Labour is a ‘headless chicken’ over tax credits

Open mouth, insert foot: Harriet Harman made her Tax Credits mistake on yesterday's (July 12) Sunday Politics TV show.

Open mouth, insert foot: Harriet Harman made her Tax Credits mistake on yesterday’s (July 12) Sunday Politics TV show.

Harriet Harman has softened her position on George Osborne’s ’emergency’ budget; while she still supports his tax credit cuts, she says she is “happy to be overruled” after a backlash from rank-and-file party members (including This Writer).

The statement follows another backlash against a local party official who wrote to others in an attempt to stop Constituency Labour Parties from giving their support to leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, who currently has the second-highest number of CLP nominations.

The person responsible for the latest attempt to rig the Labour leadership election (the first being the ridiculous ‘Tories for Corbyn’ campaign) – Luke Akehurst – was taken to task by fellow Labour members (including, again, This Writer) on Twitter. Pressed to explain his attitude, he referred us to a blog piece he wrote before the general election which appears to explain much that is wrong about the current attitude of some of Labour’s leading lights.

It’s all about ‘triangulation’, rather than ‘dividing lines’, Mr Akehurst reckons.

He writes: “It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent (or apparent opponent). The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue.”

In the words of the late – great – Tony Benn, Mr Akehurst is calling for Labour and its leaders to be ‘weathercocks’ (triangulators) rather than ‘signposts’ (adopting dividing lines against their main opposition). Mr Benn 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.

Mr Benn would have been witheringly opposed to a weathercock like Luke Akehurst.

Triangulation leaves Labour without any principles of its own – the party ends up wasting time, chasing other people’s policies like (to stretch Mr Benn’s “weathercock” analogy) a headless chicken.

This brings us back to Harriet Harman. Instead of defending tax credits as a way of ensuring a certain standard of living and encouraging people to be good parents – the position of the Labour Party when it introduced tax credits a little over 10 years ago – she thought the wind was blowing in George Osborne’s direction and decided to let it blow her along with it. Big mistake.

Osborne’s tax credit raid will make working people and parents significantly poorer than they are now – and this is even after five years of being hammered by cut after Tory cut.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said the rise in the minimum wage heralded by Osborne in his budget to offset his benefit cuts would raise £4 billion for families, while they would lose £12 billion in government help.

The freeze in working-age benefits, tax credits and local housing allowance will deprive 13 million households of £260 a year, on average.

And Harriet Harman supported it. That position does not correspond with Labour Party principles. It’s the position of a headless chicken.

Look at what has happened now: Harman has been forced to backtrack, with a spokesperson saying she had been “setting out an attitude that we are not going to oppose everything”. Headless chicken.

Sadly, Labour’s leadership candidates offered a mixed response. Liz Kendall fully supported Harriet Harman’s position – most probably because she is a closet Tory.

Andy Burnham’s spokesperson (!) said he did not support the tax credit cuts but added that he “will not offer blanket opposition and, where we agree with a government policy, we won’t oppose for the sake of it”. Headless chicken.

Yvette Cooper said she opposed the cuts because they would “hit working families, reduce work incentives and push more children into poverty”. On the fact of it, that’s good. However, she would be another extension of the New Labour disaster, which was all about ‘triangulation’, as Mr Akehurst’s article illustrates. Headless chicken.

The only ‘signpost’ among the lot of them – the only one with solid Labour principles – is Jeremy Corbyn. He said he was “not willing to vote for policies that will push more children into poverty” – and when he said it, he didn’t mean he might change his mind tomorrow, or whenever it becomes expedient. He means he is not willing to push more children into poverty – ever. Signpost.

We need more people like Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour – and fewer like Harriet Harman.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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  1. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl) July 13, 2015 at 11:13 am - Reply

    I am a Jeremy Corbyn fan but not quite in agreement with tax credits continuing for future huge families which are often nothing more than income providers.

    In this already over-populated country I find it irresponsible to encourage people to have children that they can’t afford unless others pay for them; two should be enough.

    There would have to be a safety net to make certain that kids born to irresponsible parents would not suffer and for the first two children it is only correct to maintain tax credits.

