middle class voter earning £50,000 pa

    2 A working class voter earning £20,000 pa

    3 A unemployed person on £7,500 pa

    they would almost certainly think it only right and proper that the £50k salary reduced to subsidise both of the others (their historical position which the right will always correctly oppose) but have recently come to believe that the £20k salary should also be use din part to subsidise the person on benefits.

    Hence your party has lost support from all quarters on it’s stance on benefits and the benefit culture/underclass/chavs that have sprung up over the last decade or so.

    • ‘…only right and proper that the £50k salary reduced to subsidise both of
      the others (their historical position which the right will always
      correctly oppose)…’

      I don’t think the right would oppose this if the 50k was earned through fraud or drug dealing. Which is to make the point that no income is earned only as an individual. Incomes are earned through particular social processes that exist only with the support of that society.

      This is true unless and until everyone has the same initial right of access to productive resources.

  • Anonymous

    Your going to have to explain to me what makes labour different from the Tories  to be honest I’m having a hell of a job seeing it.

    Then you have education now dropped as a labour battle ground because basically your in line with the Tories thinking.

    NHS again look we will spend more well ok not much more, but we think the Tories have some good idea’s.

    Social housing oh no not a labour thing any more.

    To be honest what makes this any different then New labour.

    You had thirteen years in power fourteen years ago you decided you make a better welfare, you did not, then again you have told us you would sort out unemployment and basically you made it worse,  housing you failed to see the bubble or you did not care.

    Why on this planet should any one want you lot back in power.

  • Time To Get Real

    Brilliant stuff, Paul.   The Beveridge intro is as relevant today as it was then.

  • Stuart

    Amid all the talk about reforming welfare lets remember that Labour were in power for thirteen years and how did we reform welfare.

    James Purnell introduced the Welfare Reform Act in 2002. This introduced Local Housing Allowance which replaced the previous system for calculating Housing Benefit. 

    As someone who worked as a HB administrator at the time I thought the reform was a mistake.

    Under the ‘old’ system every private tenant who applied for Housing Benefit had to submit details of their tenancy which was then submitted to the independent Rent Officer service. They calculated a Local Reference Rent for the tenancy which was calculated by reference to the   available tenancies in the area.

    Purnell’s reform introduced a Local Housing Allowance which was a fixed set of rates for Housing Benefit published by local authorities every month. Tenants were urged to ‘shop around’ to get the best bargain. LHA was paid to the tenant not the landlord in an attempt to encourage the private market.

    Purnell’s reform took no account of the lack of alternatives for tenants on benefit  given the shortage of social housing. 

    Many experts at the time warned that the reforms would drive up the Housing Benefit bill as private landlord who were charging below the LHA for substandard properties raised their rents to profiteer.

    The answer in my view is not a return to ‘rent controls’ as they would distort the private sector market.

    I would suggest we go back to the ‘old system’ and refer tenancies to the Rent Officer.

    Finally, the danger in IDS universal credit is that many many private tenants will loose out.

    So yes we need to have reform of the Benefits system but we need proper reform and not half-baked reform   

  • The ‘system’ will never ‘work’ whilst there is long-term unemployment, because basic benefit rates are not enough to live in long term. So, there will inevitably be working on the side, attempts to maximise benefit levels, and so on.
    The question then is, given the utter failure of the private sector to provide the number of jobs needed (which isn’t their fault, just symptomatic of the nature of the free market) whether we accept that this is the system we are stuck with, or accept that it makes sense to have a larger public sector and less unemployment (and hence less demand on the benefit system).

    We are currently heading towards the creation of a new workless generation and this is particularly serious. Once again, the private sector have no interest in paying to train the next generation of workers despite their remarkably generous and low corporate taxation levels.

    • Bill Lockhart

      “Training” the next generation of “workers” to read, write and add up is supposed to be the job of schools, not businesses. The utter failure of Labour to make sure that schools actually did so is a principal cause of the mass unemployability we now face.

