Labour is for the workers; not those avoiding work

by Peter Watt

Gulp, here goes. I think that if the reports that Liam Byrne, with the full support of Ed Miliband, is to shortly announce a change in approach to benefits policy are correct, then he is spot on.

Over the last 30 years Labour has moved from being seen as a party that supports labour, working people, to being seen as a party of welfare dependency supporting those who do not work. It may be uncomfortable to say it, but it is certainly held to be true by millions of voters. It’s not hard to see why. So you are struggling to make ends meet, balance work and home, and life feels tough. You play by the rules, pay your taxes and yet you can’t afford to fill the car up anymore. Then you will understandably find it galling that some people seem to be able get by whilst choosing not to work, never mind working hard, don’t pay any tax and still get their slice of the growing welfare cake. Hell, that cake is paid for from your tax, and the amount of tax you’re paying just keeps going up.

There is of course some truth in how disgruntled voters feel. The number of those in receipt of welfare payments has risen steadily over the last few decades. While it was not all the result of Labour policy, we certainly played our part. And here is the dilemma for Labour. You could argue that it is a sign of our success that we have increased the number of benefits available to poorer members of society. That would certainly reflect one strand of thought within the party. But to argue this is all about playing to our own consciences.

The problem is that we haven’t brought with us those whose work generates the taxes to pay for the welfare payments (that play to our consciences). We have created incentives for some to remain on welfare payments rather than work. And the bill for the state to pay the welfare payments just keeps going up and up. None of these is sustainable, and none was the intention of Beveridge when he established the welfare state.

So politically we cannot afford to allow ourselves to continue to be portrayed as a party that favours those on welfare over those who work. And the current system is unsustainable, as it incentivises some people to choose not to work at the same time as the bill to the State keeps rising. So what is to be done? Well I hope that Liam Byrne establishes some Labour principles.

1)     People who are in receipt of welfare payments are not “scroungers” and the use of this sort of language is not helpful. It panders to prejudice, rather than tackling the underlying problem and is not where Labour, as a party of social justice, should ever be.  Not accepting this language is not however the same as understanding that some people feel this.

2)     There are benefits for those who are temporarily unable to work, who need supporting and ultimately helping back into work or to stay in work. And there are benefits for those who are not able to work at all. People in the latter category, those for instance who have a disability that makes work impossible, and who have no other means of support, should be supported by the state come-what-may. The extent to which we do this is a measure of the sort of society that we believe in.

3)     People who claim benefits that they are not entitled to, or who abuse the system in order to avoid work, undermine the system for those who are entitled to benefits. Does this mean that we are allowing notions of the deserving and undeserving poor? Yes, too right we are. If you can work and choose not to, then you do not deserve to be supported by those who are working. And we should not be ashamed to say so or to clamp down on them. Allowing people to live a life on benefits if they are able to work is not only unfair on tax payers it is also immoral. It condemns thousands to a life of poverty, kills aspiration and can all too easily become inter-generational.

4)     People should expect to have to pay something for the benefits that they receive.  We all understand how insurance works – you pay a premium so that if the insured event occurs you can claim. If you have never worked and never paid tax then you should not expect to be able to claim. Does this mean that there shouldn’t be a safety net? No. But it certainly means that it should be just that – a safety net with limits. If you have paid your premium, then you should expect to be reasonably supported. But this support should be linked to expectations that you will endeavour to move off benefits as soon as you are able.

The current government should be praised for attempting to tackle the welfare state.  Our welfare system should be something to be proud of, a sign of a mature economy that provides support and protection to those who have finished working and to the most vulnerable. And insurance for those who are able and willing to work, but need help.  Instead it has become something that fails many of those who rely on it and angers many of those who pay for it. Labour should not be caught on the wrong side of this argument.  The Duncan-Smith reforms are not perfect by any means. We should be arguing for greater protection and dignity for those who are unable to work. We should be demanding that people have to contribute before they can claim. And we should be condemning those who choose not to work and are undeservingly in receipt of benefits that those of us who are working have to pay for.

I just hope that when Liam Byrne outlines Labour’s approach to welfare reform that he and Ed stick to their guns, and that isn’t just a tactical manoeuvre. They have both said similar things in speeches over the last year, so the signs are good. They should stick to their guns because they are right.

If they don’t, then while we will still be called the Labour (supporting) party, many voters will see as the idle (supporting) party.

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party.


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41 Responses to “Labour is for the workers; not those avoiding work”

  1. Frederick James says:

    “Does this mean that we are allowing notions of the deserving and undeserving poor? Yes, too right we are. If you can work and choose not to, then you do not deserve to be supported by those who are working. And we should not be ashamed to say so or to clamp down on them. Allowing people to live a life on benefits if they are able to work is not only unfair on tax payers it is also immoral.”