    In future two kids should be enough unless you can really afford to pay for them yourself and not expect others to. Kids are not income!

    • foggy July 13, 2015 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      So what happens when you’ve a working married couple with 3/4 or 5 kids which they can ‘really afford’ and the man or woman buggers off and leaves the main parent carer high and dry with all those children ?

      Or when 1 parent tragically dies leaving the other a single parent with the children ?

      Or when a female is traumatically raped and, due to her religion, doesn’t have a termination but gives birth to a third child or even twins ?

      Do we say, ‘no, they can starve, you should have stuck to just 2 children ‘ ?

      Life can sometimes be ideal and we can live within our means but can suddenly everything change for the worse. One can never know what lies around the corner !

    • hstorm July 13, 2015 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry, but this Thatcherite notion that has been around since the late-1980’s that child support and tax credits for families ‘incentivises irresponsible breeding’ is one of the most crass and unproven bits of Tory bilge of all time. There has never been any real evidence that people deliberately have kids just to get more benefits, and they would be incredibly stupid if they did. They would lose considerable freedom with the extra responsibility entailed, plus the extra benefits would simply be used up by the expenses of bringing up the children.

      Just like the flight-of-the-rich arguments against higher taxes, the whole idea of babies-for-benefits is gibberish put about to rationalise the greed of rich people who just don’t want to share the wealth around.

      • Jim Round July 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm - Reply

        When I started as a support worker I was saddened by the attitude of far too many people who did see having children as a way of getting money, coupled with the event happening under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, raging hormones and naivety. It also meant they did not have to work, usually in places where there were few jobs anyway.
        The fathers were long gone, and if they did turn up it was just a slanging and swearing match.
        The bare minimum is spent on food and clothes for the kids and it was not uncommon to find unwashed clothes and plates left for days.
        We did manage to turn some lives round but it was an uphill struggle with little support from both sides.
        The onus is increasingly placed on thinly stretched charities and police.
        There is and has never been any strategy to tackle why there is low self esteem, respect or educational achievement in these groups, or for the areas in which they are most likely to live.
        Another generation and it begins again.
        To sum it all up, until the root causes of the above are dealt with, it will just be one big circle.
        Problem is, no-one seems to have a workable solution.

  2. Nigel Harman July 13, 2015 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Only one person can lead Labour away from this mess and lead us the way, most of us want to go Mr Jeremy Corbyn.

  3. mad as hell July 13, 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Completely agreed. If Corbyn were leader people like me who vote for other more leftwing parties would consider voting Labour at the next election. His voting record in the house and expenses record speaks for itself.

  4. Mr.Angry July 13, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    A great shame Corbyn and Meacher don’t form a new party ( I dont mean new Labour) and vet their followers on their merits an firm beliefs and get this sorted out, it’s becoming a disaster.

    No wonder people are not voting and who can blame them.

    • bookmanwales July 14, 2015 at 1:21 am - Reply

      I agree completely. So many Blairites still running the show and making Labour sound as bad, if not worse than, the Tories.
      The problem is Labour still refuse to believe they lost votes to the Greens and the SNP because they weren’t left enough. They would rather believe that 23% of the vote is a majority for the continuation of cuts , cuts and more cuts.

  5. Neilth July 13, 2015 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Mike, as I argued many years ago you can be pure as you want in the wilderness so long as you want to stay in the wilderness. This is as true now as it was in the eighties.
    I suspect that politically we are from the same wing of the party and both look back on the New Labour years with dismay at opportunities missed and mistakes made.
    I maintain that there is a need for strong leadership and firm opposition to the inequities and iniquities of this dreadful, partisan government.
    I also agree that Kendall would be a major disaster as she would abandon our grass roots and throw the poor and vulnerable under the bus in the name of expediency. We can’t do anything when we are out of power so winning any bye-elections and the next general election is obviously crucial. Victories will not come if we don’t have a clearly defined vision. We must spell out our principles and our agenda and stick to it.
    Corbyn represents that principled stance. He is a socialist, unusual these days I know, and has stuck to his line even when vilified for his views. Unfortunately his history of supporting what have been often minority positions leaves him vulnerable to ridicule by our political enemies.
    We’ve seen how effectively they can use ridicule; bacon sandwich, Ed stone, and they will portray Corbyn as an extremist raising the fears of the electorate as they did with their distortion of our relationship with the Scot Nats – a major factor of our collapse in England.
    Personally I would like to see a democratic Socialist in the mix but given the choice we have been presented with I believe our choice should be Burnham or Cooper, hopefully with a socialist deputy to give them backbone.

