Posts Tagged ‘Labour rebellion’

Labour was right to abstain on workfare

27/03/2013, 10:00:17 AM

by Ann Sinnott

The workfare court ruling deemed unlawful the regulations governing JSA-sanctions imposed on claimants Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson and thus opened the door to repayment of lost benefits to 230,000 other sanctioned jobseekers, a total of £130m. In response, the government rapidly drew up an emergency bill to retrospectively make those same regulations lawful; a shocking and unprecedented Kafkaesque step that, when Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson take their case to the Supreme Court, may well be challenged under EU Human Rights legislation.

Labour’s decision to abstain from voting on the emergency bill left many non-plussed, induced rage in others and generated a frenzy of press and blogger coverage running over several days. It goes without saying that “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is part of the Labour party’s DNA, so for Labour not to reject a Bill that will prevent the repayment of withheld JSA is counter-intuitive; but look closer.

Drafted by swift-acting machiavellian brains (judging by Vince Cables’s more than usually self-satisfied smile the next day, his among them), the bill was neatly packaged-up and calculated to cause maximum trouble for Labour.  It was effective and a stark display of the art of politics at its darkest.

The court not only ruled in favour of the two claimants but also removed from the DWP the right to impose sanctions, a power the department had held since 1911. The emergency bill will reinstate the DWP’s power of sanction. Labour supports fair and proportionate sanctions, though in the context of a guaranteed six-month minimum-waged job, so what better way to tie-in their support, tacit or otherwise?

If Labour had walked into the “Nos” lobby it would have been voting against its own policy. Bad enough, but just imagine the headlines and the everlasting government taunts: “Labour U-turn on sanctions for shirkers!”, “Labour lets skivers off the hook!”, “No need to work under Labour!”, and permutations thereof.

Some Labour critics have said, “Sod the headlines!” – but, with a largely right-wing press and public opinion still largely suckered by the government myth that Labour ran the country into the ground, headlines really do matter.


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