What a charmer: Rachel Reeves hates people who don’t have a job – and loves a historic anti-Semite.
Keir Starmer seems to be sending mixed messages at the moment.
After practically prostituting himself to the witch-hunters of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Community Security Trust, Jewish Labour Movement and so on – who are keen to see him expel previous leader Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party, he has made Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Ms Reeves is currently infamous for praising Nancy Astor who, besides being the first female MP, was a notorious anti-Semite.
Unacceptable that Rachel Reeves has been given a #ShadowCabinet role given just under two months ago she was healing praise on the commemoration Nancy Astor – a known Nazi ideologue and supporter of Hitler.
Previously, Ms Reeves was unpopular because she said Labour should be “tougher than the Tories” on people claiming social security benefits. How was she going to manage that – by lining them up against a wall and shooting them?
"Sir" Keir Starmer has appointed Blairite dinosaur Rachel Reeves as Rachel Reeves becomes Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
If this is the quality of Starmer’s ShadCab choices, he can take his new New Labour and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Tonight’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight did not feature Conservative or Labour Parliamentary candidates in a debate on welfare – because the Conservative Party pulled out at the last minute, according to a tweet from Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves.
Fellow tweeter Anita Bellows immediately asked: “What have they got to hide?” including this image as an attachment:
The reference is obvious – David Clapson is the benefit claimant whose case was raised by Andrew Marr in his interview with David Cameron on Sunday.
Cameron’s responses indicate that he seems to think it was right for Mr Clapson to die as punishment for missing a single Job Centre appointment (for reasons that have not been disclosed). He refused to accept that the system should be reviewed.
The interview caused outrage among members of the public and now we can see the Conservatives’ reaction.
Like all bullies, they like to torture the weak. When public opinion rises up against them and they have a choice between “fight” and “flight”, they run like rabbits.
Rachel Reeves: The coalition has distorted the benefit debate so much that 64 per cent of Labour voters think benefits should be cut – and she doesn’t have the backbone to correct them.
Here’s a question that gets asked very often in any debate on state benefits: “Isn’t it right that the taxpayer should only support people who really need it?”
The implication is that the government of the day is right to restrict benefit provision.
The answer, of course, is to point at some of the cases we have known, in which benefits have been taken away from people; cases like that of David Clapson, an ex-soldier who was sanctioned off of Jobseekers’ Allowance and died of diabetic ketoacidosis three weeks into the sanction period. When his body was found by a friend, his electricity card was out of credit, meaning the fridge where he kept the insulin he used to treat his diabetes was not working. A coroner found that when David died there was no food in his stomach. Was the government right to restrict his benefits? Or was this state-sponsored murder?
How about severely bipolar Sheila Holt, who recently died after spending months in a coma caused by a heart attack she suffered after being pushed onto the government’s slave-labour Work Programme? Even while she was comatose, the work programme provider – Seetec – was sending her letters about her suitability for employment. There is no doubt that the stress of being forced onto the Work Programme led to her death – in fact the government has apologised for its actions. It therefore seems redundant to ask the question, “Was the government right to restrict her benefits?” as we already know the answer.
How about Karen Sherlock, who was suffering from kidney failure when her Employment and Support Allowance was cut off by Iain Duncan Smith’s minions. She died, apparently of a heart attack, after an operation was cancelled. Was the government right to restrict her benefits?
How about Stephanie Bottrill, who took her own life by walking in front of a lorry on the M6, just one month after the Bedroom Tax had been introduced by Iain Duncan Smith. Her rent at the time was £320 per month, some of which was subsidised by Housing Benefit – but the imposition of an extra £80 charge, to come from her own money, was too much for her finances to take. She left a note to relatives in which she made clear that she had taken her own life – and that she blamed the government. Was the government right to restrict her benefits?
According to the last figures available to us (from 2011 – and related to ESA alone), four more people die as a result of the government’s benefit regime every three hours – more than 200 every week. These figures are, however, more than three years old; they do not encompass the rise in suicides that takes place in the run-up to Christmas every year and they pre-date the effects of Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal Welfare Reform Act 2012.