  6. Chris Kitcher July 13, 2015 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Couldn’t agree with your last remark more heartily. What a breath of fresh air Jeremy Corbyn is in this lacklustre leader election.

    I for one am throughly fed up with mealy mouthed contenders, frightened of straying to the left, eventually ending up agreeing with the rotten Tories.

  7. bookmanwales July 13, 2015 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    It’s not a matter of “traingulation” “headless chicken” or any other metaphor ? Basically it is outright self serving selfishness. “The Tories won the election therefore their policies must be right hence let’s all agree we will do the same or more… as power comes at any cost ”

    I’m afraid the Labour party is now a dead duck as far as most people I know are concerned. First Blair and now this current crop of wannabe Tories are day by day sealing the fate of the once working man’s party with their endless fawning over the Tory drivel.

    If Corbyn wins ( which doesn’t really seem likely at this point) it will take a mammoth amount of work and publicity to get people to seriously consider Labour again. All this will be done in an atmosphere of back stabbing and discontent from those Blairite followers who will continue to firmly believe in Tory policies.

    Should Corbyn not win the only solutiion would be for the unions and their members to leave the Labour party en masse cut off their funding and start from scratch otherwise for the next 30 years we will have nought but more and more tory policies regardless of who achieves power.

    • Mike Sivier July 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      Triangulation is – apparently – about choosing which policies to support and which to reject.
      In other words, the main parties become bald men arguing over a comb – it’s the details of policies that become contentious, not the policies themselves.
      That narrows the political debate down too far, while not being exactly as you described.

  8. foggy July 13, 2015 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Well stated MIke. This is just one of the BIG reasons that Labour lost the GE15 – Mixed messages from the likes of Rachel Reeves, Tristram Hunt and HH etc had the Labour Parties Political compass spinning which left the electorate fairly dazed and confused as to who Labour were and what they stood for. The likes of these just need to shut up – or even better, leave !!

    Labour definitely need Jeremy Corbyn to bang in those sign posts and give good clear messages without the elitist sound bites – Everyone understands good wholesome English !

  9. Mr.Angry July 13, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Mike just read today,s article from pfUpdate public finance if you can download it wonderful article on the welfare reform, third or fourth article down. I am sure you would revel in it. I don’t do twitter or facebook so can’t forward on to you, but have saved it.

  10. Steve Grant July 13, 2015 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Harriet Harman isn’t right over tax credits but why doesn’t the Labour Party attack the Tories on FIS,which was introduced by a TORY chancellor before the start of tax credits way back in the early 1990’s.?.. FIS was used to boost poor wages because employers were not paying enough to keep a family above the poverty level and the benefit levels were generous if I recall?If it was OK for the Tories to introduce virtually the same benefit then why doesn’t the Labour Party attack them for introducing a benefit all those years ago which had to be carried on because employers totally ignored calls for a decent wage.It seems to me the Labour Party doesn’t want win elections anymore,it’s ill prepared for virtually everything that goes on in the country either that or the quality of leadership contenders and their so called advisors leave a lot to be desired.

    • hayfords July 13, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      The details and dates are incorrect. FIS (Family Income Supplement) was introduced by in 1970 (effective August 1971). It was stopped and replace by FC (Family Credit) in 1986).

  11. sally July 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Good piece, Mike.
    More dirty politics and political game playing. Which policies to accept and which to reject, you’re right, there! The electorate, every person, should be more than simply a secondary or tertiary consideration. People are really struggling and the country is becoming very divided, no time to be messing about like this. But perhaps there is some good in all of this, that personalities and priorities are on display…

    Thank goodness for Corbyn.

  12. hstorm July 14, 2015 at 4:57 pm - Reply

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