Posts Tagged ‘welfare state’

Embracing the contributory principle for public services is how Labour’s offer can be big, bold and affordable

07/04/2014, 08:27:11 AM

by Jonathan Todd

In early January, Uncut reported on Andy Burnham’s “defining vision for health … pooling central government health budgets with local authority social care budgets to offer a joined-up approach to looking after our elderly. It makes eminent sense but carries with it a big uncosted price tag”.

Given that Ed Balls is responsible for making Labour’s sums add up, we speculated that this tag would prevent him from supporting this vision; a view subsequently affirmed by those who speak for the shadow chancellor and Labour leader.

There is a growing clamour for Labour to be big and bold. These calls, though, lack specifics. As was the case when leading thinkers wrote to the Guardian recently. Integrating health and social care, as in Burnham’s vision, is a specific example of bigness and boldness.

Balls’ nervousness about its’ price tag, however, is typical of the concerns of those who wish to “shrink Labour’s offer”. It’s thought that advocates of this strategy wish to minimise the risks that may attach to voting Labour, anticipating that if voting Labour becomes as riskless as possible, the unpopularity of the Tory-led government will secure Labour general election victory. An important source of political risk for Labour being the extent to which Labour creates opportunities for Tories to have justification in saying things like, “Labour policies are an uncosted risk to the government’s long term economic plan.”


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Labour needs to find a response to communities like the one in Skint

14/05/2013, 03:22:56 PM

by Kevin Meagher

For every minute that Skint was on last night, defending the welfare state became that little bit harder.

Channel Four says its new show tells ‘provocative and revealing documentary stories of how people survive without work’. It does no such thing. We are back in Big Fat Gypsy Wedding territory here: gawping at the mores and behaviours of a part of society many wouldn’t want to live near, definitely wouldn’t mix with, but who we don’t mind sniggering at. This is Little Britain without the canned laughter.

Skint could also have been an extended party political broadcast directed by Lynton Crosby. It was all there on display: the fecklessness, violence, drug-taking, gambling, shoplifting, vandalism and casual thuggery of what at one time we used to call our underclass. The obligatory bull mastiffs, silly caps and tracksuits were on display for good measure.

Dean and Claire were bringing up seven kids on benefits. “All I have to do is spunk on a hanky” he charmlessly explained. He later treated viewers to a full frontal showing of his vasectomy scar. He had previously worked but thought he now deserved a break.

Then there was Conor, a gormless young lad who wouldn’t get out of bed for school and whose only form of communication with his mother was to repeatedly tell her to “fuck off” (I gave up counting after the 20th time). He hadn’t been to school for “months”. Yet he was depicted as a relative innocent; all his friends had served custodial sentences.

“They say that crime doesn’t pay but it does. It pays a lot fucking better than a job”, reckoned Jay, his friend and habitual shoplifter who had now graduated to burglary.

For both right and left the reasons why communities like the one depicted in Skint have drifted so far from the mainstream are deceptively simple.

The right thinks their condition is simply a question of poor behaviour: bad things happen to bad people. But their ‘tough love’ approach in restricting benefits is all about making a harsh gesture, not addressing a root cause. In contrast, the Left thinks these people are victims and the problem of improving their lot is solely about piling-in sufficient resources.

Obviously the truth is more complex. Yes, the problem of poverty, ingrained unemployment and having no tradable skills is a drag-anchor on communities like these; but it’s a problem of dysfunctional families too, with ineffective parents bringing up kids with behavioural problems. This then collides with a complete lack of ambition or respectable role models. Frankly, it’s also a product of the natives having too much guile and time to misuse.


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How Labour can win on welfare

01/02/2012, 08:00:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour will win the welfare debate when we reassure the public that we believe in the responsibility to work and convince them that the government is too incompetent to secure the right to work.

Labour’s approach to rights is anathema to Tories, and goes beyond the legalism of liberalism. The right to work is fundamental to us – we’re Labour, after all. Tories see no such right. Unemployment is a price worth paying. And work is, of course, a relational and lived experience, which can’t be distilled to the system of legal rights that defines liberalism.

All have a right to dignity, which the welfare state that Labour created must ensure. This right, more associated with Labour than other parties, is, however, abused when it subsidises the unwillingness of some who could work to fulfil their responsibility to actually work. That Labour has a stronger emphasis on rights than other parties, can leave us vulnerable to attacks predicated upon appeals to responsibility.

Iain Duncan Smith has launched such an attack. The principle driving his benefits cap is that all who are able have responsibilities to look for and take up work. Where there is more to be gained by staying at home, welfare incentivises the violation of responsibilities to seek and undertake work. (more…)

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Jamie Reed calls for an all party commission on the social compact

11/10/2010, 12:30:15 PM

The British social compact, underpined by a progressive welfare state, is the glue which binds us as a society. The compact transcends race, class, gender and religion. On the factory floor and at the pit top, in classrooms and in pulpits, the creation of a good society became the cause to which millions of people devoted their energy and their lives. A society in which the individual, the community and the state shared a common interest in the well being of the national community and of all those within it.

The creation of the welfare state breathed life into this massive civic movement and for decades – across the right, left and centre of British politics – commitment to this social compact was demonstrably real. The needs of the ‘real society’ were understood and acted upon. Differing governments brought changes of many kinds, but the social compact remained despite often incredible domestic tensions. (more…)

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