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The Tories’ Welfare Bill was an attack on those in poverty. Why did only 48 of us vote against it?

It Harriet_Harman,_2014is extraordinary that the Labour party could have got itself into such a muddle over welfare reform (which is Tory-speak for crippling welfare cutbacks) when Osborne’s sole motive for this bill, which had its second reading today, is to create divisions within Labour and label it as the party of shirkers. The bill is awful. Despite some useful provisions on apprenticeships, it ignores the plight of children in low income working households, removes the concept of child poverty from the statute book, increases the number of children living in poverty, worsens work incentives for people with below average incomes, and cuts the incomes of sick and disabled people. The attempt of the interim leadership to square all this with Labour’s need to get on-side with public opinion, repeatedly corrupted by Osborne and the Tory tabloids ranting against the poor and jobless, predictably got the worst of both worlds – a split party and an unconvincing compromise presented to the electorate.

If only Labour could have stayed together by hammering away at the stark inhumanity of the bill, the result could have been very different. There is no way that the majority of people in the country would support this bill if they knew the full details of what it does. It applies the household benefit cap to persons who are responsible for a child under 2 years old, or are a carer, or are in temporary accommodation because of domestic violence. It restricts tax credits applying to 3 or more children where a third child is born as a result of a multiple birth, where a thrid or subsequent child is fostered or adopted, where a third or subsequent child is disabled, or where a family with 3 or more children moves on to tax credits or universal credit in exceptional circumstances, including the death of one member of the family, the departure of one parent, or loss of income through unemployment. It cuts ESA for the work-related activity group by around £30 a week, even though this group has been through a rigorous test which deemed them not fit to work because they have Parkinson’s or are being treated for cancer. And so on.

Instead of trying to defend the indefensible, it would have been far better to skewer the Tories on the succession of broken promises presented in this bill. Cameron said before the budget: “Whatever the pressures, we will stand by my promises to protect the most vulnerable, including the most disabled who cannot work”. How is that compatible with a big cut in their ESA? The Tory manifesto said it would “work to eliminate child poverty”. How is that compatible with abolishing the targets for reducing child poverty?

8 Comments

  1. David Ellis says:

    If Jeremy gets elected he should offer that Mhairi Black a place in his shadow cabinet along with others and from Plaid and the Greens. Even if he isn’t elected the anti-austerity Labour MPs should form a bloc with the SNP, Plaid, Caroline Lucas and others and become the official opposition.

  2. David Ellis says:

    In fact in exchange for his agreement on certain matters surely the anti-austerity SNP could exhort its supporters to register to vote for Jeremy.

    1. swatantra says:

      So now proposing a pact with the SNP who gutted and grilled Labour in Scotland? Its not on.
      Any MP that formed an unofficial bloc with the SNP and Plaid and Greens should be expelled from the Party. There can only be one Opposition Leader and that s JC , Deputy CF, and the SNP would be turkeys voting for Xmas if they were seen promoting a Party even further to the Left than their own Party!

      1. Brian Moss says:

        It was Labour who gutted itself in Scotland,with poor leadership and a lack of offering a real alternative to neo liberal policies.

  3. James Martin says:

    The number of Labour MPs not opposing this Tory savagery is indeed disgraceful. And how ironic that this nasty attack on poor women and their children was led by Harriet Harman, a politician that has made a very lucrative career out of feminist identity politics.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Yes a lot of us noticed that one; basically socialism and feminism only for educated well heeled middle classes women, poverty and exploitation for the rest and too hell with sisterhood, as one Tory put it not so long ago.

  4. Barry Ewart says:

    Yes the Tories aided by the right wing press set neighbour against neighbour re welfare to poison people’s minds against the poor and to divide and rule. And the biggest section of the electorate are the 15.9 who didn’t vote and these are our co-citizens who we should appeal to.
    The Tories attacking the poor also distracts from tax cuts for millionaires (as the rich are distant from most peoples lives) and there is a bloated upper class welfare state for the rich who are subsidised to the hilt by tax relief etc. on practically everything and I think we don’t know half of what the rich claim for.
    Benefit fraud is a billion and is wrong and a tiny number at the bottom may play the system but the problem is the Right uses the big stick approach against everyone because it is all they know when we should treat people as citizens and use ideas like those of Paulo Freire so the marginalised are empowered to make positive contributions to society and if it makes some feel better, some at the bottom may lead dull,unfulfilling lives.
    Meanwhile the rich I think avoid paying something like £70b a year in taxes (not counting Corporation Tax Avoidance) and New Internationalist argues that the rich globally have stashed 22 trillion dollars in illicit offshore bank accounts to avoid giving to society – perish the thought that they contribute fairly to health, education, supporting older people, addressing global poverty, good mental health etc.
    Labour should be a political party and be about political education and take on the Right wing propaganda and media and fight for its own more progressive and humane narrative.
    The Right malign the poor to set neighbour against neighbour to keep power with the rich and powerful, and to stop those who have to sell their labour to live, from having power.
    And Labour should be the party of all those who have to sell their labour to live.
    15.9m people in the UK couldn’t be bothered to vote and probably think they all are the same but many of this group should be ours and we should not be cowering to the press etc.
    I think everyone knows the Tories are for the rich (but only got 20% of the total electorate) but they must pretend to be for all as they need just enough of the popular vote but what does Labour stand for?
    Stand for what we belive in and offer hope!

  5. Barry Ewart says:

    Yes and we need to be honest and communicate simply and clearly.
    Labour’s best hope I belive is Jeremy Corbyn and getting policy making back to the grassroots via Conference.
    Then those in or who may have come from poverty, and those who may have been the first in their family to go to Univerity, or may work with the poor, will then make policy from our life experiences.
    Refreshing to see some in Labour are not on their knees whilst others bow to the way they perceive the wind is blowing – bloody blow back!

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