Meanwhile, as Polly Toynbee has pointed out in her latest Guardianarticle, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary puts her foot in her mouth every time she talks about benefits. “She has the hardest shadow post, reconciling the party’s mission to stand with the underdog while facing a public fed by a stream of statistics-free anecdotes about welfare cheats,” writes Ms Toynbee.
That’s as may be, but she should be challenging those preconceptions, not conforming to them. “When last in power Labour failed to shift the enemy’s terms of engagement, hiding its own good actions behind tough talk,” writes Ms Toynbee.
“This mirrors too much Labour policy, foggy messages hiding agonised ambivalence – and voters smell out that inauthentic verbal triangulation.”
How true those words are. This writer was recently attacked by the shadow Welsh secretary, Owen Smith, for pointing out that he had confirmed, in his own words, that Labour would not speak out against the work capability assessment (that is responsible for three of the four deaths mentioned above) for fear of the right-wing press. This effectively means that his party is asking the sick and disabled to die for Labour’s election hopes.
Mr Smith threatened me with legal action after this blog put his words into plain English. He has since gone quiet, which is just as well. Not only has there been a national debate on the subject (of which Ms Toynbee’s article is just the latest part) but at least one reader has been able to confirm that my words were accurate, after a doorstep conversation with his own Labour candidate. Other readers are encouraged to do the same.
“On benefits, most voters are conflicted,” Ms Toynbee continues. “No one, least of all those working hard for very little, wants people cheating.” That is true. But then, 99.3 per cent of benefit claimants aren’t cheating at all. This government just treats them as if they are.
“Labour can’t win this internalised tussle by replicating it, but could earn credit by encouraging the nation’s better instincts,” writes Ms Toynbee.
The shame is that all the words coming from Labour suggest it will do the former, rather than the latter.
We now have a system of benefit assessment that has been independently shown to make the sick and disabled worse – both physically and mentally – while denying them the income they need to survive – and for which they have paid taxes and National Insurance all their working lives.
Only yesterday (March 19) we heard about a man (who did not want to be named) being forced to sell his home after suffering a stroke that left him with memory loss and unable to walk or speak properly.
This man, aged 59, had been working at an engineering firm in Darlington for the previous 16 years, so he certain had enough tax and NI to his name and cannot be described as a “scrounger” by any interpretation of the word.
Originally given Employment and Support Allowance together with Disability Living Allowance, he was reduced to ESA alone when the government decided to assess him for the new Personal Independence Payment and decided that he did not qualify. This is a man who cannot walk or speak properly, remember – let alone the memory lapses.
His income halved, his blue disability badge and mobility scooter removed, this gentleman was unable to keep up payments on his house and was forced to sell it.
Fortunately, he was able to move in with his daughter, who is now his full-time carer. But she pointed out that others, who did not have such a safety net, would be left homeless in the same circumstances.
“It is as if they have picked him out and said, we are going to strip him of everything he has got,” she said. How would that affect such a person mentally? Are we really expected to believe their physical condition would not break down still further, with nobody to help them?
The Guardiansays no: “As of last week, there is quantitative evidence that the notorious fit-for-work tests are inflicting damage to disabled people’s bodies (not to mention the impact on their minds). Yes, we have now reached a point where the benefit system is making disabled and chronically ill people sicker. Over 60% of disabled people going through the work capability assessment – designed by the DWP and sold off to private firms – report being in pain afterwards. Others said their condition was made worse or their recovery delayed. One claimant surveyed, who has progressive rheumatoid arthritis, said she left her appointment “feeling absolutely awful and suffered a lot of pain in the following days.” She went on to have a stroke a few weeks later.”
This writer can support this claim, from personal experience. Only this week I told an audience in London that Mrs Mike was left on the sofa for three days, unable to move without extreme pain, after taking part in her own work capability assessment medical in mid-2012. That’s nearly three years ago and the system has become worse, not better.
“It might be worth remembering that this is an assessment that is meant to help people – one million people are due to go through the process this year – if only because those orchestrating it appear to have forgotten. It is the same cavalier attitude to the vulnerable that means claimants have killed themselves after being spat out by the benefit system, as if desperation and distress means nothing,” writes Frances Ryan in The Guardian.