  2. Frederick James says:

    “Does this mean that we are allowing notions of the deserving and undeserving poor? Yes, too right we are. If you can work and choose not to, then you do not deserve to be supported by those who are working. And we should not be ashamed to say so or to clamp down on them. Allowing people to live a life on benefits if they are able to work is not only unfair on tax payers it is also immoral.”

    Spot on, Peter, but you are pissing in the wind in the Labour Party. Get over your denial phase and come home to where you belong.

  3. Nick says:

    Twaddle.

    Look at the reaction to HB cuts for those living in Westminster. 104,000 a year being paid out to some claimants. We can’t have that spouts Labour. Polly Toynbee on her high horse (with others) about the equivalence with ethnic cleansing.

    Meanwhile, people are working on min wage, subject to employment taxes (NI and Income tax) of 2,500 a year to pay for these people.

    So you have benefit claimants on 170K a year, tax free.

    So the question for Peter Watt.

    What should the cap be for those on benefits?

    More than average wages?

    What percentage of median wage should benefits be capped at?

    [I would exclude ICB. There should be no ICB, but it should be replaced with full payments for all extra costs]

  4. Midlands Mike says:

    I happen to agree with every word of Peter’s article, and it is all fully in Labour’s traditions. It was Herbert Morrison who quoted the Bible approvingly in 1946, he that will not work, neither shall he eat.

  5. At least someone in the Labour party gets it. What I would add though Mr. Watt is that the issue of the abolition of the 10% tax band in Brown’s budget of 2010 has never been fully addressed by your party since. It was a staggering move as the millions affected by this were the working poor (especially young workers) and pensioners; people who traditionally look to the Labour party for help. Cutting 2P off the basic rate in the same budget for the better off was another slap in their faces.

    Addressing the issue would go a long way further than saying sorry. When a rebellion of Labour MPs threatened to vote it down in the Finance Bill, it was Yvette Cooper who was delegated to successfully talk them out of this. Others on today’s Labour front bench were either involved creating the problem or obediently kept their counsel.

    This is one of the bigger time bombs awaiting the next major campaign. For Labour to have any chance of establishing a credible platform for the future there has to be an unambiguous mea culpa, a clear out of all associated those with past failures and a new direction with new policies that can appeal to what has now become a wary electorate where it is concerned.

  6. Peter Robson says:

    The use of HB as an example of out of work income is surely wrong, the so called income goes straight into the pockets of the landlords. A better way of reducing the bill to the taxpayer may be a re introduction of rent controls which could also benefit those in work, and this would also have an effect on the housing bubble. Why should the taxpayer subsidise the portfolios of the buy to let landlords ? and indirectly the bankers lending to them.

  7. daniel Mayhew says:

    100% spot on, this Is one of things i here all the time when nocking in doors and we do need to change that and what you said needs to be taken on bored. I would also say we need to do more with benfits for low paid workers. e.g stuff think free glasses, drugs and that sort of stuff you can get on benefits but have to pay on a low wage meaning as disincentive to get work for some.

  8. BenM says:

    This is a one way ticket to social breakdown and disorder.

    Lunacy.

  9. Isobel says:

    Since when did Labour become a *Party for the Workers*….. perhaps we ought to cancel our subscription….. I always understood that Labour was the party for all of those who believe in social justice and equality…… this article has made my blood boil….. We have thousands upon thousands of young people *who have never worked in their lives* are we going to *force them to work for nothing* in mundane jobs….. which actually contravenes the Human Rights Act…. I am furious after reading this article… this does not represent my sentiments…. I never knew the Labour Party had become so right wing… When families are thrown out of their homes because they cannot afford the rent, when children are starving because their parents have not worked for many reasons are you actually going to stand by these sentiments…… If this is the sentiments of Ed and his side kick this is one lady who will no longer support Labour, I will not put my name to the social breakdown of this country let alone condone it….

  10. Isobel says:

    PS…. Forgot to add I am an OAP who worked hard all her life, who believed in social justice and a Welfare state for all….. Labour seems to have moved so far to the right…. moving me further to the left.

  11. CG says:

    While I agree, generally speaking, with the ‘principles’ you highlight I keep seeing both commentators and politicians missing the point (and being somewhat contradictory) on the benefits issue.

    You say “We should be demanding that people have to contribute before they can claim” and you also say “those who have a disability that makes work impossible, and who have no other means of support, should be supported by the state come-what-may”. This is an obvious contradiction. What if, for example, someone aged 16-18 becomes severely ill and/or disabled? They haven’t had chance yet to ‘contribute’ before life has dealt them a cruel blow. Are they not allowed to claim benefits because they simply haven’t had the chance to ‘contribute’?

    On the one had you say people have to contribute to claim, on the other you acknowledge that people physically (and, importantly, mentally) unable to work should be supported ‘come-what-may’. So which is it? Both are not entirely compatible!

    The most important issue though is that commentators and politicians continually miss the main issue, which is how disgustingly poorly genuinely ill people are currently treated by the benefits system.

