Labour’s latest welfare betrayal means the party could change name to ‘Red Conservatives’

Red Tory betrayal: He might as well have said, "We're going to grip the poor by the throat and push them down so far and so hard that they'll never be able to get on their feet again."

Red Tory betrayal: He might as well have said, “We’re going to grip the poor by the throat and push them down so far and so hard that they’ll never be able to get on their feet again.”

The Red Conservative Party has announced a new policy attack on people receiving benefits, in its latest bid to out-Tory the Blue Conservatives.

Ed Cameron announced that he would impose a three-year cap on any welfare spending not linked to the economic cycle, stealing an idea put forward by George Osborne of the original Conservative Party during the March budget.

He also vowed to make people work for two years before they qualify for a new, higher rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance.*

Shadow work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Byrne said the cap would force a Labour government to engage in long-term reforms necessary to bring the welfare bill down.

Neither man actually spelled out which benefits would be affected by the cap.

But Ed Cameron tried to salvage his party’s reputation in the eyes of left-wing supporters by promising to drive down rents and improve pay.

And in a contradictory move, he said he would not abandon the long-standing goal of abolishing child poverty by 2020, even though his new policies mean that, inevitably, more children will suffer poverty through no fault of their own.

Cut through the spin and the above is, pretty much, what has been announced. The Labour Party is becoming even more right-wing, rather than less, as the Tory tabloids claimed when Ed Miliband became the leader.

It seems that failing to reverse the abolition of universal child benefit was just the tip of the iceberg, Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph Miliband, must be spinning in his grave… In fact, he’s probably drilling his way through the Earth’s crust towards countries unknown, in the same way I said William Beveridge must be, after Liam Byrne’s Guardian article on the welfare state in 2012.

What we’re seeing isn’t really a conversion to Conservatism – although the retention of critically dangerous neoliberal elements at the top of the party structure means this will continue to be a threat. It’s actually worse than that.

This is a Labour Party that goes any way the wind blows.

Does anybody remember the great Tony Benn’s comments about politicians being either signposts or weathercocks? It has been mentioned previously, in this blog. He said some politicians are like signposts. They point in the direction they want to travel and say, “This is the way we must go!” And they are constant. Others are like weathercocks; they lick their fingers, find out which direction the political winds are blowing and follow.

The Guardian illustrates that Miliband has become a cock in its article, stating that the new announcement “is seen as critical to Labour being able to claw back its poll deficit on welfare and show its ability to take tough decisions”.

It will do neither.

If Labour wanted to “claw back its poll deficit on welfare” it would be announcing new policies to tackle the causes of unemployment, sickness and disability, in order to ensure that unemployment was never again likely to rise as high as it has. This means helping industry; it means restoring the National Health Service; it means making sure employers – especially the really large ones who think they can get away with anything – conform strictly to health and safety laws and can’t blame employees’ work-based sicknesses on anything other than their own negligence.

It means setting the terms of a new debate on this issue – not meekly accepting the Conservatives’ warped frame of reference.

Because, you see, that doesn’t indicate an “ability to take tough decisions”. Nor does copying an idea already mentioned by a Conservative. Tough decisions are those that the public might find hard to accept at first – about policies that might need to be explained before they are accepted. Labour isn’t making any tough decisions. It is following the Conservative/Coalition example and that simply is not good enough.

The Guardian article says Labour hopes the electorate “will focus on the party’s decision to take a credible and specific stance on the deficit, after three years of low growth, rather than punish Labour for its apparent volte face [about turn] by ending three years of criticism of welfare cuts”.

There is no chance of that happening. The electorate is not stupid and I predict that those parts of it that have supported Labour as a force for working people, those who want to work but are unemployed through no fault of their own, and those who have been invalided out of work, again through no fault of their own, will desert the party en masse. Miliband and Byrne might pick up a few right-wing votes – but not enough to make a difference. They will lose far more than they will gain.

Note particularly that line about “ending three years of criticism of welfare cuts”. They’ve stopped criticising the Conservatives/Coalition about cuts that are literally ending UK citizens’ lives at an alarming rate. That is not – and will never be – justifiable on any level at all.

