(I’m not sure how many times I can write the same article, but there we are. Hopefully it’ll be a different few thousand people who read it this time. And the time before. And the time before that.)
So, I woke up this morning and had a rather pleasant few minutes checking out the twitter timelines of Rachel Reeves and Kate Green. Universal credit exposed as almost certainly on the scrapheap. PIP ridiculed with the excellent Labour soundbite that at the current rate, it will take 42 years to transfer everyone across from the old disability living allowance.
All good and it felt rather nice to be able to RT a few articles and snippets.
But why oh why haven’t I learnt? After 4 years, you’d think I’d got it by now. I’m not sure how many times I can say this, but clearly a few more. One thing is utterly certain. We have run out of time and I almost despair that I’m still having to say it 11 months before an election.
Labour will not win votes by being tougher than the Tories on welfare. Or rather, tough but not quite as tough as the Tories by a fag paper.
And specifically, they will not make any friends at all by being seen to hit a group that is already one of the hardest hit under the coalition. Young people don’t vote and as such, they’re an easy target. All of these policies hitting young people – Tory or Labour – rely on a halcyon idea of ever tolerant parents who will happily support their 18 – 21/25 year olds through failures of the state. Nice middle class families, who will heave a sigh and open their homes and their wallets to their offspring ad-infinitum. No right to a home of your own until you’re 35, no right to an income of your own until you’re 21. What part of our policy teams forget that all those nice middle class young people have nice middle class parents who vote?
And who is it that forgets that all of those Lib Dem voters so appalled by tuition fees who now say they will vote for us care very much how we appear on issues relating to young people? Aren’t they more important than a few hundred swing voters at best?
It seems almost pointless of me to explain here that the policy itself is actually nothing like it is portrayed in the Guardian. But yet again, Labour has sacrificed a not too bad policy on the altar of a tough headline. It now matters not one jot what the policy will actually do, the swing voters who might have voted Labour and cared one way or the other just heard “Tougher than the Tories on Young People’. The ones who would probably have voted Tory anyway, heard “Not quite as tough as the Tories”.
(Actually, this is about boosting the education of those who have been failed – for whatever reasons – by the system. It’s about putting the tools in the hands of young people to get decent paid work.)
But this is the point I desperately want to make, the point I’ve been trying to get across to Labour for 6 long years:
If we do manage to win a majority in 2015, we will inherit the greatest social crisis of modern times. At the moment, the coalition control the media and Westminster and everything goes their way. If Labour take power, all of the true horrors of IDS failures will be exposed, and the picture is so horrific, there will be no willy-waving “considerably tougher than yow” play-offs.
We will have one choice and one choice only – we will have to roll up our sleeves and deal with the mess. I’m also almost bored of listing the current DWP chaos too, but…universal credit almost certainly scrapped already, PIP leaving 75% of disabled people in limbo with no decisions on their benefits, Atos work capability assessments ground to a halt with over 700,000 seriously ill people stuck in limbo too. (Not to mention the 700,000 more who lost everything when their contributory benefits were time limited to one year by the coalition.) The Work Programme is failing to support an incredible 99% of sick and disabled people into work.
Money is seeping from the DWP from everywhere. Billions and Billions and Billions of it. The ONLY way to hit them on welfare before now and the election is to keep pounding away at the chaos the DWP is in. That had been going well, as per the Reeves and Green tweets and articles of the last few days. There has been good coverage of the DWP/IDS chaos in the national press. They MUST start to prepare the ground for the clean-up operation they will need to do if they win.
What will work is making it clear that Labour are on the side of people. On the side of society. On the side of fairness. Show how your policies will improve lives, not how they might appeal to a Daily Mail readership who aren’t even the tiniest bit interested.
Do what Labour do best and announce policies that make a real difference to everyday lives, do your best for everyone – and not just the mirror image of yourselves.