“We are sliding back to the notion that suffering helps the soul, that the underclass – be it the unemployed, the disabled, or chronically ill – need to be trained in order to behave. And, as almost a secondary consequence, their punishment cuts the welfare bill down. A bonus all round.”
That’s the Coalition attitude for you – that of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. Unfortunately, Labour has also got itself terribly tongue-tied, talking about its own plans for social security – thanks to foot-in-mouth liability Rachel Reeves.
“We don’t want to be seen [as], and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,” she told Amelia Gentleman in a now-infamous Guardian interview. “We are the Labour Party – we are not the party of people on benefits.” She went on to try to moderate this harsh judgement by saying she wanted the welfare state to continue, but the question must be asked – given her attitude: In what form?
She’s constantly talking about bringing the DWP bill down, and people who are sick, disabled or unemployed through no fault of their own have a right to fear that this may involve punitive measures against them, if her plan to get more people working, and get the workforce off in-work benefits, doesn’t – well – work. What’s her ‘Plan B’?
Labour does not intend to scrap the work capability assessment. This blog was led to believe that, last year – but only days after the article appeared, Rachel Reeves lurched into view to tell us all that the WCA would be modified, rather than scrapped. It would be changed to ensure that disabled people were put back to work in a more “effective” way, she said.
People like the gentleman mentioned above, with his mobility and speech problems, and his memory loss? People like Mrs Mike?
Do us all a favour.
Labour’s plan for the work capability assessment won’t do anything to relieve the stress of the process – the lead-up that creates grave concern about whether all the relevant information has been supplied (and whether it will be read, even); the assessment itself that leaves sick and disabled people in extreme pain afterwards; and the waiting afterwards, an indefinite period of uncertainty.
No wonder The Guardian says fit-for-work tests are harmful to health – people die just from the stress of having to go through them at all! Then there’s the huge – and uncounted – number of suicides by people, after they have been denied the benefit for some spurious non-reason. Rachel Reeves has not promised any action to end these phenomena.
That is why this writer sent a letter to her boss, earlier this week, calling for him to reconsider the situation as a matter of urgency. This blog stated before that Rachel Reeves could lose the election for Labour, single-handedly, and that was not a joke.
Dead people can’t vote. Their relatives can, though – and are more likely to do so, if they have a loved one who has passed away because of some government decision. Labour should be picking up those votes with a sympathetic change of policy – not throwing them to the minority parties in their millions.
Somebody on the BBC’s Question Time last night (if I recall correctly) said the first duty of a government is to protect its citizens. The Coalition has been derelict in that duty. Labour must not be allowed to think that is acceptable.
One last point: Labour is still the best possible choice in this election – anywhere. This is a single policy that the party has got badly wrong, but Labour has many more policies that are good – at least for this moment. The Conservatives don’t. The Liberal Democrats don’t. The SNP don’t – and anybody in Scotland who thinks giving that party sway over affairs in Westminster will help anyone but the SNP should think again. UKIP is a joke – in very poor taste.
There’s nothing to stop you from pointing out this mistake. Ed Miliband’s email address is [email protected], or you can write to him at: The Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
Labour aims to have conversations with millions of people before the election. No doubt he will be delighted to hear from you.
There’s a reason people created cartoons like this – they were rejecting the Work Capability Assessment and the thinking behind it. This is not how we want our government to run our country.
Yesterday’s article on Labour’s attitude to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), used on people applying for incapacity or disability benefits, was probably the most controversial to be published by this site.
Look at the article‘s comment column and you will see the strength of support for this writer’s planned open letter. It calls for Labour to accept that the public opposes the continued use of a system that is responsible for as much death as the WCA undoubtedly is.
You will also see a few critical comments, and it is fair to say that there have been quite vicious attacks on the other social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Let’s try to address some of those.
Some claimed this writer was some kind of agent provocateur who had timed an attack on Labour to ruin its chances – a curious suggestion, considering the report was about someone else’s response to the ill-considered comments of a Labour shadow cabinet member, over which Yr Obdt Srvt could not have had any control.
