When you’re the head of a department that has meted out cruel and inhumane treatment to disabled people, when you’ve sat in the Commons and nodded through cut after sanction regime after tightened eligibility criteria, at what point do you say enough and call time over your complicity in these proceedings? Does one draw a veil over the old ministerial career by claiming principle and love for the charges you’ve spent six years abusing, or stick the boot in to cause maximum political damage?
Iain Duncan Smith, the so-called quiet man who’s done catastrophic harm to the position of disabled people in this country, has elected to do both. Uncharacteristically, an attempt to fund tax cuts for the well off by taking monies from payments to disabled people has gone down like a cup of cold sick. Which is interesting, considering their previous attacks have gone by with nary a murmur from outside the ranks of disability campaigners, the left, and the labour movement. Continue reading
The report that in just over 2 years up to February last year no less than 2,380 disabled claimants died within 2 weeks of being assessed as fit for work and then having their benefit either reduced or stopped altogether, is beyond shocking. It is arguably the most damning statistic yet of the sheer callousness and brutality of this government towards the most helpless victims in our society. But there are further profound issues behind this dreadful story. The most important issues are holding to account those who are responsible for this utter tragedy and even more important still, the power to stop this lethal policy in its tracks. On both there is at present a vacuum. Continue reading
As part of the government’s plan to extract £12bn from social security benefits, IDS has announced his latest target is “the disability employment gap”. According to analysis of official ONS figures, this represents the difference between the number of disabled people who are in employment (48%) and the figure for the general population (73%). The implication is that IDS expects the same proportion of disabled people to work as those who are able-bodied! Just what does he believe disability means? There is a long and aggravated Tory history behind this latest announcement, beginning with Thatcher’s attempt to conceal the true unemployment figures by switching applicants en masse to the category of disability and making them subject to incapacity benefit rather than unemployment benefit. Continue reading
Ahead of yesterday’s budget, in which George Osborne laid out £12bn of welfare cuts, a continued squeeze on public sector pay, the abolition of student maintenance grants and higher tuition fees, Labour’s ‘opposition’ front benchers went out of their way to agree with Osborne’s narrative of austerity.
Still reeling from the General Election, or now simply given psephological cover for her views, Reeves said that Labour should set a date for getting national debt back to 40% of GDP, the level it was at before the 2007 financial crisis. It is currently double that amount, meaning the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary is advocating huge cuts, and fast. Given that she is being touted as a potential Shadow Chancellor should Andy Burnham win, this should worry those of us in the party concerned with austerity and poverty. Continue reading
Sometimes I suspect that not a syllable escapes the lips of Rachel Reeves unless it somehow encapsulates the pitch for the latest Channel Four eat the poor documentary while simultaneously disgusting a sizeable chunk of Labour activists. Most recently, her declamation that Labour is not the party of the welfare state and doesn’t represent those out of work – or in work and on benefits, for that matter – has horrified many socialists.
Worse than that, it has horrified many people who fall into those categories and are still considering how to vote on 7 May. Moreover, Ms Reeves has got previous as long as your arm. In her very first interview on her appointment as work and pensions spokeswoman, back in 2013, she promised to be tougher than the Tories on cutting the welfare bill. Vote Labour, get IDS, only that bit nastier. Continue reading