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Five reasons why Labour MPs should oppose the welfare cap

eex28p001-1STDespite Ed Balls saying Labour will back the welfare cap, because Ed Miliband has already expressed support for a welfare cap, here are five reasons why Labour MPs should vote against on Wednesday (26 March). If you have a Labour MP, email them (using this template letter).

1.    It means need is subject to an arbitrary capThe welfare state was founded on the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

This government has failed to address that need: it’s welfare programmes are failing – from the Work Programme to the Youth Contract to the Work Capability Assessment. Failing privatised schemes need capping, people in need do not.

2.    It feeds the Tory myth that spending is out of control

In fact the UK spends less on social security than other developed nations, and before the recession welfare spending was falling (read more here, via TUC).

France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the Czech Republic all spend more than the UK on social security (see chart below, using OECD data)


3.    It does nothing to challenge the reasons for high welfare spending

Low pay, weak trade union rights and an unregulated rental market. When pay is too low or there isn’t enough work, people become eligible for tax credits and housing benefit. As the 1945 Labour manifesto said, “there is no reason why Britain should not afford such programmes but she will need full employment and the highest possible industrial efficiency in order to do so”. This government has failed to meet those criteria.

Both tax credits and housing benefit for people in work are subject to the welfare cap. If wages continue to  lag behind inflation, and rental costs continue to exceed inflation, that will mean welfare costs rise. Under this proposal, disabled people’s benefits or pensioners’ winter fuel allowance could be cut because landlords jack up rents or because employers don’t give decent pay rises.

4.    This is feeding the demonisation of people on benefits 
Disabled people have already suffered the most under this government’s cuts to social security – with the failed Work Capability Assessment  for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the cuts to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the closure of Remploy and the forthcoming abolition of the Independent Living Fund. Both DLA and ESA are within the welfare cap.

They have also suffered a massive rise in disability hate crime, which follows the demonisation of those on benefits by Tory politicians using the divisive language of ‘skivers’, ‘shirkers’ and ‘scroungers’ – which has then been echoed in the media.

5.    It does nothing to help those in real need
With half a million families using food banks, an extra million people in poverty, homelessness rising, and the number of families housed in B&B accommodation at a ten year high – what will a welfare cap do for them?

It is a gimmick, but a nasty gimmick. And Labour MPs should reject it.

p.s. if Labour MPs want to know how to cut welfare spending from a socialist perspective, read this

This post was first published at the Left Economic Advisory Panel (LEAP) website

4 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    The issue is in fact the 1900 labour was formed and set out to help the poorest in our society the working class people who were in work.

    It did do some good not a lot, then along came the hero of the socialistic labour party one Tony Blair who came out with a min wage the idea was to lift a million people out of poverty onto a basic wage they could live with, of course with benefits. The fact is the min wage gave the companies who’s top line was good but could be better the Tesco’s the Asda and the Morrison a reason to pay this wage worse councils saw a means of taking on people for low wages.

    Today the vast majority of the working class get either the min wage or slightly above it.

    Now then lets look at Cameron he’s had a few jobs nothing to talk about got the sack from some but his work experience is not brilliant, MIliband is even worse he’s never had a job except working in politics but a real job he’s never had to join a union or go on strike and the sad little man talks about Unions and hard working like he understand, he of course does not. Ed balls and Osborne dear god one look at those bright sparks and you see the issues, and now we see labour looking for a seat for a Kinnock because of his name.

    F*ck politics the rich person play thing better then working anyway

  2. David Ellis says:

    When the reformists settled for a welfare state instead of a socialist one their fate was inevitably to end up discussing such innanities as a benefits cap and how they could police it on behalf of the capitalists. What socialists should be discussing is a regime of full-employment by which every school and college leaver and unemployed worker who cannot find their own job are bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work on the minimum of a trade union living wage. No more army of unemployed labour kept in penury and in reserve by the capitalists, no more crappy job creation scams, no more odious unemployment benefits or food banks and the hoops workers are expected to go through to get this pathetic morsals.

    Nobody under thirty should even think twice about voting for any politician that does not pledge a regime of full-employment, not just a wish for it, and outline how it will be achieved.

  3. Bernie Evans says:

    The surge in the opinion polls after Miliband`s proposed freeze of energy prices, plus the popularity of policies such as the retention of state ownership of the East Coast line, and the general disgust with the banking and financial institutions, indicate that Labour would benefit electorally with more left-wing proposals. Similarly, widespread popular support for a financial transaction tax, a general belief that the well-off have escaped austerity altogether, and antagonism to Goveism and the NHS reforms all point to an urgent need for Labour to be bolder.The popularity of Farage owes much to the perception that Labour and the Tories are too similar to each other for the voters` comfort, and such disillusionment is as strong with traditional Labour supporters as it is with Tory eurosceptics. Far better for Miliband to make some radical proposals now, than be forced into doing so after a Ukip landslide in the Euros.
    Blair conned a party, desperate for power, into believing “New Labour” was the way forward, but his personal ambition and duplicity have now been rumbled, and the effects of light regulation and being “relaxed” about obscene wealth-gathering are still being felt. Britain, the seventh richest country in the world, yet relying on foodbanks to feed the poor, and being 28th out of 34 in the equality league, is in dire need of transformation, and pledges to tinker will not satisfy an impatient electorate.
    The truth is that the low pay commission is an anachronism, and what is needed instead is a Fair Pay Commission, which, as the name suggests, can concern itself with the other pressing pay problem currently bedevilling our society; if the country needs a commission to ensure employers do not pay their workers pittance, it stands to reason it also needs one to insist they do not pay themselves too much
    Proposed policies clearly are not sufficiently attractive to woo the disillusioned Labour voter, moving in ever increasing numbers, as recent research has shown, to Ukip, but as their election strategist, Douglas Alexander, said recently, the “best way to defeat Ukip is to be a better Labour party”. Strange, then, that he also admitted he had set up a team “dedicated to exposing the gap between the rhetoric of Ukip and its record”, in other words, “Farage limitation”! No, Douglas, you were right first time, a “better party”, with policies aimed at reducing inequality, restoring equality of opportunity and the welfare state, will win the election.

  4. David Ellis says:

    The Labour and trade union bureaucracy live in fear of class struggle. In these circumstances even the most modest of `left’ wing policies requires mobilisation for serious class struggle. They are not interested in that. They only want to come to power on the basis that the working class has zero expectation that they will do anything otherwise they would happily let the tories in again. Their probable ideal is a Lib-Lab Coalition so that they can point to the Libs as the reason they cannot do anything radical. This is the opposite of the Tory approach whereby they have used the supplicant Liberals to force through a vicious programme of working class-directed austerity to the benefit of their banker school chums.

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