Friday, 27 November 2009

Disability benefits and what the Tories want you to think

I needed something to be outraged about to blog after a couple of weeks' (well-earned if you ask me!) break, so here it is: the Tories are trying to make everyone believe that Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance are going to be scrapped with nothing to replace them.

It's odd, but this seems to be taking in a lot of our own natural supporters, for an example see the discussion here, not to mention an earlier comment in this blog, from my Darlington comrades, the "two Ians".

Although it's quite obvious that, politically, Labour couldn't possibly get rid of this without replacing the funding from elsewhere (probably diverting it through local councils in this case), Labour is doing a lousy job at putting its case across. Although they quite rightly draw attention to the Tories' outrageous untruths here, what they fail to do is allay voters' concerns by even outlining anything about what they are actually going to do instead.

The Tories' campaign is being highly effective, and we need to deal with it. Fast.


  1. Socialist policies have been missing from Labour since it went all "new". Can't blame people for adopting Tory ideas and policies if the party has copied them for so long.

    The Labour Party has burnt it's fingers with Blair and big business - it's not too late to recover.

  2. Perhaps, but we have to fight it, James. It's no good saying "we're getting what we deserve". If we refuse to fight, we let down those who need us to stand up for them. That is the basic principle of the Labour Party, whoever is leading it.

    Remember: “the worst Labour government will always be better than the best Tory government” – Nye Bevan

  3. The party has office, but has not challenged the entrenched corporate power which would gladly see the welfare state abolished if it meant greater profits. It's not about anyone getting what they deserve, it's about being aware of the power structure that exists.

    As to Bevan's quote, we don't have a Labour government we have a "New Labour" government, one which has adopted and implemented Tory policies. It's going to be that much harder to make the case for people to turn out and vote for Labour this time, especially in light of the expenses scandal and the bailout of the bankers...

  4. The corporate power structure has always been there - we're all aware of it. (If you're after a revolution over the industrial-military complex, that's Respect or Socialist Labour, I'm afraid.)

    It may not be easy to make the case for voting Labour (let's face it - it never is), but hold on. What Tory policies do you mean exactly? The expenses scandal affected all 3 major parties, and is likely to affect voting the same - neutrally.

    As for the bailout of the bankers, it made everyone feel queasy (including, I suspect, the ministers who had to carry it out). But: what would YOU have done - let Northern Rock or RBS go to the wall, for instance, and affected the savings of millions of people in the process? These are the real, day-to-day decisions that governments of any stripe are faced with. If you criticised other government decisions I might be on your side of the argument, but I'm afraid that one's a bad one to pick.

    At the end of the day the real challenge is not how effectively we can criticise existing policy, it's to come up with compelling, practical alternatives. If you really believe there's no difference between us and the Tories, it may be that you don't have a strong recollection of Black Wednesday or the Poll Tax. You might think this lot are bad, wait.

  5. The point about the bailout is that it was an intervention which came after years of non-intervention. If the government had regulated in the first place, rather than follow Tory doctrine...

    A wholesale takeover of the banking sector, and then a conversion to mutual ownership, would be highly desirable. Sadly, the government doesn't want this.

    And I think we know why. The tradition of Labour was to win reforms to the system to the benefit of working people. This goal was essentially given up by the leadership in the mid-90s, and I've spent the intervening time realising it.

    New Labour was all about giving up on the overt challenge and instead presenting Labour less as a movement, more as a more efficient manager of the system. And that's fair enough, but what will most benefit the rich is efficient management of capitalism, what will most benefit the rest of us is reforms which will empower ordinary people in their everyday lives.

    If we are going to have a more cooperative, more democratic economy, those with the most power are going to feel threatened. And their response will be sabotage.

    I don't want a Tory government - I know that New Labour has managed to do some positive things. But the class interests that it allied itself with to win office have put the wider movement in jeopardy.

    Sadly, many people my age do not vote and those that do may not have the awareness of what Labour has historically stood for, and can still stand for.

    If Labour wins and is able to continue as a minority government, I am certain that there will be attempts to sabotage the progress of the government - as happened in the seventies. Ultimately, big business knows that the base of Labour is in the working class and is more at home with the rich kids of the Tories. We have to be aware of this - and to make people aware of this.