Some claimed that Labour’s attitude to the WCA has already been addressed by Rachel Reeves’ promise to reform it – even though it cannot be reformed. It is beyond rehabilitation. The Work Capability Assessment serves a twofold purpose: It shovels taxpayers’ money into the hands of private, profit-making firms, and in return those firms do their best to disqualify claimants from receiving payments. If there was no intention to pervert the benefit system, governments would rely on the word of claimants’ GPs and the specialists working on their case. The responsible course of action is to get rid of it – before it kills anyone else.
Some said the Green Party had seized in this as an opportunity to attack Labour. That’s nice for them, but nobody really cares what the Greens do. They said Labour voted for fracking when Labour was the only party that found a way to stop it. They said Labour voted for Tory austerity when Labour was doing nothing of the sort. Let them say what they like.
Most hinged on whether Owen Smith actually said what was claimed, at a meeting a couple of days ago. Here’s Liza Van Zyl, whose Facebook post sparked this controversy: “I was the person who asked the question of the Shadow Sec of State.
“I asked why, given that the WCA has caused a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, is Labour scrapping the BT but not the WCA? He answered that Labour cannot commit to scrapping the WCA because it would look bad in the right wing press and would negatively affect Labour’s election chances.
“My question was clearly about the WCA causing people’s deaths. I stand by my comments.”
Vox Political has also been contacted by another person who was at the meeting, who said: “He did fudge a bit and she left the meeting.”
Later on, according to my contact, another questioner pointed out that the WCA “was introduced to stop people getting money, and the best person to say who can go to work or not is a GP.” This is in line with the view put forward by this blog. “He [Mr Smith] seemed quite happy with that and said after the election [Labour] would look at it”.
Of course there is a connection between the Work Capability Assessment and death; how much clearer could it possibly be?
Several thoughts occur. Firstly, nobody is suggesting that Mr Smith said Labour was happy about the possibility of people dying, simply because the party wouldn’t stand up to the right-wing press. Let’s make that clear. But he certainly wasn’t going to say Labour would do anything to stop it – certainly not before the election.
So it is clear that Liza was making an honest comment on what Mr Smith was saying, based on knowledge of the subject. We know that the Work Capability Assessment has been a catastrophe for people all over the UK. It is based on a system evolved by criminal US insurance firm Unum, designed to be hugely difficult and stressful. The stress of having to prepare for an assessment kills many, as does that of taking it. Some commit suicide when they are refused benefit, some die from the stress of having to appeal. Some who are granted the benefit die from its requirements – like trying to become ready for work in a year if they’re in the work-related activity group of ESA. Some who are granted benefit die from the strain of being reassessed, sometimes at short notice. Death surrounds the process. When Mr Smith said Labour would not oppose the WCA because of the right-wing press, he was tacitly saying Labour is willing to let these fatalities continue – even if he wasn’t actually saying it.
It’s something that some people have found hard to accept, but that is the message being put out to people all across the UK by Labour’s unwillingness to denounce the process and Liza just happened to be the one who stood up and said it.
As a result, it seems she has been hounded off the Internet. She wrote: “Folks, if you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry I’m ok. I’ve given my phone and all means of Internet access to a friend… so that I don’t have to see all the horrible messages I’m being bombarded with.”
Secondly, if Mr Smith’s answer really was a “fudge”, then he has no right to be scandalised by Liza’s response. On Twitter yesterday he claimed it was a “lie”, prompting Yours Truly to put him straight – at length. Perhaps he should apologise for creating the misunderstanding and clarify what he really was saying about Labour’s position instead.
Ah, but (thirdly) he also said that Labour would look at the matter after the election, which touches on something else mentioned in the original article – electoral dishonesty. Voters don’t want a Labour Party that says one thing before the election, in order to keep the press from kicking up a fuss about being “soft on welfare”… and then do another thing after the election. That’s just what the Tories and Liberal Democrats did in 2010. We want a political party that will be honest with its voters and make a firm promise now. Don’t we?
Fourthly, isn’t Labour supposed to be brave enough to fight the right-wing press when it is wrong? What happened to Ed Miliband’s bravado on the subject?