    Let me first clearly state, to clear up any doubt, that it should go without saying that ‘benefit cheats’ should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. By ‘benefit cheats’ I mean those who have no illness issues, are perfectly capable of work, but simply choose not to and claim benefit instead. Sadly though, the constant rhetoric about ‘benefit cheats’ all to often harms genuine claimants (and, on a side note, it’s worth debating just how much of a problem benefit fraud *really* is when 96% of calls to the benefit fraud hotline are malicious or time wasting and is has just a 1.3% success rate. One also has to wonder just how much money could be saved by scrapping such an inefficient hotline?) See: http://lartsocial.org/town-called-Malice

    What all politicians (and the public fed by the nonsense ‘anyone on benefits is a cheat’ rhetoric) fail to grasp is that if they *really* helped genuinely ill people, they could probably reduce the benefits burden considerably. Instead, the focus is always on reducing the benefit burden, catching cheats etc when the focus should be on *better helping those who genuinely need help*. The cultural belief (fed by politicians and the press) that the majority of people claiming benefits are bad people is beyond a joke and encourages disgusting attitudes such as those described here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/04/ian-birrell-prejudice-against-disabled
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/06/disabled-people-benefits-dla?CMP=twt_gu

    Let me explain what I think is the right approach to helping reduce the benefit burden:

    Put simply, it’s to make it EASIER for those who genuinely need help to get on (and off) benefit. Before you switch off and think i’m a lefty loony or something, indulge me, because I genuinely believe this would work …

    There are many people currently on benefit who have ‘fluctuating’ conditions. I’m talking about conditions such as MS, ME, cancers, heart diseases, AIDS etc where the extent of their symptoms (and hence ability to work) may vary from day to day, week to week, month to month. These people can be so ill they are practically unable to move one day but may be, relatively, active the next. I’d venture to suggest the majority are genuine, hard-working people who have been dealt a cruel blow by life. Many would give their right arm to bring an end to their illness and be able to work. Many WANT to be able to do some sort of work on their ‘good days’. The current system, however, makes it nigh on impossible for them to do that.

    These people find themselves caught in ‘the benefits trap’. They are 100% entitled to and 100% NEED to receive benefits but, once they are on benefit, they find themselves in a no-win situation. All the focus is on ‘getting people off benefit and fully returned to work’. For these people the focus SHOULD be on ‘helping them do a little work when they can while still allowing them to easily receive benefit when they can’t’

    There needs to be a fully flexible system whereby such people, once initially assessed as being eligible to receive benefits, can easily find some basic, suitable work on their ‘good days’ but get straight back on to benefits on their ‘bad days’ without having to jump through a whole mountain of hoops, paperwork and assessments again. And I mean a GENUINELY flexible system, not the BS rhetoric I sometimes see suggesting that the system will help these people.

    The current system is a mess and it’s difficult enough for these genuine claimants to get on benefits in the first place, which scares the hell out of them from even thinking about doing a little work on their ‘good days’ for fear of losing their benefits and having to go through the same rigmarole again! Many, after going through the mountain of paperwork to claim, find their claim rejected. Many shouldn’t have been rejected. One recent study shows that 69% of such claimants go on to receive their entitlement upon appeal: http://www.meassociation.org.uk/?p=9937

    It is this messed up, prejudiced and harmful system that is the real problem. Yes, HARMFUL – I have absolutely no doubt that the stress and pain of the current system makes many ill people even more ill and the likes of the DWP and their cohorts at Atos seem to continually fail to recognise this.

    I’m no expert and this is one for the politicians and their advisers to figure out (not that I suspect they ever will get their heads around it!) but as a very basic starting point I’ll offer this suggestion for Liam and Ed to ponder over (and for Iain and Dave too, though there’s even less chance of them ever ‘getting it’!):

    Set up a government sponsored ‘job agency’ specifically for the sorts of people I have identified. Those assessed as having ‘fluctuating’ illnesses. Allow them to be able to ring up on, say, a weekly basis if they are feeling relatively active and request some basic work (simple data entry tasks they can do from home, for example). They get paid for this work and do not receive benefit when doing such work. However, they MUST then be able to phone up when they are ill again and make it known that they cannot work and they hence receive their benefit entitlement again, WITHOUT having to go through and more stress filling out forms, having assessments etc.

    Of course, this requires a level of honesty to work, but I genuinely believe the majority of these people are honest, hard-working people and, more importantly, even if only half of them were honest enough to actually phone up and request work when they are able, it would still take a considerable burden off the benefit load rather than them being constantly stuck in the benefit trap.

    It needs thought and planning as to how such a system would logistically work, without doubt, but until politicians start thinking in terms of GENUINELY helping these people in such a way, I doubt the benefits issue will ever be properly addressed and we’ll continue to have genuinely needy people harassed by the system, which is fed by the nonsense from the press and accepted by the public.

    Focus on HELPING people who are willing to work with the flexibility of their illness and change the current, idiotic perception that people on benefits are bad people.

