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4 points for Labour for the next 2 years

Today the infamous bedroom tax kicks in, along with a whole slew of other benefit-cutting measures including a 40% cut in Council Tax benefit for those who are not pensioners, a limit on uprating of all benefits to 1% which (since inflation is currently 2.8%) means a real terms cut of 1.8%, and a cap on housing benefit which is expected to force 80,000 households out of their homes to migrate perhaps hundreds of miles away.

The bedroom tax is such a vicious demonising of the poor – at the same time that the bankers and super-rich who caused the financial crisis are getting off scot-free – that it may well turn into a defining moment for this government, just like the poll tax did for Thatcherf in 1990. All these measures will cause such anger, bitterness and despair that civil disobedience, demonstrations and rioting must be expected in this next year.

The Tories seem hell-bent on turning public opinion against themselves and making a spectacular self-destruct. But Labour cannot rely on Tory suicidal tendencies continuing indefinitely. As the next election draws nearer, the Tories instinct for self-preservation should never be under-estimated. In preparation for that moment Labour needs to act on 4 points:

  1. Labour must vigorously refute (which, astonishingly, it has not done so far) the constant Tory canard that Britain is in its current dreadful state “because of the mess Labour left behind”. The lie to this is that in 2007, just before the crash, UK net debt stood at 38% of GDP – the second lowest in the G7 leading economies, and exceptionally low by UK historical standards – far lower than in all but 2 of Thatcher’s 11 years. The budget deficit only grew from 3% in 2007 to 11.6% in 2010 because of the bankers’ bailout.   There was no Labour over-spending.
  2. Labour needs to say much more confidently than it has done so far that this agony of austerity imposed by the Tories is not necessary and not inevitable. A growth policy, which is desperately needed, could be generated without any increase in public borrowing, by switching Mervyn King’s further £25bn tranche of QE from the banks to industrial investment, by taxing the ultra-rich on the £155bn gains they’ve made (according to the Sunday Times) over the last 3 years, and/or by instructing the nationalised banks RBS and Lloyds to prioritise their lending on jobs in house-building and infrastructure.
  3. Labour has got to take a stand on the Welfare State and fight back against the ugly Tory tactic of trying to turn ‘strivers’ against ‘shirkers’. We should certainly promote those who work hard and aspire, but we should make clear that doesn’t mean abandoning jobseekers who’re trying hard to get a job or disabled persons victimised by DWP’s Atos or those on housing benefit (most of whom are in work but on extremely low wages) caught in a trap by fast-rising rents. What is wrong is Osborne’s insanely destructive economic policy, not the poorest sections of society penalised by the folly and arrogance of the bankers.
  4. And Labour must start campaigning across the country on key themes, not just issuing press releases or contesting (and usually winning) debates in the Commons. People are crying out to be told what Labour would do – not the details of the election manifesto which no party at this point would reveal, but rather the central principles that the party stands for to repair the Tories’ slow-motion car crash. Hammering home the 3 principles above would make a great start.

One Comment

  1. Harry Barnes says:

    On 12 May last year, Ed Miliband announced that Labour was launching “the biggest voter registration drive for a generation”. For millions of people are missing from electoral registers. What happened to this drive? Who is running it? How does this campaign function? Where can I find out details about its operations and its achievements? Has any effort been made to mobilise Labour Party members on this? As we are approaching the first anniversary, it would be useful to know what progress has been made.

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