Vox Political has spent nearly two years trying to get the DWP to divulge up-to-date figures on the number of deaths suffered by people going through the claim process that involves the WCA. The last published data – from November 2011 – showed around four deaths every three hours, or 220 per week. That’s a monstrous figure. It seems possible that the DWP may provide new figures soon, and we can hope that the average will be lower – but the sheer weight of punitive measures that have been put in place since 2011 suggests otherwise.
Just as shocking is Labour’s apparent disinterest in changing it. The sheer number of people who have contacted this site – via the comment column, Twitter or Facebook – to say they have tried repeatedly to engage Labour luminaries on the subject, only to get the cold-shoulder, is a scandal in itself.
We’ve already got enough political parties whose leaders are only interested in what they can get for themselves – they’re called the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Labour needs to be better; Labour needs to stand up and do what’s right for everybody.
And that is a big reason why this is so important. Labour is the only party with a hope of kicking the Conservatives back into Opposition. People up and down the country want to support Labour – but can’t, because they don’t believe Labour will support them. That’s the ultimate reason the WCA has to go; it doesn’t help people – it kills them.
If the alternative to being “soft on welfare” is causing the deaths of thousands of people who only asked for the benefits their tax money is supposed to have funded, then ‘One Nation’ Labour cannot afford to have anything to do with it.
Rachel Reeves: Does she expect disabled people to lay down their lives for Labour?
… Especially when it won’t improve those hopes?
Extremely disturbing news has reached Vox Political, courtesy of Liza Van Zyl on Facebook. Extremely long-term readers may recall Liza was the lady who received a visit from police who claimed she had committed a criminal act against the Department for Work and Pensions, just before midnight on October 26, 2012 – being that she had been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following reassessment by Atos and the DWP for Employment and Support Allowance.
Fortunately for those who still have to undergo these assessments, she was not discouraged and has continued to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves. However, she is currently suffering severe disenchantment with the Labour Party, as she recounts below:
“We heard from Owen Smith MP today [Saturday, March 7] (a member of the left wing of the of the Labour Party leadership) that it is important for disabled people to continue to die, lest any commitment by Labour to scrap the Work Capability Assessment generate a negative response in the press and affect Labour’s general election chances.
“He said that while he personally doesn’t like the WCA, his Labour colleagues will not support scrapping it because of fears it will play badly with the right wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances… I’ve since been contacted by other disabled people who’ve raised the issue with their Labour MPs, and the response has been: Yes, the WCA isn’t nice but if Labour commits to scrapping it, it would appear to be ‘soft on welfare’.
“The similarities of these responses (and given that Owen Smith is a frontbench shadow sec of state and therefore presumably is up to date on party strategy) indicates that this is an agreed line or represents an actual decision. This is profoundly disturbing, given that a great many Labour MPs know in detail exactly what suffering and deaths the WCA is responsible for among their own constituents: Tom Greatrex organised a powerful meeting of Labour MPs with Chris Grayling two years ago. Dame Anne Begg is herself a disabled person, as are other MPs.
“So: When was the decision taken by Labour MPs that the opinion of the right wing press matters more than the suffering and deaths of disabled people? How was this decision made, and why didn’t the likes of John McDonnell, Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn etc kick up a holy fuss? I have put the WCA question to parliamentary candidates Jo Stevens, Mari Williams, Chris Elmore and Elizabeth Evans and got the strong impression from them that they were committed to scrapping the WCA… What is going on?”
This writer would prefer to believe that Labour does not intend to keep the Work Capability Assessment in its current form. The claim here is that an offer to scrap the hated test would “play badly with the right-wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances” – it doesn’t say anything about what might happen afterwards.
But this raises two points:
Labour needs to be told that this ambiguous position is harming its chances at the election. Sick and disabled people vote; so do their families and friends, and so do the families and friends of the many thousands who have died or suffered greatly as a result of the current, demented assessment system. They don’t want to be told that Labour supports a system that kills people for being ill and will most likely vote for one of the alternative parties if this remains Labour policy. The people who read the right-wing press don’t – and won’t – vote Labour, and it is pointless trying to engage them; they are a tiny minority of the electorate. It would be far better for Labour to engage the far greater number of people who want justice in their social security system..
If Labour does intend to scrap or change the WCA, then we’re looking at electoral dishonesty of the kind that forced so many people to lose their faith in politics after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat betrayals that started in 2010 and have continued to this day. Those of us who support Labour want a government that is better.
