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Tuesday 21 July 2015

Welfare Bill - What Does Labour Stand For?

As I’ve told before, all those who have suffered at the hands of an over-zealous press pack, or campaigned for press regulation to be made truly independent of politicians, proprietors and editors, owe Harriet Harman big time: the acting Labour leader has committed herself and her party to stand with the victims and campaigners, when others might have taken the easy option and walked away.
But - and I’m afraid it’s a big but - last night the Labour Party under Ms Harman’s interim leadership failed to heed Galbraith’s definition of leadership: “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was their willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership”. The occasion was the Tories’ welfare bill.

The consequences of the bill can be put directly: as a result of its enactment, tens of thousands of working people - note that this is not about those who are unemployed - will be worse off. Single parents will be especially hard hit. Those voters thus affected are part of the constituency Labour needs to have on board in order to win a future General Election. Yet they have been left feeling betrayed.

That is because the Labour leadership decided to abstain on yesterday evening’s vote on the welfare bill. Think about that. At exactly the time when the party needed to show leadership, it showed none. The best that they could manage was to sit on their hands, while not just the SNP, but also the Lib Dems, the DUP, and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, joined together in opposition. Today the Tories are jubilant.

Ms Harman’s reasoning appears muddled: she wants to show the electorate that her party is listening, but to what? Some polling shows that substantial numbers of people believe welfare spending is too high, but then, rather a lot of voters also believe that the amount of spending on unemployment benefits is many times the actual figure. Many believe the UK’s Muslim population is many times larger than reality. It doesn’t make them right.

There is little point shrugging the shoulders and saying that the Tories won the argument last May: otherwise, why bother showing up at the Commons at all? When Labour lost to the Tories in 1992 - the last close result which resulted in a small overall majority - nobody is going to suggest that the party gave up on opposing. They’re the opposition, for Goodness’ sake - they are supposed to oppose, not sit there and do nothing.

The present Government is nothing more than an unappealing convocation of PR men, political opportunists, unprincipled charlatans, career incompetents, and sundry freeloaders, with decent and honourable people all too thin on the ground. Labour is there to hold this shower to account, and to do so incessantly and unremittingly. If it does not stick to that task, the inevitable question has to be asked: what does Labour stand for?

Show some fight, Labour leadership - the electorate will not readily forgive you otherwise.


Mike said...

If Labour had done their job, the Bill would have been defeated. Now thousands will be worse off, the very constituency that Labour claimed to represent. This lot is Blair's true legacy and last night was their tuition fees moment.

It is utterly unforgivable.

Bob said...

Too much hysteria and not enough analysis of Labour's position. Keir Starmer's statement makes it clearer:

'Labour should not support measures which will increase child poverty. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill will increase child poverty and therefore I cannot support it. That is why I voted for Labour’s amendment which opposed the Bill, giving reasons including the adverse impact on child poverty. That was a vote against the Bill.

The Bill also includes measures to support more apprentices and measures to support troubled families. Although these measures do not go far enough, Labour should support them in principle. That is why, when Labour lost the vote on its amendment, I abstained on the final vote on the Second Reading of the Bill to allow these measures to proceed to the Committee Stage (which comes next.)

I did so after receiving a face to face assurance from Andy Burnham MP (who I am backing in Labour’s leadership election) that if, at Committee Stage, major changes are not made to the measures which will impact on child poverty, he will, as Labour’s leader, oppose the Bill when it returns to the House of Commons for the final and critical vote at the Third Reading. I will follow the same course.'

Anonymous said...

Tim, Let's not be mealy mouthed about this.

Harman is dyed-in-the wool New Labour faction. And if there is one group of people who have betrayed the Labour Party and its founding principles, it's that gang of disgusting righties.

They had their chance when in power. All we got was more privatisation, more warmongering and genocide of innocents, greater social disparity, more poverty, more invasion of privacy, more media given to Murdoch, more corruption, more concentration of wealth in the south east......and so on. Do you want me to list even more of their betrayals?

By comparison, Harman's "action" on irresponsible reporting (read: far right propaganda) was a fart in a bottle. Much was made of it but it amounted to fuck all that mattered. Which was no surprise, given the behaviour of that mass-murdering war criminal Blair.

Until the Labour Party clean out that gang of political traitors we'll get more of the same. And now probably much worse.

Harman and co? They can't be trusted to wipe their own arses. Charlatans and chancers the lot of them. As bad as the tories.

Damien Quigg said...

The labour party are finished as a major player in British politics for the foreseeable future. The decline started with Blair's New Labour and it's been all downhill ever since. Like successive governments, the party no longer listens to those it is meant to represent, instead focusing on what the tories are up to and too afraid to be offer something wildly different from tory policy.

The party is failing it's members, but more worryingly it is failing to be a strong opposition party and offer a real alternative to the tory rhetoric. If there is any chance of redemption it is in the upcoming leadership elections in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. This is a man who says what he means and means what he says. Who stands up for the working class and those least able to defend themselves. But unfortunately I can't see the party electing Corbyn as their leader and even if they do, the task may be too big even for him.

In response to these and other concerns in UK society a new group for UK residents is being setup. It's purpose is to provide a platform for people to come together to discuss, debate, design & build a better, fairer & more democratic UK society where everyone will have an equal chance to prosper.

Group meetings will be held online as webinars and the first meeting is taking place during the last week in July. Anyone who is UK resident may join the group by sending an email to redesigndemocracy@yahoo.co.uk in order to be added to the list of invitees.