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Liam Byrne (right) wants to convince us that he made the right choice over the Jobseekers Bill. Don't give him the satisfaction. His actions are unsupportable.

Liam Byrne (right) wants to convince us that he made the right choice over the Jobseekers Bill. Don’t give him the satisfaction. His actions are unsupportable.

What do you do with a serial offender who will not acknowledge his crime?

Dropping him from the Parliamentary Labour Party might be a good start.

Having appeared in Parliament only to urge his backbench Labour colleagues to abstain on the controversial Jobseekers (back to work schemes) Bill, Mr Byrne subsequently published an article on www.labourlist.org in which he attempted to justify his position.

He said of his decision to support the Bill: “It’s pretty hard to say DWP shouldn’t have a sanction power that was well and truly incorporated into policies that worked when we were in government.”

The trouble is, that isn’t what people are saying, and it is disingenuous of Mr Byrne to suggest that it is. People are saying that the current government policy – to put people into unpaid work for firms that are perfectly capable of paying them a living wage – does not deserve to have sanctions attached to it. If it was a reasonable policy, maybe. In this case, no.

So Mr Byrne should not have supported the Bill, if that was the reason.

He went on to address the concessions he claims to have won, added as amendments to the Bill: “Do I do everything to foul up the timetable of the bill, safe in the knowledge that because we lack a majority, the Tories and Lib Dems would ultimately win any vote they liked, whenever they liked? At best this might have delayed the Bill a week or two. Or, do I let the Bill go through before Easter in return for two critical concessions which Labour MP’s actually can actually use in practice to help people over the next two years?”

It’s a leading question, because if those were the only options, anyone reasonable would agree with the latter. But he’s playing fast-and-loose with the truth again. One of those concessions merely confirms the grounds of appeal that were already in place; the other puts in place an independent review that will not report back for a whole year, following which the Secretary of State – whoever that may be by then – can delay any response indefinitel.

The concessions Mr Byrne claims to have won are pointless.

“We need to ensure people hit by sanctions have the right of appeal – to protect the innocent – and that’s what we got guaranteed on the face of the bill,” said Mr Byrne. But they were already guaranteed. The problem is, the government was not acting on them in a proper manner. This is another reason the scheme itself is at fault. A sanction applied against an unjust scheme must, by definition, be unjust itself.

And how is the independent review supposed to work? Will the reviewer be contacting every single person who has been sanctioned over the past three years or so, to get their stories from them? It’s a nice thought but it seems unlikely. Prepare for another stitch-up.

“Labour’s view is that work experience can help get young people into work,” wrote Mr Byrne. “But – and this is the crucial ‘but’ – we strongly feel that young people should be given a real choice of a real job with a real wage.”

There’s nothing wrong with that; what is badly needed is for mandatory work activity to be paid at the minimum wage or above. People on the scheme are not considered to be out of work statistically; why should their remuneration be limited to that of people who are?

“Let’s be under no illusion. Only by standing shoulder to shoulder will we ultimately push this terrible government into Opposition. We are Labour because we care and debate questions like this so passionately. We reject the politics of divide and rule. And we’ve learned the hard way that unity is strength.”

Oh really? Time to send a clear message back to Mr Byrne:

If there is any dischord, YOU are causing it. We do indeed reject the politics of divide and rule but it is your policy that is at odds with the views of the majority of the Labour Party. Unity is indeed strength, so you have a simple choice: GET ON-SIDE AND GET ON-MESSAGE – OR GET OUT.