    I can only hope that Ed and Liam start to think along these lines, though I won’t hold my breath!

  12. Les Abbey says:

    It’s not very pleasant to be lectured by an MP who, let’s say scrounged very well out of the public purse with his expense claims and an ex-apparatchik who admits himself he was up to his neck in the worse of the Blair New Labour attacks on party democracy. I really don’t know how you Peter and Bryne have the cheek to lecture others. I don’t think you will ever understand the disgust some of us feel for this political class and the damage it has done both to the country and the party. It’s far more than any disgust I can feel for some benefit scrounger. After all it wasn’t those benefit scroungers that has given us a decade of austerity to look forward to.

  13. I don’t know about this at all. Very rock terrain. Byrne has for a while been veering too far towards the Tory ‘kick-a-cripple’ & ‘down with these poor people getting an entire £52.00p/w in JSA’. Bearing in mind that MPs expenses are wholly paid for by the tax payer, it just feels revoltingly hypocritical.

    The net result of this folly will be people saying ‘oh well Labour WON’T take the Tories to task over the NHS OR the welfare reforms, so what’s the difference in the 2 parties?’.

    I will cease to vote Labour if they persist with this Daily-Mail pandering nonsense. There are people evading huge sums of taxes , go after then. There are people struggling to pay bills and buy food just because they happen to be poor…no support from Labour, it seems? Just nodding meekly in agreement with the Coalition.

  14. I see that you have not mentioned people with disabilities many of whom have no hope of ever finding employment simply because they are disabled. I would imagine that Miliband and Byrne will probably pay lip services to disability without any of it being meaningful. Two of my sons have autism. The youngest was diagnosed before his elder brother so I did not deliberately set out to have another child with a disability. Adults with autism are marginalised within disability. 12% of adults with autism are in full time employment as opposed to 47% of other adults with disabilities. I have no problem with people being made to look for work who can work. What I do have a problem with is those people who cannot work who are being ‘got at’ along with those who can. Benefit seekers are all being tarred with the same brush. One has to wonder (well I do) if people with disabilities are now being sacrificed so that the views of the many (which appears to be that everyone claiming benefit is a scrounger) are far more important than the harsh reality of living with disability. Even Mr Miliband himself is on record as saying that some disabled people are not trying hard enough to find work. I would just so love him to spend a day walking in my son’s shoes.

  15. Simon B. says:

    I agree with large parts of this post.

    But I don’t believe you when you say when you say this:

    “People in the latter category, those for instance who have a disability that makes work impossible, and who have no other means of support, should be supported by the state come-what-may.”

    I have an incurable neurological condition that causes me a lot of pain. I use injections, an O2 tank, strong opiates and even an antipsychotic to deal with this pain. On “good days” I can sit behind a computer and possibly do some work, fighting through the pain, bring fog & struggling to stay awake due to my meds. But on bad days I am literally confined to bed, screaming in pain, vomiting and generally unable to do anything at all. My good and bad days are not predictable – a good day can turn into a bad day, a bad can turn into a good and sometimes I go weeks without any good days.

    I’d like to work, but during the good years nobody would hire me with my condition. Before my illness manifested itself I worked for many years, paying tax and NI.

    The reason I don’t believe you is because it was Labour, especially the odious (IMO) John Purnell, who started the “scrounger” rhetoric. It was Labour that brought in the failed WCA. It was Labour who hired ATOS to deny benefits for some of our most sick and disabled people. And the appeals system is overturning almost 40% of all appeals, which goes up to near 70% when one is represented by someone from the CAB or a similar organisation. This proves ATOS are doing a horrible job. A 40% error/failure rate in any other sector would be unacceptable.

    Labour needs to apologise to sick and disabled people for what they did starting in 2008. Labour needs to tell the public, unequivocally, that they will fix the broken method for assessing sick/disabled people and that sick/disabled people will now receive Labour’s full and unequivocal support. Labour needs to resist the urge that New Labour had, just like the ConDems, to refer to us as scroungers and serve us up as tabloid fodder. We are human beings and we did not ask to be sick or disabled.

    Someone above quoted the Bible: “He who does not work, does not eat.”

    I’m going to paraphrase Lenin now: “He who does not work, does not eat. But he who cannot work shall be supported by society so his needs are met.”

    No, I’m not saying Labour should be in the business of following Lenin, god no, but if he was right on one thing, it was the paraphrased quote above.

    Until you are loud and proud about supporting us, many sick and disabled people simply will not trust or vote for Labour. And I speak as a social democrat who actively WANTS to vote Labour again, to come home to my natural base.

  16. Simon B. says:

    I also agree with Peter Robson above 100%. We NEED thousands, tens of thousands, of new public/council housing.

    HB is indeed a way for many, many BTL landlords to not only get their mortgages paid for free, but many who own rented properties actually have gotten rich off HB. They, too, are like so-called “scroungers”: they are receiving money for simply being lucky enough to own properties they can rent out.

