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Monday, April 08, 2013

Labour in disarray on the welfare state

The wheels appear to be wobbling on Labour's bandwagon on changes to the welfare and tax system today. Despite producing internet posters attacking the cut in the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, it transpires that when it came to the crunch vote in the House of Commons their MPs abstained on this specific change.

Now, the Telegraph reports that some of their Parliamentarians are getting nervous that Labour may be labelled as the 'Benefits Party'. The paper says that a number of Labour MPs have admitted that the party hasd been “behind the curve” on tackling the spiralling benefits problem and that its leadership has “ducked” the issue too many times.

These MPs have urged party members to back plans to reform the welfare state, with one urging people to remember that Labour had been set up for working people, “not as a charity or a social work organisation”.

Labour also boast a shadow Works and Pensions Secretary of course who coined the phrase 'strivers versus skivers' and who advocates a regional benefits regime:

On Sunday the divisions within Labour were laid bare by a series of senior MPs.

Harriet Harman, the party’s deputy leader, admitted that working people felt “resentful” because some benefits claimants were “not pulling their weight” and were being “let off the hook”.

But a number of Labour MPs went even further by acknowledging the party’s past failings on the issue and backing sweeping reforms.

Tom Harris, a shadow environment minister who represents a Glasgow constituency, said welfare dependency was “killing the city”.

He told The Telegraph: “We sometimes allow ourselves to be seen as the party of welfare when clearly we should be trying to be seen as the party of work. We are the Labour Party and not the Benefits Party.”

Mr Harris said there a lot of people in his constituency who were “loath to work” because they were better off on benefits, adding that it was not possible to repair communities where large numbers of people were economically inactive.

Mr Harris said he backs Mr Byrne’s calls for a system that links benefits to how much people have contributed through work.

“We [the Labour Party] were not set up as a charity, or a social work organisation. We will always look after the most vulnerable in society, the homeless, the destitute, no other political party will do that,” he said. “But that is not why we are here. That is not our priority. Our priority is working people.”

In an online comment piece for The Telegraph, Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, wrote that the Left should not be “proud” of letting people “languish for years on benefits”.

He called for the party to “accept there are some people on the dole that don’t want to work, and we need to have a plan to get them into work”.

Frank Field, the MP for Birkenhead and a former minister, also backed calls for Labour to tackle the growing welfare bill after “ducking” reforms when it was in power.

He said Labour should link benefits to how much people have contributed to the tax system, telling Sky News: “It is certainly [a policy] which is in tune with the public.”

In the light of these dissenting voices the vitriol with which Labour are attacking the Government appears to be severely misplaced.
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