Let’s not forget that an average of 73 people a week are dying as a result of Conservative/Coalition policies on benefits – possibly many more, as this figure is nearly a year old. A Labour government that would allow this to continue is not an electable Labour government.

This announcement marks the beginning of the Conservative victory in 2015.

Thanks for nothing, Ed Miliband. Thanks for nothing, Liam Byrne.

Shame on you, you sell-outs.

*Interestingly, the Blue Conservative mouthpiece BBC misleadingly reported that Labour believed “only people who pay into the system for more than two years should get Jobseekers’ Allowance” at all! This seems to be an inaccuracy but it is damaging and more people will read it.

64 thoughts on “Labour’s latest welfare betrayal means the party could change name to ‘Red Conservatives’

  1. Phil The Folk

    Mike, this is awful!! Why are they being so bloody thick?? In my heart I’m a Labour man, (a people person) but I’m just not seeing true Labour values at all with this lot, and haven’t for some years now. How the hell do we restore the right values back into this party?

      1. Phil The Folk

        That’s exactly what Left Unity are trying to do Joan, but I fear not quick enough.

      2. Thomas M

        But any new party will be lucky to get 5% of the vote and will be unlikely to get any seats at all.

    1. ireallymeanthis

      I’m afraid I agree with you. Labour should be explaining why welfare matters and promising to reverse the cuts.

      It is conceding all the economic arguments, including the “Labour’s welfare spending caused the financial crisis” nonsense, just when everyone else has come to realize that austerity doesn’t work.

      It should be tearing into the coalition over then destitution
      and death their policies are causing and the gross growth of inequality, not tacitly agreeing not to talk of such things.

  2. Joan

    As a long-time Labour Party member, having to write these posts must be killing you. I am in total despair. The 2015 election is looming closer and, when I had looked forward to that day to get rid of this evil coalition, I am now dreading it.

  3. Troy

    We’ve arrived in Germany, 1933. Labour have given up their principles for the sake of political expediency. I could not believe the number of hateful comments directed at a recent Owen Jones column. The public have turned into mindless zombies. Now, it will have to be every man for himself. I won’t be going down without a fight.

    1. Phil The Folk

      Left Unity is growing Troy, but I don’t think they’ll do enough before the next election.

      1. Troy

        As things get worse, those left-wing strands will hopefully bury their petty differences for the sake of something more important. It’s only a hope, Phil, but then hope is all that’s left.

  4. Samwise Gamgee

    Well it was Labour who introduced stricter conditionality for claimants, the New Deal, first contracted ATOS to asses disabled claimants and introduced an under-occupancy penalty on private tenants in receipt of housing benefit.

    Labour have been copying Tory ideology with regards to social security policy for the last 16+ years. Why the surprise at this announcement?

    1. Mike Sivier

      No – the Conservatives contracted a company that Atos later absorbed – so it was the Tories who let them in.
      And who said I’m surprised? I’m deeply, deeply disappointed.

  5. Tony Hemphill

    Mike this is why im voting yes next year, THE LABOUR PARTY we grew up with is gone and it will (if it wins next election)sell whatever is left of the NHS to the highest bidder, we need a new leftwing party in the UK that looks after the worse off in society not this load of toffs! who have never had to do without food or heating or a decent house in their rose tinted lifes!Time for Scotland to do whats right for Scotland and not have to survive on westminsters crumbs . These parties (all of them)care only for london and the southeast

    1. Troy

      With Scotland gone it will be even harder to keep the Tories out. But I won’t be selfish. Good Luck to Scotland. You deserve it.

  6. joshua Christian

    I am absolutely digusted by all this as I was once not just a Labour member but I was the Ward Organiser for the Abbey Ward branch of the Lincoln Labour Party. I helped organise an election campaign for a County Councillor and if I had to do it all again, the answer would be a resounding NO! I am disgusted beyond belief in that the old adage that Cameron used in 2010 “We are all in this together” what he really meant was that the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are all in this together!

  7. victhemike

    I’m with Tony, I shall be emigrating North should Labour continue in this Conservative-lite vein. I’ll stop at Scotland if they win their independence, otherwise it’s Iceland for me. They actually seem to listen to their people there.