  6. James, you're right about the "years of non-intervention". It was a mistake: but, to be fair, a mistake that was repeated in practically all Western democracies (unfortunately, ours happens to contain the world's second-biggest financial centre). So fair enough there.

    Now, about your proposed renationalisation of the banking sector: "sadly the government doesn't want to do this" - come on, have you any idea how much taxpayers' money would be required to buy back everyone's shares, even were it desirable? There are very good reasons why this is a non-starter, and the government's position is completely reasonable.

    Now, I'm in favour of building societies, and the Co-op's plans to introduce mutualisation in the housing sector, but this is just a non-starter.

    I can't agree that Labour has given up on winning reforms to the system to benefit working people - if you talk to any Labour MP, you'll realise the one thing they all have in common that they genuninely believe in "the many not the few". Really. What they differ on is the HOW. Some favour a mixed-economy system, some favour a return to government ownership.

    I'd certainly agree that Labour needs to re-establish its connection with its traditional base, and it certainly wouldn't surprise me if vested interests turned against Labour in a minority government - both good observations.

    However, it is too tempting to paint this whole picture in terms simply of left and right, the workers and the capitalists. There are reactionary elements in all parts of Labour's broad church, right and left. The challenge is for the progressive elements to win the argument and, above all, to return a Labour government, no matter how imperfect.

  7. Labour has always been a broad church, but it has been that much narrower under "New" Labour.

    You say it was a mistake as if it was an accident, but non-intervention came about as a deliberate policy.

    New Labour accepted that markets were best when they were free, and that regulation to ensure fairness had to be "light-touch" (sadly, ineffective).

    The approach to traditional supporters was that, they had no where else to go. And this is true - there's been a growth in abstention amongst traditional supporters.

    If nothing else, the recent PPB signals a willingness of the leadership to use the rhetoric of Labour as a movement for progress. Good. We must make people aware of what stands in our way - it's not just the Tories.

    On the banks, Northern Rock has been nationalised. The government can either turn it back into a bank, or create a building society. Nothing is a "non-starter" - according to the Guardian, the Treasury has seriously considered it, but it just so happens that to create a mutual out of the nationalised bits of the banks would contravene EU competition laws.

    Obviously, I disagree, it's not too simple to view a division between wealth-creators and wealth-owners - it exists, and surely we want to narrow that divide.

  8. Ok, I can't quite let you get away with that on the banks, you didn't say the renationalisation of ONE bank, Northern Rock - which I agreed with, (in any case, there was really no alternative). You were suggesting the renationalisation of the WHOLE banking sector, as if it were a realistic goal, and the government were being really unreasonable for not playing ball!

    That IS a non-starter, as practically anyone across the political spectrum will tell you, whereas renationalisation of a single bank (clearly, since it's been done already) is not.

    A mistake is a wrong judgement call, by the way, not an accident. The government has admitted their mistake, and that doesn't make it an accident. But I think it's wrong to criticise them for admitting mistakes: we should have more of that in politics, not less.

    Finally, I'd certainly agree that the Party's demographic has shifted over recent years, but I'd disagree on how. Question: how can you both narrow the "church" of support, and win 3 general elections at the same time, where previously we were winning none? The only possible logical reading of that is that the church broadened, not narrowed. Now, if you disagree with that happening, fair enough, but you can't claim that it narrowed.

    [Thinks: I really need to post something else tomorrow, as this conversation has gone way off disability benefits!]

  9. John McFall, chair of the treasury select committee has suggested nationalizing the banking sector, as the Swedes did to tackle their credit crisis in the 90s.

    I didn't criticize the government for admitting mistakes, my criticism was that the strategy of non-intervention was mistaken. I am encouraged by the leadership's talk of fair markets and an active industrial strategy - I'm just worried it's too late.

    "The only possible logical reading of that is that the church broadened, not narrowed"

    Party membership has halved, turnout is falling, and smaller parties are picking up traditional supporters. I'd argue that what appeared sustainable and successful was actually unsustainable and therefore unsuccessful.


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