Labour must retaliate against Osborne’s vile jibe

Labour needs to meet Osborne’s jibe linking Philpott’s sickening crime to welfare dependency head-on. It’s a vile innuendo which only someone as low as Osborne would stoop to, but in the current climate where austerity is bringing out some of the nastiest stereotyping instincts, it could deepen the divide -as it was certainly intended to do – between the ‘strivers’ and the ‘shirkers’, the discrimination the Tories are determined to imprint in the public mind between the virtuous hard-working core and the so-called malingerers on benefit. With the attack dog Lynton Crosby clearly behind this, brought in by Cameron to run a hate-fuelled, no-holds-barred campaign for the Tories for 2015, this scapegoating propaganda can only be expected to intensify over the next 2 years. It cannot be ignored, and Labour should certainly not fall back on the defensive. We need a strong targeted counter-attack.

First, it’s not welfare dependency that’s the root of the problem, it’s running Britain like a Dickensian workhouse. Unemployment has not fallen below 2.5 million for years, youth unemployment has virtually hit a million, and Osborne’s deliberate choice of extended austerity is driving ever more households to supplement to supplement an inadequate income with means-tested benefits – the last thing that most people want to have to do, but they have no alternative if they are to survive. Try living on £53 a week which IDS boasted he could do, but hasn’t followed up by showing us how.

Nor is it just a wrong, destructive, counter-productive economic policy that’s doing the damage in creating benefit dependency in the first place. The profits bonanza of the last twenty years has driven down wages so relentlessly across the board that governments have been forced to shore them up through tax credits and in-work benefits particularly to meet spiralling housing costs. Nearly 90% of new claimants of housing benefit since 2010 have been in work.

Labour should also retaliate vigorously against the ‘welfare dependency’ canard itself. So far from low-paid households on benefit being subsidised by everyone else (in fact in the great majority of cases they have paid for those benefits by the income tax and national insurance contributions they have paid throughout their working lives), it is the rich who receive far greater public subsidies through the enormous tax reliefs and other perks they receive (two-thirds of the £21bn a year foregone by the Exchequer in pension contribution relief goes to higher-rate taxpayers on more than £40,000 a year). Far tougher rules are now in place to prevent benefit fraud, yet tax avoidance and white-collar fraud are now on a far greater scale (over 50 times higher). JSA accounts for just 3% of benefit payments, while some 70% goes to pensioners.

So why doesn’t Labour turn its fire much more robustly on the bankers, the tax avoiders, the ultra-rich who have contributed nothing to remedy the crash they caused – and of course the arch-perpetrator of lies, Osborne?

  1. Perhaps Labour playing catch up with the public mood? Dare a say a new Spin Doctor required!?

    What does Labour do with all the feedback from policy commissions – they must have shown some disquiet about unjustified benefit claimants – not that I agree with current Tory scare mongering…