    1. sibrydionmawr

      Weird, I must have pressed somthing by mistake… As I was saying, it’s a bit difficult in countries like Iceland to ignore the electorate, the population of the whole of Iceland is about the same as Cardiff, and half the population live in Rekjavik, that capital. There is something to be said in favour of smallness, not least that democracy seems to work much better, and the ability to wage war is much reduced, (though Iceland did have a war with a much larger nation in the 1970s and won! – now I wonder what nation that was??).

      It’d be great to live in a country where the government actually listens to the people it’s supposed to represent, but I ain’t holding my breath that it’ll happen any time soon here.

      Any self respecting Scot who doesn’t vote Yes next year I shall suspect of suffering from temporary insanity! (And I hope, (proabably in vain) the Welsh will take note!)

  8. Tony Turtle (@ATurtle05)

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose as the French say (“the more things change, the more they stay the same” for the non-Francophiles)

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    Vote NONE OF THE ABOVE – write it on your ballot paper at the next General Election, but before the election day, write to the returning officer saying you will be asking for a freedom of Information statistic on all those that write “None of the above” on their ballot sheet.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I like the FOI idea but that won’t stop the fact that, no matter how low the turnout or how many people do likewise, the candidate with the most votes will go to Westminster.

  9. LIZZIE feeney

    Well what can I say to see this coming, is exact why has Cameron said ‘We are all in this together’ except they didn’t mean the people, that the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Red Concervatives are all in together! Why am I not surprised indeed. So now the Labour has become Red Conservatives are to held to aiding and abetting the mass slaughter of of this country and crimes against humanity. Will be voting NO Confidence for 2015. We need a new party set amongst the rest left wing party in this broken country who will look after the poor in society, the sick, disabled and not the rich toffs and bully boys.:-(

  10. guy fawkes

    Why is taking benefits from the rich considered to be a bad thing? I have never heard of anyone earning over 60k having had their child benefit stopped wanting to commit suicide. Any reduction in benefits made against the rich should be given to the poor not used to reduce national debt – that is what the NATIONAL INSURANCE was meant to pay for, not a free for all,just like any other insurance policy it does not pay out until in financial need.

    When Beveridge drew up his national insurance policy he did not know that business would invest in third world cheap labour which our workforce cannot compete with, nor the introduction of robots to do the work of so many workers, so obviously could not forsee the amount of unemployment it would create

    Whenever government have given money in the form of grants and concessions to create work, most ultimately ends up in the hands of employers while the workforce are slaving away for minimum wages,as happened in the Thatcher era and when the money ran out so did the business leaving some workers owing wages, there was no sustainability, this also happened in the 40’s if you read “occupy the economy’s” book on this and other relevant facts that the occupy movement are pointing out.

    I will finish only to say Ed Milliband is on the right track regarding keeping the benefits system for those who need it and that includes the young unemployed.

    1. Mike Sivier

      The main point of Ed’s speech was to say that Labour will cap the welfare/social security budget for three years if it gets into power – meaning that the most vulnerable in society will get even less than they do now. This is a bad thing. Taking benefits from the rich is a different thing.
      It might have been easier to bear if he had said Labour will do this by cancelling all the cash going to external, profit-making ‘work programme providers’ but Iain Duncan Byrne wants to keep paying them, even though the work they do has been proven to be worse than useless.
      The whole policy announcement is irrational and adds up to a capitulation to the Conservative argument – for no reason, because the Tories don’t actually HAVE an argument.

  11. hugosmum70

    but Milliband HAS been poor. his parents were polish refugees who fled Poland in the face of Hitler. they left with nothing. lost friends and family in the holocaust. he is not going to forget such things.

  12. Charlie Fox

    It’s easy to make ‘tough decisions’ about people who are already being trampled on. How about some ‘tough decisions’ on corporate Tax evaders and criminals, greedy employers, serial scammers like Atos, A4e and G4s, proper rent controls and protection for agency workers. To think I was a member of the Labour Party for 22 years and it should come to this. l’m voting Yes for independence.