This writer has tried to get answers from Rachel Reeves, her team, and Ed Miliband many times before, to be met with stony silence. Perhaps if they see a letter about this in the very right-wing papers whose support they are trying to gain, they might actually wake up and realise the stupidity in their handling of this serious issue.
I am quite happy to draft such a letter. Newspapers seem happy to publish correspondence with many signatories, so it seems logical to ask for people who are prepared to support it with their names. Please get in touch, via this blog’s comments, Twitter or Facebook with your name and (if you are part of a relevant organisation) position, and let’s get something sorted before the weekend.
Please share this article with anyone who might wish to contribute.
Rachel Reeves: This photo is a rare occasion in which she doesn’t have her foot in her mouth.
I’ll say it if nobody else will – Rachel Reeves is so stupid she could lose Labour the election.
Work and Pensions is a gaping policy open-goal for the Tories but Ms Reeves can’t see this and wants the world to know she’ll out-cut them on the Benefit Cap.
“Labour supports a cap on benefits. We will ask an independent commission to look at whether the cap should be lower in some areas,” are her actual words.
What stupidity. One can only imagine she is basing these comments on the fact that wages are lower in some areas than others. But prices are just as high!
Sure, it’s an important point that David Cameron’s government “has spent £25bn more than planned on welfare because of his failure to tackle the low pay that leaves millions dependent on benefits to make ends meet”. And her comments about apprenticeships may be accurate as well.
But what about all the deaths caused by Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal benefits regime?
What about the huge numbers of people who have simply disappeared from the benefit system rather than face another round of humiliation and sanction on possibly fraudulent grounds?
What about workfare?
What about zero-hours contracts, part-time and temporary work, and all the dodges employers are using to get out of paying for holidays, sickness and the like?
What about the scandal of our low-wage economy, that keeps people on in-work benefits and denies the Treasury the Income Tax money it needs to pay off the deficit and debt?
What about the many other legitimate grounds for laying into the Coalition government?
This is utterly unacceptable – and in the run-up to an election.
What is Ed Miliband thinking, letting her keep the Work and Pensions brief?
He must get rid of her – not just for our sakes, but for his own party’s electoral chances.
At long last, Labour has launched an attack on Coalition – particularly Conservative – ‘welfare’ policies. And it’s a strong one.
Perhaps the sustained criticism of shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves has done some good because her speech today (November 26) attacks the policies of her hopeless Conservative counterpart Iain Duncan Smith in many ways and on several levels – and on all those levels, it works.
The catchline is ‘Tory Welfare Waste’, which attacks not only Duncan Smith’s profligacy in wasting no less than £25 billion on his useless schemes, but also the waste of talent – especially that of young people ‘parked’ on benefits by his system – and of their time.
As Conor Pope writes in his LabourList article about the speech, “For a Government hell-bent on an austerity agenda with such a focus on making “benefit scroungers” pay, the amount of unnecessary money they’ve splashed out on their welfare policies is startling.
“Take the now infamous Universal Credit… the DWP had aimed to have a million people on the scheme by this point, yet are currently 982,150 behind that figure. The cost so far? A cool half a billion pounds.
“Bedroom Tax, too. Another policy that strikes society’s most disadvantaged hardest and does not prove cost effective: by pushing people out of the council houses they can no longer afford and into private housing, the housing benefit bill has exploded in many places.”
And new independent research shows that the Coalition has spent £5 billion more than it planned on tax credits over the course of this Parliament.
So the Conservative-led Coalition has overspent massively, both on failed policies and the state having to pick up the tab for companies who don’t pay their workers enough to get by. The failure to tackle low pay will cost another £1 billion in the current parliament.
While all this happens, of course, the Tories plan billions in tax cuts for people earning over £40,000 a year.
As Mr Pope concludes: “Whatever happened to the balanced budgets of tomorrow? The Tories… aren’t just wasting lives; they’re screwing the economy to do it.”
Is anybody else in two minds about Labour’s newly-announced plan to increase the period of time before immigrants into the UK can claim benefits – from three months to six months?
