Saturday 5 January 2013

Cowardly Labour refuse to challenge Tory rhetoric of ‘skivers vs shirkers’

Labour’s answer to the Tories attack on benefits offers little hope to the rapidly growing numbers trapped in long-term unemployment.

Their plans, revealed this week in the national press, show a cowardly refusal to challenge the barrage of Tory lies designed to stigmatise unemployed people as ‘lazy scroungers’ choosing to ‘live a life on benefits’.

Instead they have chosen to amplify the chorus. Against the government’s divisive and misleading slogan of ‘strivers vs shirkers’ Labour has put forward it’s own absurd mantra. Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne stated on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “If you haven’t got a job, you need to be working and training, not claiming.”

How exactly one can be simultaneously not in a job and working can only be understood to mean more of the same workfare schemes proven to do absolutely nothing to help people find work.

He also fails to explain how people left without a wage by the dire state of the economy are supposed to survive if not by claiming benefits. Perhaps he views facing the threat of homelessness and scraping by on handouts from food banks as some form of luxury lifestyle.

What was laid out in detail is how a Labour government would force those unemployed for more than two years to work in minimum wage jobs or lose benefits. They plan to achieve this by handing over public money to private employers in subsidies.

This calls into question why Ed Miliband’s Labour party is happy to lend credibility to the Tories’ divisive rhetoric while not once suggesting that it might be the private employers who will benefit from these huge handouts of public cash who are truly undeserving.

What reason would an employer have to employ someone on the dole if they are given incentives to leave people in the queue long enough so that they can claim a subsidy to their wage bill?

The fact that they say people pushed into this forced labour scheme would be payed the poverty pay of the minimum wage rather than the living wage also demolishes any credibility Miliband had in his claims to support the living wage campaign.

This plan to ‘out tough’ the Tories on benefits is craven electoral opportunism based on myths propagated by a stream of press releases and soundbites from Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions which have invented facts from thin air to justify their brutal assault on the poorest.

The poisonous effect of this ideological attack is highlighted by a recent survey by the TUC. An example of the scale of the misconceptions that have been brought about by the Tory propaganda is shown by this excerpt:

“On average people think that 41 per cent of the entire welfare budget goes on benefits to unemployed people, while the true figure is 3 per cent.”

For the Labour party to refuse to take up the task of breaking these myths and instead to seek electoral gain by pandering to them is a disgraceful betrayal of the millions left without work by the economic crisis and the austerity that has deepened it.

If Labour were serious about offering an effective way of getting people back to work they should set out an alternative that challenges the Tory lies and their damaging austerity measures. A plan to reverse the cuts to our services, build council homes to tackle the housing crisis and make sure that the living wage applies to all.

Instead they seem determined to follow up Ed Miliband’s adoption of the 19th Century Tory idea of ‘one nation’ by also staking claim to another Victorian idea – one that Margaret Thatcher was proud to support – the ‘undeserving poor’.



  1. Stephen Parry said:

    Labour are spineless – and don’t deserve the vote in 2015. I will vote for an independent candidate, none of the three main parties deserve our votes.

    Yes, there are no doubt shirkers in any society who choose to live on benefits, but there are a lot of people who’ve fallen on hard times. I am unemployed, but I am looking for both paid and voluntary work and will be starting a course soon. I also plan to do a First Aid course, to enhance my CV and provide a service to society.

    If you were to take the right-wing media to heart, you’d believe that all unemployed people get up and open their curtains at 10am and then sit in pubs all day. Not the reality. I hope to find work soon, but will make good use of my days in the meantime. I actually spend quite a bit of what little money we receive sending out CVs, buying envelopes, etc. And I will use my own money to pay for a useful course.

    Hopefully I will be in a job in the near future. As an employed man, I look forward to not giving the vote to any of the main parties in 2015.

    5 January 2013 at 6:51pm
  2. Rosemarie Harris said:

    The trouble with the Labour Party is they are trying to appeal to the Tory voters with out realising that the working class out number them,with out the working class Labour are no going to get elected they should be the first party to speak up for the unemployed and tell people how much of benefit is paid out in pensions(50%)Etc,but even the Labour party can’t be bothered.
    It’s a case of we are alright sod you.

    5 January 2013 at 7:38pm
  3. jimmie said:

    These jobs must be full time and travel must be taken into account otherwise all your earnings could be spent getting to work on the minimum wage. It would be great to get a wage for
    doing a proper job as last work i did wss on the work programme
    lining the pockets of the rich. The tools for the job would not be allowed in a paid job as they were totally unsuited to the task and left several of us with repetetive strain injuries which is the last thing you need when you are looking for paid work

    5 January 2013 at 10:03pm
  4. Yvonne De Carlo said:

    Invest in infrastructure, build social housing, create jobs hence ppl paying taxes instead of claiming benefits. Austerity isn’t working. It’s the ‘paradox of thrift’

    6 January 2013 at 9:10pm
  5. Steven said:

    The Labour Party stated the destruction of the welfare state in 1997 with their inane rubbish of the so-called New Deal. All the Tories are doing is adding their own special degree of blind stupidity and sheer viciousness to the mixture. Really, the Labour Party should be utterly ashamed of itself for beginning the process of wrecking one of our country’s greatest post-war achievements. They will likely lose the next election due to their timidity and gutlessness in standing-up to Tory attacks and then the Tories will win and show an even more vicious and intolerant face than they do now.

    11 January 2013 at 4:47pm
  6. Steven said:

    Yvonne, you are right to assert that austerity isn’t working. One of the British economy’s problems is a lack of demand hence our disgraceful unemployment crisis so how can depressing demand still further which this totally inept farce of a ‘government’ is doing help?

    13 January 2013 at 8:29pm

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