  13. dunelmiandigger

    What we have in the U.K. is basically a one party state now! The political mainstream is incestuous anyway that there is no demarcation at the top whatsoever! And, it definitely is a conspiracy folks!

  14. bookmanwales

    Milliband may have been “poor” but unfortunately as one of those who has clawed his way up he has no intention of letting go. Like most people once they have their money they want to keep it at it any cost.

    This stance of the Labour party should not be such a surprise. Blair and co paid lip service to the working class ( Gordon Brown and tax credits rather than a higher minimum wage). They kept all the anti union legislation, privatised via PFI sold off what the Tories had left and allowed the bankers ( then paid them for the privilege) to bankrupt us.

    The unfortunate consequences of this will be a Tory/Ukip Coalition as Labour supporters desert because they are not working class enough and Tory supporters will desert unless an EU referendum is agreed.
    Once that happens we may as well all curl up and die. As well as the massive welfare cuts Ukip’s plan is to give huge pay rises and benefits to the Police and armed forces.. I wonder why ?????

  15. Deyika

    Good piece Mike. Though the initial urge was to say ‘ I told you so’ , it sticks in my throat.

    But its not the Labour leadership’s fault really, they’re only fools.

    Their short term calculations assume that there is not strong enough organised pressure on the political Left to worry about. The Torys have UKIP to keep them crazy, Labour have…. the unions? Ha.

    For myself, Greens. Bennett is good and Lucas, well…

    And you never know. If Greens do well enough in 2014, you might get your Labour Party back the following year.

  16. guy fawkes

    Well said Charlie Fox A4E and G4s etc all created jobs for the establishment and those cheeky or cruel enough to be the exponents of policies against the poorest in society.

  17. Elaine Kirkaldie

    Did it not occur to any of you that all these mealy mouth bastards are doing is looking after their well paid jobs? Politics is a career not ,as it should be,a vocation, Unless people come forward to form an honest alternative there will be end to people’s suffering.

  18. Niki

    It’s so bloody depressing. And Milibland actually sad the subversive and fatal words “people who are doing the right thing.” Agggggggghhhhhhhhh. I guess that means anther raft of letters to him now asking what this means and what I am doing that is so wrong (disabled). I did this with Camoron (and no they still answered when I wrote it like that) but has just crappy responses that said nothing and no actual answer on the question.

    I’m so confused as to why Millibland can’t stand up and say, look you’ve all been hoodwinked, it’s all lies! There isn’t a scrounging underclass, there are normal people in difficult situations, there are no jobs, there is suffering and pain. Tell the truth about the economy and tax the people who should be, sort the banks out, sort the big companies out, reclaim the NHS and celebrate its importance.

    That would be a start. But today I had my hopes dashed.

  19. Samwise Gamgee

    ‘What the unemployed want is work and new skills. What is unacceptable is workfare by any name, leaving many stranded without income or hope’

    Fine words, from a noble politician, spoken by a member of Labour’s front bench in opposition to a Tory proposal to introduce new conditionality for the unemployed. Sadly these words were spoken 20 years ago by Donald Dewar, Labour’s then-social security spokesman.

    Compare Dewar with Byrne, and see how far gone Labour are now.

    1. Deyika

      Yes, have you?

      “So jobs for everyone who can work and help to make that happen, must be the starting point for social security reform: cutting the costs of worklessness.”

      “We must change our economy, so that welfare is not a substitute for good employment and decent jobs.
      Today the welfare state, through housing benefit, bears the cost for our failure to build enough homes.
      We have to start investing in homes again, not paying for failure.”

      These statements are the very essence of the country’s problems laid at the feet of the poor. Since when has it been the case that welfare is a substitute for a good job? Since when has it been the case the building social housing has been held back by the level of housing benefit?

      Sure you can focus over the hill on the good things that Mr Ed promises, every party, every political philosophy promises paradise in the end.

      Its easy to come up with a fancy to-do list, but what are you going to do first?

      In this case, keep hammering the poor.

      Bah.

  20. Phil

    Is it not better to bring down the Housing Benefit bill (the Landlord benefit bill) by building more houses rather than making a point of sticking to current spending for the sake of dogma? And to cut down on Working Tax Credits AKA the low paying employers’ benefit by forcing companies to pay a living wage?

