Posts Tagged ‘Benefits trap’

Osborne lays the trap. Enter Labour, not walking but running

12/12/2012, 03:29:50 PM

by Rob Marchant

The weekend before last, I watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the classic kids’ film of my own childhood, with my five year-old for the first time. When the famous “child catcher” scene came on, and the children were being tempted into the evil kiddy catcher’s van with sweets and lollipops, it ended with genuine, heartfelt cries of “no, noooooooo…!” as she vainly urged Jeremy and Jemima to see the danger. The bright colours and bunting suddenly fall from the van to reveal a cage, inside which the children are helplessly trapped (the point at which, as I remember, I was usually to be found hiding behind the sofa).

This last weekend, then, on seeing the media coverage of a mooted Miliband “war” on benefit cuts, the cage metaphor already seemed like déjà vu. And the Commons statement by Ed Balls, confirming that Labour will vote against the welfare bill, seemed to be accompanied by the clunk of a big door closing.

Labour does not, of course, really think that people should be allowed to “scrounge”, and there is a genuine, balanced debate to be had on how to prevent abuses and dependency while continuing to protect the vulnerable. But there is also a realpolitik argument of ensuring that your argument can be painted in primary colours. Shades of grey can and will be twisted.

The logic is not subtle. It is not about nuance. It is about how well our subtle argument will fare in the political joust against a brutal cudgel of one: that Labour is “on the side of the scroungers”. And the answer is not very well, if the relative success of the competing economic narratives – “too far, too fast” versus “Labour maxed out the credit card” – is anything to go by.


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