  • Guest

    These kinds of words are exactly the problem which is faced on a daily basis by the disabled. Why do you want Labour to take ‘a platform which chimes with the public’s view’ when that view is quite clearly distorted by right wing press invective and so very inaccurate and often downright wrong? 

    It should be Labour’s job to educate the public as to the realities of the lives of those who need to access help, and the proportionality ratio of need:fraud, not lump everyone together in a ‘taking the piss’ LABEL !~it is also interesting that all of political commentators who are allowed any real space to air views on this are all men, whereas the lives of millions of women, whether they be sick, disabled or carers depend upon this system and it is so much more difficult for women to hold a job in the workplace in the current environment, whether they be fit and healthy or not.  

    It is this kind of self satisfied invective which is doing so much damage to reasoned debate – the system needs fixing for sure, but not in the way that this piece describes.

  • Currently the Tory fire is being focused on the sick and the disabled, because they see that they can make savings if they can force people back down to the JSA level of benefits rather than the higher (and more capable of being lived on) benefits available to people who are sick and/or disabled.  This might backfire, as, in a population where many people don’t vote, the disabled are more and more willing to make their voices heard.  And the most obvious cry those voices can make – one which the abled can actually grasp – is that anyone can become disabled at any time.  Disability is not a matter of reward and punishments, its a matter of luck and bad luck.

    But a far longer, and likely to reemerge, Tory theme has been the hatred directed at single mothers, where the trope of teenage girls seeking to get pregnant in order to get a council flat and avoid work are repeated ad nauseam (see Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, passim).  This trope is so strong that we can see on TV repeatedly a situation where  where single-mothers in their early 20s  (entirely supported, and rightly so. by state benefits) will appear on TV and accuse others of being “scroungers” while seemingly completely unaware that it is they who are being so labelled by the Tory press.

    And indeed it’s young single-mothers who are the ultimate problem for the “contributory” idea you promote here.  Personally I think good single mothers (and fathers) do contribute to society by raising decent children.  And indeed the vast majority of the kids raised by single mothers are decent people.  (Very minor minorities contribute to crime, for example.  On a housing estate with 200 households, typically it is no more than 4-5 that cause major problems.)

    What would happen if we removed support for single mothers.  Clearly more children would be raised in absolute poverty.  But equally, we might get to a situation as in the 1950s (or much later in Ireland) when pregnant single women were socially shunned and destroyed for life; or where people rushed into bad marriages; or where younger mothers choose abortion rather than raising a child.  I am opposed to abortion, but do not think it should be criminalised. But surely anyone, pro-life or pro-choice, can see cutting off support for single mothers would force abortions, which choice not being the issue?

    Labour needs to argue not on the basis of personal greed (I’am all right, Jack), but always on the grounds of social solidarity  (we might all be in the same boat someday, mate).

    • Anonymous

      Some very good points, Paul.

      Even the BBC has jumped on this bash the less fortunate bandwaggon to jopin the three main political parties.

      There is a dreadful  little man on the BBC called Dominic Littlewood, who looks and sounds as if he should be a market trader on “Eastenders” who presents a daily series on BBC called “Saints and Scroungers”. I had to visit a hospital on Monday and had the misfortune of seeing this bargain basement trash TV in the waiting room. “Secret” filming, the sanctimonious synthetic outrage of Littlewood as he recited his dismal script. On the voice over as the programme rolled the credits the eager announcer informed us that “tomorrow, Doiminic” would be telling us all about some nasty benefit cheats.  In Croydon.

      Just helps to reinforce the stereotypes, and I have no doubt many politicians sit there masturbating at least intellectually at how thewy have been proven right. I bet they e]ven put their expenses forms down while they are watching.

      Sadly, at least for the past twelve years or so Labour has been just as bad as the Tories on this issue. Labour even gave the Tories David Freud.

    • Peter Barnard

      @ Paul Halsall,
       
      Good comment, Paul (“single mothers”), although I would say that much the best environment for a child is a stable “mother and father” one.
       