    I see no difference, really, between the person who refuses to work and the person who gets free money from the state simply for owning & letting out property.

    If Labour committed to bringing back decent council housing on a large scale (and god knows we need it), it would be another small, but important step in bringing many people back into the fold.

  17. Madasafish says:

    “I see no difference, really, between the person who refuses to work and the person who gets free money from the state simply for owning & letting out property.”

    I suggest you learn the difference.

    As what you are saying is that private landlords are thieves. OK. So private landlords refuse to rent out their houses for HB.

    Where do all their tenants go?

    When you have a sensible answer, please post it.

  18. Simon B says:

    CG makes a brilliant point:

    If all of us have to “pay in” before we ever receive any benefit, what will happen to those born sick or disabled who have no chance of ever working and, thus, never having the chance to “contribute”? What of someone going through their GCSEs, say, and then becomes incapacitated? What of the people who are able to work a few years and then suddenly find themselves disabled and can no longer work?

    This hasn’t been properly thought out, has it? It seems these “plans” were made by totally able-bodied people who have no idea of the complexities and variations in disability.

    How about, you know, actually consulting with and asking sick and disabled people how to improve the system instead of private sector “consultants” who have no interest apart from making more money?

  19. Simon B says:

    @Madasafish:

    The private landlords who make money are, often, like bankers. They make money magically appear because they own something that is a requirement: housing. I have known some BTL landlords who buy a property, barely fix it up and then charge extortionate rates, far more than the going rate, especially to those on HB. This is not work, it is unearned accumulation of capital.

    Many now refuse to lower their rents and prefer to leave these properties empty. In a time when homelessness is growing, at a time when so many people cannot make ends meet, one would think many of them would lower their rents. The government said the HB cuts would not be bad because landlords would lower their rents to come in line with the new rates. This hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite has.

    We have a new generation of slum lords and tenants being treated appallingly by them. The recent documentaries on C4 are a testament to this.

    The housing market needs a reality check: it is overvalued. It’s about time rent controls were brought back in so these parasites (and yes, I do think of them as parasites, just like those who refuse to work) can be made to charge decent rates.

    They have the whip hand over the poor and vulnerable. Until we build thousands more affordable homes, especially council homes, this will not change. The market is artificially inflated to protect the oh-so-hard-done-by speculators and private landlords. We’re all in this together, right?

  20. Dave Hollins says:

    Reading Peter Watt’s contribution has convinced me that Owen Jones is right in his attack on Liam Byrne. http://labourlist.org/2012/01/liam-byrnes-capitulation/ Attacking the poor is the trap Labour’s right wing always falls into. I used to think it was tactical, but what is frightening is that they really believe it. Of course there are some idle people but the vast majority of people on benefits are elderly, disabled or unemployed because there aren’t enough jobs. Yet they all get tarred with the same brush – and they tend to be Labour voters. It is a vastly less important issue than tax avoidance, when do Blairites ever write about that? New Labour was hated by so many former Labour voters not because it was soft on welfare but because it cosied up to the rich and lost touch with ordinary people – both in work and out of work. Too often Labour repeats the Tory/Daily Mail stereotypes of poor people/council tenants/inner city dwellers when they should be confronted as lies. Caroline Flint was one of the worst. Perhaps Liam Byrne should consider why he came 26 out of 27 in LabourLists poll on the effectiveness of shadow cabinet members. And start arguing for our side not theirs.

  21. naomi elias says:

    I so agree with Isobel, Les and others who are disgusted at the LP move to the right. I was an active member of the Party for 36 years but tore up my card when Blair took the Party over. I now have nowhere to go. I will NOT vote for this right-wing lot of nobodies.
    Why isn’t this article about the scroungers at the top of the pile; those who do not pay their taxes. The number of those “workshy” people at the bottom of the pile are very few. Most people really want to work. And it’s impossible to live on Jobseeker’s Allowance – would anyone who can find a decent job really want to try to exist on that paltry amount?
    I find Ed Miliband to be a useless, ineffective leader with not an ounce of charisma. What is the point of him? Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be anyone decent to replace him. This is so sad, as the LP used to be worth something. I was proud to knock on doors. I loved going to Ward meetings and GMCs where we would discuss issues with great fervour and real concern. Now the Party is a pale reflection of the Tories and I am ashamed of it. Who will speak up with passion for the underprivileged and against poverty? Who will bring forth policies to confine poverty to the dustbin of history? Certainly not Labour.

    Like Isobel, I am in my seventies, have worked all my life and now try to exist on the State Pension plus Pension Credit. It’s not enough to live on.

    Confine the deficit to the dustbin by forcing the wealthy to pay their taxes, not by striking out at the poor who are being hit the hardest by this evil Coalition. Austerity? It’s bunk! And it’s totally unfair on the bottom 50%.

    Unless and until Labour becomes, once again, a left-wing party, I shall be forced to vote Green. I prefer Caroline Lucas to Ed Miliband.