Some commentators are bound to see it as Labour leaping on another right-wing bandwagon, restricting access to the country for people who can bring much-needed skills to our shores (more on this in a moment).
But our membership of the EU means people from other member states must be allowed to move into the UK if they wish to do so. Until recently that was not a problem – where was all the fuss about the French and German immigrants in the 1970s? There wasn’t any – because the member states’ economies all functioned at a similar level. That changed when the eastern European states were allowed in; they were not functioning on the same level and this meant migrating to the more developed countries became an attractive option for the impoverished people of those lands.
That’s when people started to think UKIP had a point. Whether rightly or not, they saw eastern Europeans coming here, taking British jobs or sitting on benefits, and even sending some of the money they made back to boost their home country rather than ours.
What’s the solution?
For the Labour Party, leaving the EU is not an option. Membership of the Union brings benefits that are important to this country at this time (at least in the opinion of Labour planners – your mileage may vary). It would be unreasonable to forbid people from moving into the UK after being offered a job here by a UK based employer. That leaves governments with only one lever to pull – one that restricts payment of state benefits to immigrants.
Realistically, that is the only option available in the current circumstances. The sensible solution would have been for the EU to reject countries’ bids for membership until their economies had reached a par with the rest of the union – but that didn’t happen. Now that these countries are in, the sensible option would be for the EU to work on bringing their economies up to scratch, in order to make emigration pointless; poorer members of those societies would be no better-off elsewhere.
On the issue of immigrants bringing skills to our shores – this seems to include very basic manual-labour skills like catering and cleaning, and the criticism has been levelled at the British that they just don’t want to get their hands dirty any more. This seems justifiable. If UK-based employers can’t fill the bottom-level jobs with members of the local population, what are they supposed to do? The jobs have to be done.
It wasn’t always like that; back in the 1980s, school leavers (or students on long holidays) used to pick up pocket money by stacking shelves in supermarkets, working in care homes (which could be extremely unpleasant, depending on the habits of the residents), in fish and chip shops, cleaning offices, in pubs… Yr Obdt Srvt used to work nights at a printing company, getting newspapers ready for distribution.
There seems to have been a failure in education, in socialisation or in remuneration. Do young people not have the skills to take even these entry-level jobs? Are they no longer being told that it is good to get a grounding in the workplace by taking these jobs? Or do they simply not pay enough to motivate people who are relatively comfortable, living with Mummy and Daddy and claiming benefits? The answer to the last issue isn’t to reduce benefits because people who don’t have such comforts would be unfairly penalised; it is to make work pay in fact, instead of only on Tory slogans.
So Labour would increase the delay between arriving in England and receiving benefits from three months to two years; would stop immigrants sending child benefit and child tax credit payments back to their home countries; and would “curb in-work benefits paid to EU migrants”, according to the BBC.
Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Rachel Reeves was quoted as saying: “”Child benefit and child tax credit are for children who live in this country, and we would stop it being sent abroad.” Who could argue with that? In-work benefits are “not supposed to support people from day one in this country” and can encourage employers to undercut wages, she added. Again, anything that discourages employers from pushing wages down is to be applauded.
The plan to withhold benefits for a longer period is supported by a European Court of Justice ruling that recently allowed similar changes to German laws. It is recognised that there is an abuse problem that must be addressed.
Other parties have their own plans on immigration. UKIP’s are well-known, and David Cameron has tried time and again to find a Conservative-style solution – most of which seemed to hinge on pretending he had made changes when in fact he hadn’t.
It seems likely that Labour’s plan will be lumped among these by the general public – and certainly by commentators with vested interests – as a right-wing bid to restrict people’s freedoms.
That’s a shame, when one considers an aspect of the plan that is unique to Labour – a demand for an “EU Migration Impact Fund”, paid by the European Union from within its existing budget, to help regions where immigration has increased the population by paying for increased school places, medical staff or housing.
You won’t get that with the Tories or UKIP! Why? Because their policies rely on telling you that the EU never gives anything back to the UK. Does anybody remember the flooding at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year? David Cameron had the right to request EU cash – from a fund specifically set up to help in exactly those circumstances – and he let the deadline pass for political reasons, passing the burden onto the British people instead.
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