      What is never mentioned when the DMail and DTel launch their attacks on the “single mother culture” is the record of the Conservatives – especially when Lady Thatcher was running the show :
       
      1979 : 78,000 illegitimate births : 10.6 per cent of all births
      1990 : 223,000 “outside marriage” births : 27.9 per cent of all births
      1997 : 267,000 “outside marriage” births : 36.7 per cent of all births
       
      In 2008, there were 361,000 “outside marriage” births : 45.4 per cent of the total.
       
      For the under-20s (illegitimate/“outside marriage”) :
       
      1981 : 30,000 births
      1990 : 51,000 births
      1997 : 47,000 births
      2008 : 48,000 births
       
      Of course the Conservatives, due to their deliberate unemployment policy between 1979 and 1990, made the stable “mother and father” background – in aggregate – decidedly unachievable.

  • Anonymous

    I sometimes wonder if Richards is naturally naive or if he takes evening classes for it.

    He says that Caroline Flint (an older “wiser” head – really?) “gets it” Well she would, wouldn’t she?. She was the one who said, in terms that people who were unemployed should not be eligible for council housing. The very people who can’t afford to  buy or afford astronomical rents in the private sector. R Richards is rather silly holding up Ms Flint as an example of great intellectual ability – that was the woman who sashayed around in silks for a photo shoot and then complained that she wasn’t taken seriously enough. Go figure, as our American friends would say.

    Plainly Ms Flint knows nothing about poverty. Neither by the sound of it does Richards. They and their Tory-lite wasn’t-Tony-wonderful cronies have led very easy sheltered lives, and know how to network, and ingratiate themselves to ensujree  a nice easy passage through life.

    I started work in the summer of 1961 and till I retired a few years ago, I never claimed unemployment benefit and was luckily never out of work. If I left a job, perhaps because I was working for a bad employer (and the fact that there ARE bad employers will come as a shock to Jonathan Roberts, who immediately blamed people for  being workshy because a factory owner told him he had 30 vacancies, rather than question why it was the vacancies couldn’t be filled.), I had another to go to. But I was lucky. And of course in the 60s we had more or less full employment. That will never be the case again. New Labour and coalition idiots alike beat their breasts about the under 25s being unemployed at the same time as forcing people to work beyond 65. They just don’t seem to be able to think things through

    I know that there are many people who cannot get work, perhaps because they suffer from a physical or mental health problem, or because in our youth obsessed age most people find it hard to find work over 50, and it is those people who concern me.

    Yes you will always have a minority of people who play the system, just as – as we know only too well – there were a MAJORITY of MPs playing the expenses system, and considering it is Byrne, Grayling and Duncan-Smith who complain loudest about this “scrounging” by the unemployed, they ought not be allowed to forget that all three of them were great exploiters of the expenses system. They are as much scroungers as the people they take the moral high grolund over.

    And some of those MPs oufght to remember if they had not been MPs but had been employed in the private or public sectors (I was employed in both in my time by the way), they would not only no longer be MPs but would probably also have a criminal record

  • Peter Barnard

    @ Paul Richards,
     
    “The plain fact” is, Paul, is that I never see you posting anything positive about how we, ie Labour, can achieve full employment and a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
     
    It’s all “politics” for you – not people.
     
    Enjoy your pint with Dan Hodges, next time you see him. The thought that people like you and DH are trying to influence the Labour Party is distinctly unsettling.

  • Jos Bell

    Interesting to note that my comment challenging this piece has been disappeared.  I will try again …  

    These kinds of words are exactly the problem which is faced on a
    daily basis by the disabled. Why do you want Labour to take ‘a platform which
    chimes with the public’s view’ when that view is quite clearly distorted by
    right wing press invective and so very inaccurate and often downright
    wrong? 