  22. Charlotte says:

    Who are these people who refuse to work? What is the percentage of unemployed who are living a comfortable life of benefits? Answer these questions and i’ll take your points on board. Until then let’s focus on job creation and drop this Tory ‘the people who do the right thing’ rubbish that plays off againist each other people who have jobs and people who don’t.

  23. Peter Watt says:

    Glad to see that people read what I wrote and respond by attacking the article they wish I’d written. At no point do I attack people who are sick or disabled – on the contrary. And since when is it right wing to think that it’s unfair for working people to pay for the welfare payments of those who choose not to work? Or since when is it left wing to maintain a system that all to often institutionalises inter generational worklesness? Sorry, the welfare system we see today isn’t Beveridge’s vision, heads out of the sand please!

  24. Ralph Baldwin says:

    Whichever way you cut it, instead of building a formidable progressive Lead based upon advanced thought, proper morality, facts Labour has instead turned in on itself creating an internal conflict where one was not necessary whilst the Tories do what they want to do anyway.

    How pathetic.

    You all, Peter included, need to raise your game out of this ridiculous gutter. Why swim with the rats when you can lead as the Party once did by winning the debates, winning support by creating coalitions?

    If I was a Tory as Labour accused me of being would I not be supporting the Tories here lol. I disagree with this whole premise this is the completely wrong direction for Labour and there is a completely new narrative for Welfare that should be a positive one…alas for the feeble skills and limited vision of the Party that defies its own history instead of being pleased with it and using it as a potent tool to truly modernise the Party and the Country and make it worthy of the 21st century instead of looking backwards, selectively misinterpreting with limited empathy the meaning of the Party’s history and regressing into pointless division highlighting the lack of an alternative vision so badly needed by your party and the country in difficult times.

  25. JBK5 says:

    I understand that the deficite and collapse happened on their watch and plunged people and business and commerce and economy into recession. It was also Labour that paid Atos to take people off disability benefits to the point 10 yr olds lost their legs through amputation as there was no money coming in to family to feed them. The recession happened on Labour watch and many people lost their homes, jobs and businesses and major names went tumbling and don’t forget Labour sold major British industries abroad. So don’t buy into the blame on the unemployed and those on benefits. They have already lost too many lives and lost families and children their homes. Labour have said they are prepared to sacrifice the rights and welfare of disabled, women, children and elderly in order to get in next time. They think the only people who vote are between the age of 18-35 and don’t have any families responsibilities, elderly or dependent children or disabled. And please keep up to press what is happening to elderly, children and disabled and women are advise to prostitute themselves and even offer their children for sex to live and have a home, and Labour said if that is what you have to do that is what you have to do, and Labour supporters support that too. I do not know who looks more fascist these days the Fascists or Labour. I really cannot talk I really have lost everything and I will not vote labour as they support the abuse of women and children disabled and elderly. pitching to their city chums again. As they said “WE do not any longer represent the traditional labour working class. they are not what we are about any more. So they can piss off and find someone else to represent them. They are on a loser. there is no one who has not elderly disabled or children. They told me that women have to get use to children suffering. well FUCK YOU!!

  26. Kathryn says:

    The problem is how to motivate those who are unwilling to work without punishing those who are willing but unable to obtain work. Any welfare policy that is to live-up to the fairness principle must help all who are willing (should they be or become able to work) into work, but it must also take account of the fact that economies have downturns and periods when employment opportunities are few and far between; it is fundamentally undermining the original founding principles of the welfare state to penalise those who want to find work but are unable to.

    There’s also the issue of how to penalise parents who don’t want to work without hurting their children or other dependants. To reduce the budgets of parents on low incomes is to take food and clothing from their children.

    If this problem was simple to solve ethically it would be solved by now.

  27. Dave Hollins says:

    Sorry, Peter, but I read the article carefully. Despite the occasional caveat, it just peddles old myths about the poor. The point is you make the same connection as the Daily Mail between worklessness and ideleness/scroungers. Why on earth are there so many more scroungers when unemployment is high? Isn’t it amazing that when economic growth is high, idleness in the poorest areas of the country just fades away.
    Those of us who pay taxes – that includes many people formerly in work, now out of work because of the recession – also have to subsidise rich people’s pension pots, most people’s housing capital gains, the royal family, and thousand sof other wasteful spending items.
    So get a grip, the only reason to highlight these welfare payments is to make a point against the poor because it satisfies the Daily Mail mentality. perhaps they’ll offer you a column?

  28. Jim Caddis says:

    Peter Quote: “And since when is it right wing to think that it’s unfair for working people to pay for the welfare payments of those who choose not to work?”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but those who refuse to work who are on benefit, have their benefit stopped PERIOD. What are you talking about? Those unemployed for 12 months go onto the work programme with one of the many private companies, not looking for a job is not an option on JSA. And these programmes are not about support to get people back into work, they are about targets and bonus payments, incentives and contract percentages, and many of those providers are NOT meeting anywhere near their targets as the entire system is flawed.

