Posts Tagged ‘rights and responsibilities’

Our rights are protected. It’s time for Labour to emphasise our responsibilities

14/01/2015, 09:22:21 AM

by John Slinger

In a 2002 Observer article Tony Blair set out the theme of “rights and responsibilities”. He sought to expose the inadequacies of what he termed the left’s “1945 ‘big state’ that wrongly believed it could solve every social problem” and the right’s “narrow, selfish individualism of the 1980s”. For Blair, responsibilities were concomitant with rights. Admirable people and organisations, from MPs to QCs, Amnesty to Liberty, the CAB to the EU, have ensured that rights are now well-defined and defended. We must remain vigilant about rights, but now it’s time to foster a “responsibilities culture.”

The culture of rights, fought for by philosophers, politicians and ordinary people throughout history has advanced human happiness, security and economic prosperity. It achieved this by imbuing individuals with rights by virtue of being human, not as gifts of God or the state.

Responsibilities should be given this irreducible, non-negotiable status. “I know my rights” is the unacceptable face of rightsism. The responsibilities agenda has historically been directed at the poor rather than the better-off, when in fact it is a universal imperative. In the future, it would be good to hear more of, “I know my responsibilities”, from citizens, companies and organisations throughout society and the economy.

Here are a few areas where the responsibilities revolution could take effect:


We are required to by the law to obey its strictures. However, we each have a moral responsibility to avoid illegal behaviour. Our criminal justice system would be much less necessary if people accepted the not unreasonable responsibility to desist from harming others. We should spend less time trying to understand the “causes” of crime and more on instilling a sense of respect for others and ensuring that violators fear the law and wider community. The challenge is huge: despite crime apparently falling, the Met reported last week that violent crime in London is up 25 per on last year.


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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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