The BBC is reporting that Jeremy Corbyn has voiced his opposition to plans by the Conservative Government that would lower the overall household “welfare cap” in an interview with New Statesman. There’s nothing wrong with that – the cap was introduced at a level that was too low, and now the Tories want to cut it further, pushing more and more families into poverty and out of their current homes in what has been dubbed “economic cleansing” of housing estates.
But the report also quotes a “spokesman” who said Corbyn was “very much in favour” of getting rid of the cap altogether – supporting this with a quote from Corbyn himself, telling the TUC conference last week that he wanted to “remove the whole idea of the benefit cap”.
That’s just opening up the goal for the Tories to score.
Lo and behold, up pops Iain Duncan Smith – a man who has been missing for months while his Department for Work and Pensions was battered by allegations that his policies have been killing benefit claimants – accurate allegations.
Working hard to wash the blood off his hands and divert attention elsewhere, the Gentleman Ranker said: “chaos and confusion” surrounded Labour’s position – despite being an unlikely judge. Chaos and confusion have dogged his tenure as Work and Pensions secretary, yet he continues, blithely unwilling to acknowledge any problems.
“Conservatives believe that nobody should be able to claim more in welfare than the average family earns by going out to work,” he said. “By pledging to reverse this position, it’s clear that today’s Labour Party are simply not on the side of working people. They are still the same old welfare party – wanting to borrow more to spend more on benefits.”
If Conservatives really believed that nobody should claim more than the average working family earns, then social security benefits would be capped at £32,000 – not £20,000. The fact that the Tories want to cut the amount available means they don’t want social security to be a safety net for people in hard times. Instead, they want to use it to prise people out of their homes and into poverty. That much is clear and indisputable.
Labour has not pledged to reverse any claim that people should have more in benefits than an average working family. The evidence shows that Iain Duncan Smith was lying. Claims by a spokesman and comments that the Labour leader wants to do something do not add up to a policy commitment.
And the claim by the man This Blog calls RTU (Return To Unit – a military term for an officer candidate who is not up to the task) that Labour is “not of the side of working people” is nothing less than offensive to all the working people who have suffered at the hands of the Tories over the last five years and more.
But the fact remains that Labour people gave the odious IDS a chance to push his perverted version of the facts.
Labour needs to be better than that. Whoever this “spokesman” is, they should take a back seat for the foreseeable future. Anyone who is that loose-lipped cannot be allowed to speak for the party or its leader. The party needs to be on-message, all the time.
Owen Smith, Labour’s new Work and Pensions spokesman, has fought a rearguard action, saying it is “very clear” that Labour is currently opposing only the plan to cut the cap to £20,000 nationally, and to £23,000 in London – but he shouldn’t have to do it.
It doesn’t matter whether Labour MPs, spokespeople, supporters or whoever want a particular policy, or want to undermine the new leader (still an issue among the neoliberals who are hanging on in the party in the hope of turning it back to Red Toryism), or have an agenda of their own – they need to shut up and stick to party policy.
Tories like Duncan Smith are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to attack Labour and divert attention away from their own policies of hatred towards anybody not in the top one per cent of earners. If Labour is to win the country back from these despots, then Labour needs a much better publicity strategy.
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