    I am a great believer is the saying, “Understand the problem before working out a solution” You clearly have a steep learning curve ahead.

  29. CG says:

    @ Peter Watt’s latest comment:

    With all due respect Peter I, and many others here, didn’t ‘attack the article we wished you’d written’. We merely offered alternative viewpoints to the one you offered. You’re getting far too defensive and your latest comment just makes you seem entrenched in your position. Which is all to often the problem with these debates – people believe they are right and are not prepared to look at alternative points of view.

    Would you care to comment on my earlier post here highlighting what I believe should be the real focus of the benefits debate? Better helping those who genuinely need help with flexible benefit and work options to match the flexibility of their condition? Do you have any comment on the evidence to suggest that the benefit fraud hotline is a waste of money? Any thoughts on the fact that a majority of people who appeal sickness benefit refusals ultimately get their benefit entitlement, proving that the assessment system is faulty and wasting money? Indeed, you didn’t attack people who are sick or disabled at any point, but I’d love to know what your thoughts are on those that do, and your opinion on the perpetuation of rhetoric by many politicians, press and media that promotes the view that ‘anyone on benefits is a cheat’?

    As I first started off saying – I agree, generally speaking, with the ‘principles’ you highlight. I just happen to think that the whole ethos of your focus is in the wrong area though. Your article did, however, get me (and others) thinking and debating the issue. Which is a good thing. So what do you think of my ethos? I’m not saying it’s entirely right (though I strongly believe the focus should be more on those who genuinely need help) , and maybe you have other thoughts. So lets debate the issue. Who knows. If we (all of us) debate it a miracle might happen and we might actually get somewhere.

    Sorry, just because the welfare system we see today isn’t Beveridge’s vision, doesn’t necessarily mean Beveridge’s vision is the right vision for the world today. Head out of the sand please!

  30. hindle-a says:

    What ignorant misanthropic piffle.Not one mention AT ALL about Carers,who contribute FAR MORE than any politico has ever done.A decent opposition,should rather than add to the disgraceful lies and distortions and rhetoric(whilst disingenuously pretending not to) should be not welcoming the Government’s actions.What positive contribution have you made sir?For all I can read is ill-informed Daily Mailesque propaganda that aids the Government in its misanthropic mission.

  31. Carole Rutherford says:

    I personally said that you made no mention of people with disabilities not that you were attacking them.

  32. AmberStar says:

    @ Peter Watt

    You & the media are focussing on the scrounger rhetoric; the deserving/ undeserving poor. But that’s not the issue, is it? The issue is that there is no positive discrimination in favour of people with good employment records.

    In 2008, people were being made redundant after a long time in a variety of low/ medium paid jobs. And they ‘signed on’ expecting to receive something for something. Instead they discovered that they got JSA at the same basic rate as folks who’d never worked. And no help with their mortgage, despite reading about people on HB receiving £400 per week for their rent.

    That’s where the anger comes from, Peter. The realisation that despite all the tax & NI paid, they are going to lose their home (or build up significant mortgage arrears) unless they can find a job within a few weeks. And if they are party to a shared mortgage – or even chip in towards their parents’ mortgage – they are going to be bringing hardship to others.

    That’s why HB is divisive, Peter. Because it rewards renters & penalises people who are ‘doing the right thing’ & buying a home (or sharing & contributing). So, why is buying a home ‘doing the right thing’? Because acquiring an asset which frees a working person from reliance on the rentiers is a good thing, is it not? I mean we are not going to pretend that the state will provide, are we? I am not being sarcastic, by the way. I genuinely believe that the best way for working people to secure their future wellbeing is to own the roof over their head.

    Contributory JSA, for the first 6months to 1year, needs to include a decent sum as a housing element. That’s it; that’s pretty much all it would take to make many working people less resentful. Now, how can the existing benefits bill be reduced to free up money for a non-means tested, contributory JSA, that makes the majority feel they will get something for something when they really need it?

    I think that’s what Labour should be focussing on; reducing the resentment by giving working people a better safety net. I’m hoping that’s the sort of thing Liam Byrne has in mind, rather than just using Beveridge as a figleaf for some claimant bashing.
    8-)

  33. Madasafish says:

    Most of the people attacking the article believe in an endless pot of money and centralised economic control of the economy.

    The last country to try that was the USSR.

    The lessons of history are learned by the wise. Clearly that does not include many who have learned nothing from 13 years of Labour economic failure. The reason they suggest is that Labour were not left wing enough.

    They also attack the Tories for being led by millionaires. That’s true. But they ignore the fact Labour are lead by a millionaire.

    And then they wonder why the general public does not believe them? Lol.

  34. Peter Watt says:

    Carole Rutherford – try reading the article. Specifically point 2!

  35. Simon B says:

    Sorry, Peter, but I attacked your article because there was a glaring contradiction in it.

    You say:
    “If you have never worked and never paid tax then you should not expect to be able to claim.”