    It should be Labour’s job to educate the public as to the
    realities of the lives of those who need to access help, and the proportionality
    ratio of need : fraud, not lump everyone together in a ‘taking the p***’ LABEL
    ! I would ask the author how he would like to find himself hungry and sick and with nothing between himself and eviction but an ATOS assessment.  It is this
    kind of self satisfied invective which is doing so much damage to reasoned
    debate – the system needs fixing for sure, but not in the top-down vote hungry way that this piece
    describes, which in reality will help no one. Rather let us take an educated view and explain it properly to the public, the majority of whom will need to avail themselves of the welfare system at some point in their lives.  Do voters need to feel safe? Yes they do. Then let us make it so.  It is also interesting that 99% of the political commentators who are allowed any
    real space to air views on this are men  – whereas the lives of millions of
    women, whether they be sick, disabled or carers depend upon this system and it
    is so much more difficult for women to hold a job in the workplace in the
    current environment, whether they be fit and healthy or not.  Thus the lead commentary is not at all representative.

  • Franwhi

    The idea that the public at large are likely to say the benefit system IS working is a huge red herring. What counts as success in terms of benefit policy will always be disputed and media  and political rhetoric which casts recipients as lazy and evil feeds the prejudice which is leading to unacceptable standards of language, behaviour and attitudes towards benefit claimants. Yes politicians must take public views into account but they must also quell moral panics and challenge themselves and others to move out of old ways of thinking and seek new solutions.  Do Labour believe their is a basic value consensus at a public level for the welfare state ? If so they should commit to building that consensus and shaping the future direction of reform – you can’t lead from behind and you can’t have it both ways – as Ed said himself in his NY speech – hard times force us to make our values explicit.  Let’s get on with it. 
     

  • Anonymous

    I wonder what it is that I’ve written that you disagree with, Mario?

    The nation is fearful and traumatised at the moment and is looking around for targets to blame for all manner of social problems. The witch hunt for benefit “scroungers” is part of this phenomenon and no political party should sacrifice it principles simply to pander to a population  knocked off balance by the course of events or seek to drum up dislike or even hatred against any minority in order to win favour with the voters. Behaviour like this can lead, in its very worst expressions, to things like the expulsion of Asian from Uganda, ethnic cleansing of Muslims by Serbs in Bosnia; the atrocious persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, and, more recently, the butchery of the Tutsi people by the Hutu in Rwanda.  

    In our country the continued demonisation of welfare claimants as “scroungers” and “evil” will inevitably lead to insufferable poverty and hardship amongst significant minorities if politicians are too weak or lack the courage to challenge these lies and prejudices or continue to whip them up in order to maintain political power in the worst possible way through fear of the “other”.  

    If you can only win power by bowing to vengeful gods like that then as far as I’m concerned it really is better to lose and retain some semblance of integrity and honesty and whatever it is that defines you as a human being.  

    As far being left-wing goes I can tell you that I think Liam Byrne’s possible tampering with welfare could well end up being even more injurious to the needy that I might actually be tempted to vote Conservative in the next general election in order to prevent a Labour government from being elected simply to deny Byrne the chance to do even more harm to the poor and the needy than his predecessors Hutton, Purnell, Cooper, Freud Duncan Smith and Grayling have done in the past and are actively doing now.

    I really think Liam Byrne really is THAT dangerous and THAT bad.

    How’s that for being left-wing for you?

  • I came across two stories related to benefits today.

    The first, from the Sunday Telegraphy,  is about the way Tony Blair has refused to pay his taxeshttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/8999890/Tony-Blair-and-the-8million-tax-mystery.html 
    -The refusal of the rich – now including many ex-Blairites – to pay their taxes is the basic reason for all budgetary problems.  Although the Daily Mail and others try to agitate low level tax-payers against those who depend on benefits (either because of illness or unemployment) it is in fact people like Blair who are the problem.

    The second – from Left Foot Forward  is “Boris has slammed Coalition welfare reforms – from the left”http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/01/boris-has-slammed-coalition-welfare-reforms-from-the-left/ 
    -Here we have the weird situation in which Boris Johnson seems to be more willing to try to attack the Government’s attacks on DLA than ANY comparable Labour politician.

    Strange days.

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