  21. Mike Sivier

    I did tweet the web address of this article to a large proportion of the Parliamentary Labour Party, in the hope that some of them might come out to defend Ed’s speech and what it says.
    Alas, nobody has been forthcoming so far. Does this mean they have nothing to say? Don’t want to defend the indefensible? Can’t be bothered to explain themselves to the people who put them where they are?
    We’re waiting.

  22. kathy jones

    Outrageous! For the first time, I’m glad my grandparents are dead. How would they have borne this betrayal??? Socialists and Labour through and through, they’d be unable to recognise this mimsy, cowardly, brutal destruction of the poor, disabled and vulnerable. Nazi sympathisers!!! SHAME on you!

  23. justin thyme

    The Labour Party is dead
    You know what? – there are people in the labour party who do not agree with its leadership – who think they can change things from within – they are deluded. It’s all very well Michael Meacher going on about injustice – today it was him ranting about the Bilderberg meetings in Watford – but he remains in a party that is totally alien to him and anyone with a conscience on the left.
    Blue labour has no place parodying as a socialist party – it is not – it is trying to be more tory than the tory’s.
    Time is up Miliband and Balls and co – I remember the days when Harman was head of NCCL – long time ago and a long way from where she is today.
    I wish they would just die because they are not doing disabled people, the poor and the unemployed any favours – they are complicite in the lie that these groups caused the economic problems we have today
    get rid of them

    We need a new party separate from labour and the unions – who are completely out of touch

  24. Hen

    So they plan to take more money from the rich and try to get people into work. They want to tackle high rents by building more homes. They aim to reduce social security spending by increasing wages. They admit the WCA system is not working and must be reformed. People who have worked for years and lose their job will be entitled to an increased amount of JSA – ‘a return to the contributory principles of Beveridge’ which the welfare state was founded on.

    Yeah, I suppose we might as well vote Tory in the next election. It looks like they’ll win anyway with the hysteria on the Left leading to mass abandonment of Labour.

    Good luck with the new socialist party to be assembled as a viable option for 2015.

    Yes, I attended People’s Assembly and support Left Unity but in the meantime, to get this hideous government out of power before the NHS is completely privatised and the welfare state destroyed, I will be voting Labour.

    As a Scot living in England I do not wish to see the rest of the UK become a Tory/UKIP hellhole even if my homeland does become independent and I’m tempted to move back north. After all, is SNP doing such a remarkable job? Polls and news show not. And then the only other option is Labour.

  25. bookmanwales

    @ Hen
    If you believe voting Labour will save the NHS you are simply deluded. Labour have long given up any pretence of being supporters of the NHS or any other state organization.
    Yes they give it a fancy name, PFI, but it still means privatisation and you still pay exorbitant prescription charges and hospital car parking fees as a subsidy to the “free” NHS.

    Let’s not forget ALL the fuel, tobacco, alcohol, NI, prescription and road tax rises over the last 20 years were all to pay for a better sustainable NHS. And here we are despite all those tax rises being told we can no longer afford a free NHS.

  26. Geoff Matrin

    I live in England and I was born in England yet i feel so ashamed of this fact.
    I new see rich V poor and one section of society turning on another in a divide and rule agenda of a Conservative coalition.
    I worked for thirty four years and now i am unemployed so claim JSA yet i have been “Sanctioned” as i refused a job i could never get to at 4am in the morning as i do not drive and they is no bus service and i was expected to walk or cycle 40 miles to get to the location so i will not be paid any money to buy life essential needs for 4 weeks.
    So what are my options ? starve to death ?,
    I can not claim asylum, I can not claim to be a political refuge, my only crime was to loose my job through the company moving to Poland.
    I will not vote in any forthcoming election but i see all around me the poverty that was not so abundant yet out of this desperation many teenage unemployed are angry and frustrated as they see mum or dad turfed out of the family home due to the bedroom tax and the anger is growing all around and yet it all feels like we have seen the likes of this in the past, the 1980s.
    When you hit the poor with more poverty they simply have nothing to loose and that can be dangerous for any political party in the summer months of 2013

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