    But then you go on to say:

    “People in the latter category, those for instance who have a disability that makes work impossible, and who have no other means of support, should be supported by the state come-what-may.”

    I pointed this out, but you failed to address my question or your contradictions. So I will ask again: if you think only those who paid into the system should be allowed to claim, what of those born sick/disabled and unable to ever work? What of those who become disabled in their teens and then cannot work? And what of those who work for a few years, have a horrible accident or disease and can no longer contribute?

    You simply haven’t thought this through and I’m a bit amazed you haven’t spotted your own contradictions here. Apart from that and your nasty-party style division of the poor into “deserving” and “undeserving”, I agree with parts of the article. But it does sadden me you seem to have totally bought into the Tory myth.

    What happened to solidarity? Or do you, like so many other New Labour types, truly despise the working class and think we need to be told what’s good for us?

    Have you ever been on JSA? Could you survive on the paltry £93 a week we disabled receive? How about coming and living the life of a JSA claimant or a disabled claimant for a week or so to, you know, do some “fact finding”? Because, with respect, it seems you not only need it, but you have no idea how much of a struggle life is for people like me.

  36. Simon B says:

    You also did not address my facts that it was LABOUR who brought in the incompetent ATOS to deny people their benefits. They make a nice £500M a year or so for this.

    You didn’t address my points about the fact that it was LABOUR (especially Purnell) who briefed the right-wing press about so-called “scroungers” in a cynical attempt to “look tough”.

    But it does sadden me to no end that Labour seems to want to join the LibDems and the Tories in attacking claimants when THERE ARE VERY FEW JOBS out there right now, especially up here in the north.

    If there were enough jobs to go around then you’d have a case to make about attacking those who refuse to work. But with some parts of the UK seeing 50 people apply for every one vacancy, it is pathetic and very Toryesque to attack those that capitalism is letting fall behind, instead of attacking the system of casino, crony capitalism itself.

    Surely the Great Messers Hardie, Atlee and Bevin are turning in their graves. My kingdom for a proper pro-poor, pro-unemployed, pro-worker, PRO-PEOPLE Labour party. One that doesn’t want to divide the poor into categories and one that will attack the reason for poverty and unemployment, not the poor and unemployed themselves.

  37. Peter Watt says:

    Oh Simon stop! There is no contradiction at all. I am sure you think that you are being clever. Because I clearly do make a distinction between those unable to work and those choosing not to. In fact plenty of those campaigning (rightly) for a government change of heart on their approach to those with a disability have said that my post was fair and balanced. You might not agree with my argument but please cut the attempt to be clever as its just patronising. I’m sure it makes you feel better though.

  38. CG says:

    “You might not agree with my argument but please cut the attempt to be clever as its just patronising. I’m sure it makes you feel better though.”

    You were being deliberately ironic there, right Peter?!

    I’m guessing you don’t want to answer any of the questions I posed earlier then?

  39. Simon B says:

    Yes, Peter, you do make a distinction between those who are disabled and those who are not.

    Are you saying, then, that those born disabled or those who never had a chance to contribute because of a sickness or disability would be exempt from having to “contribute first”? It’s a simple question.

    No need to be patronising, all you had to do was answer the question. I know I am disabled, but, really, there’s no need to act as if I am stupid or accuse me of something just because I want clarification on a question.

    Do you also accept that it was Labour who started this whole mess of bringing in ATOS and using the “scrounger” rhetoric?

    Because it is true: Labour did both of those things.

    Will Labour be apologising to the innocent people they demonised while in power? I doubt it. Seems Labour people would rather patronise me than actually engage in debate and admissions of mistakes made. One would think you’d be trying to bring people like me back into the Labour fold rather than accusing me of being “clever” when all I wanted was a couple questions to be answered.

  40. Henrik says:

    Yep, keep it up, comrades. Peter Watt has made some very sensible strategic points and every single one of the Labour commenters has plunged like a stooping vulture on to specific, personal issues.

    It’s quite simple, really, as I understand it. The underlying principle of the Welfare State is that it should provide a safety net for those temporarily out of work, care for those unable to work and should be run on the basis of those who can, contribute – does the term ‘National Insurance’ suggest something at all?

    I don’t think Peter’s advocating driving the sick and disabled into work camps or letting them starve in unheated timber barracks; my reading of his article is that those too ill to work, or otherwise legitimately unable to do so, will continue to be looked after at State (actually, at your and my) expense – as is quite right.

    However, what I read in what he wrote is that the workshy and idle will no longer get a free ride. I don’t have a problem with that, I’ve been paying tax and NI since 1973 and have never had a cent from the State except in salary while I was in the Army. I’ve been a net contributor and I’m OK with that, as we’re a civilised society and we should all pay towards the common good – but not to subsidise antisocial and unproductive lifestyle choices. If someone capable of working makes clear efforts not to do so, fine, that’s their choice, just don’t expect me to pay for it.

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