Posts Tagged ‘strivers’

Labour needs to remember how to make an argument

10/01/2013, 07:00:47 AM

by Peter Watt

So, after five hours of heated debate the government got its way and parliament voted to limit annual increases in working-age benefits to 1%, for the next three years.

Only a handful of Lib Dems rebelled.  But put aside the rights and wrongs of the argument for the moment.  Just consider the arguments used in the first big political battle of the second half of this parliament.

To be effective an argument has to be heard, resonate, be noticed and be believable.  It critically has to be understood.   I spent much of Monday and Tuesday listening to party spokespeople making their arguments in advance of and in the aftermath of the welfare vote.  I was struck by just how hard it was for Labour to get to the point and to make their argument.  The government spokespeople on the other hand seemed to get to the point quickly.  I wonder if this is why?  When you go to the respective websites and try to get a distillation of the arguments you find:

Government argument:

“Today Labour are voting to increase benefits by more than workers’ wages.  Conservatives: standing up for hardworking people.”

Labour argument:

“Labour will today challenge the government to back its plan for a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long term unemployed as new figures from the IFS show 7 million working people will be hit by the government’s ‘strivers tax’. The new report from the IFS shows that 7 million working families will lose out under the government’s real terms cuts to tax credits and other benefits. It follows Children’s Society research which shows that a second lieutenant will lose £552 a year, a nurse could lose £424 a year and a primary school teacher could lose £424 a year.  Labour will oppose the bill and call for the government to bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee, which would give people out of work for 24 months or more a job which they would have to take up or lose their benefits.”

Remember, put aside the merits of the respective arguments, and judge them on their effectiveness.


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Forget strivers vs skivers, it’s the uncosted spending that will hurt Labour on welfare

09/01/2013, 07:00:51 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Yesterday Labour voted against the welfare uprating bill after a debate in the House of Commons dominated by the four horseman of the welfare apocalypse, “scrounger,” “shirker,” “striver” and “skiver.”

These are highly charged, emotive terms, laden with implicit meaning. The focus of the debate in the run up to the vote has been on the values inherent in these words. The Tories are slapping a tax on strivers. No, Labour wants to sign a blank cheque for scroungers. Back and forth it has raged.

But amidst the sound and light about who was actually on the side of the hard working majority, the real impact on voter perceptions, and damage to Labour, has received comparatively little attention. Only yesterday, as the Tories rowed back from the sharper exigencies of their scrounger rhetoric did they alight on the most pointed attack on Labour.

Voters were already pretty clear that Labour will by and large try to protect benefits for the less well-off while the Tories are tougher on cheats. The values debate will not have altered this perception, except maybe to entrench it for both sides: the Tories cut with too much relish and Labour is more likely to fall for a hard luck story.

The one incontrovertible fact of Labour’s vote against the welfare uprating bill is that the party has now backed higher spending on benefits than the government.


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Ed Milband is out of step with most voters on welfare reform

20/12/2012, 07:00:11 AM

by Peter Watt

If the economy is the central battleground of the next election then welfare reform looks like being one of the other key areas for the political combatants.  The chancellor’s Autumn statement made it pretty clear that he intends to make it a key wedge issue over the coming years.  And to make sure that we all got this, the Tories have released an online attack ad on the websites of local newspapers in marginal seats.

Click on the ad and you are asked your views on welfare reform by the Conservative party. Labour reacted with its own marginal seats campaign complete with outrage at the demonization of the poor and attempts to divide and rule between artificial notions of “strivers” and “scroungers”.

So both parties see the next election being about the cost of living; both see strategic weaknesses in the others approaches to those working on low to modest incomes and both now have drawn a line in the sand – the proposed below inflation 1% rise in most working age welfare benefits.

For the Tories this will help create a “welfare system based on fairness’” as the campaign leaflet to accompany their online ad makes clear:


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In yesterday’s debate, George Osborne had a clear script, Ed Balls didn’t

06/12/2012, 10:00:08 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“It was just like a budget”. This was the immediate reaction of the ever perceptive Nigel Lawson when the Daily Politics sought it soon after the Autumn statement. Ming Campbell – the only other participant on a very balanced panel – concurred. That said; they had a point. Not only was the stagecraft familiar. The content was too.

The Conservatives have a script, you see. China is rising but the skivers aren’t, so further welfare reform is needed to prevent China eating all our dinners. The global race will be won by strivers, not drunken layabouts. And reform of our schools will create a nation of strivers. That’s if Johnny Foreigner and his euro don’t do what the last government and our “mess” could not quite do and do for us good and proper.

This script has been obvious since Conservative party conference. It has, in its own parlance, stayed the course. It is no surprise, therefore, that it was served up again yesterday. That’s the thing with political scripts. Politicians disembark on one that feels right, feelings which polling confirms. Then they keep saying it and saying it and saying it some more. Finally, maybe, it hits home with the electorate. By which time, certainly, they have bored themselves and the lobby into a stupor.

It was never really in doubt, consequently, what Osborne’s key messages would be. Any sentient political observer should have long known. We know its villains: the last government and the bed we made; welfare recipients and the beds that they lie in; the rest of Europe and their siesta.

But Osborne’s heroes shun and abhor all such lazy, flabby, debt-sodden indulgence. It is the strivers that have doubled exports to major emerging economies since 2009 and created over a million jobs in the private sector since he became chancellor.

Politics is the ceaseless clash of narratives: many half-baked, most never reaching a real terminus but the endless grafting of perceptions unto realities. So, what story did Ed Balls tell in rebutting this tale of striving heroes and shirking villains?


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