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Labour opposes benefit cuts: for now, anyway

22 January 2013

9:08 AM

22 January 2013

9:08 AM

Last night’s debate on the bill capping benefit rises at 1 per cent was far more revelatory than it might first have appeared. It wasn’t Labour’s conclusion that the Tories were evil and the Lib Dems (those that turned up, at least: there were nine rebels, but a further 11 Lib Dem MPs were mysteriously absent) just as bad. But the most interesting revelation was the way the party handled this exchange:

Charlie Elphicke: Is it therefore the right hon. Gentleman’s and the Opposition’s policy that uprating should be not by 1%, but by inflation? Is that a commitment?

Stephen Timms: Uprating should indeed be in line with inflation, as it always was in the past.

This was significant. Until Timms’ speech, Labour had only gone so far as to say that it would vote against the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill, not that it would reverse it and relink benefits to inflation. Timms had, in just one sentence, made a multi-billion pound spending commitment without any indication of how his party could fund it.

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Which is why it wasn’t surprising when the party backtracked on Timms’ comments, saying this was Labour policy for now, not 2015. In fact, they’ve been doing the same thing with party policy announcements, too, with Ed Balls’ jobs guarantee, which the party announced as a policy ‘for now’ rather than a 2015 manifesto commitment. This also meant that Balls could spend the money from a raid on pensions that he’d previously earmarked for something else: having a policy apply to a specific moment is convenient when there isn’t much money floating around.

This would be fine if the Labour party was a charity, urging the government to take on certain policy suggestions for the good of those being affected by legislation. But at some point Labour will have to switch from campaigning mode into reality mode and accept that some of the cuts it has badged as evil may well be its only option. Of course, the convenience of its pledge for a zero-based spending review is that it helps Labour to avoid reaching that conclusion for as long as it possibly can.

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Show comments
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Hedges/100001511186412 Charles Hedges

    A party unable to cut its ties to ATOS and the policy of punishing the disabled remains the nasty party, and those who have no qualms about voting for this sort of persecution are beneath contempt.

  • williamblakesghost

    Which only goes to show that Labour are living up to the first rule of politics:

    Never believe a word that the Labour Party say

  • 2trueblue

    It would be impossible for Liebore to offer any sanity on this matter.They had 13yrs with a massive majority and had their opportunity to create a better enviornment in every way and failed to do so. They rearranged our society and in the guise of helping people divided society more, encouraged single parent householdsth of our population. diluted our culture, failed to improve our infrastructure to cater for the massive grow,
    All in all they did not care that our future was mortgaged both in financial terms and with our childrens future. Our youth employment grew and grew and became consolidated in the long term figures.

    Libore can sit on the fence, but when you draw a distinction that those who are on benefits have priority over those who are working, pay taxes, and have the added burden of travel expenses to your place of work, we need to look at what they really value.

    • David B

      They are looking to increase their voter base as the believe everyone who is on benefits of some sort with vote for them. So increase the % of the populaiton to above 50% and they have a natural majority!

  • Seamus Hasson

    It would be silly for Labour to commit to themselves to any concrete policies at this stage – as they’re going to be in opposition for at least another 3 years. They don’t know what the economic picture will be like in 2015. David Cameron was light on policy before he got elected which is perfectly understandable. If they feel however that something is wrong in principal then they should oppose it, that’s the job of the opposition surely. I believe that there is still some room for principals in politics even in these austere times. In terms of the benefit cap a new ICM poll out today shows that Labour have public support on their side, the Tories appear to have overplayed their hand with the use of some unfortunate rhetoric from the chancellor.

    • 2trueblue

      Liebore have now created a new precedent: If you work, leave the house each day and travel to work, at your expense, after tax, you matter less in their eyes than those on benefits who do not have that expense and obligation.

      • Seamus Hasson

        What about those on working tax credits, they leave the house each day and travel to work at their own expense but they don’t seem to matter very much to the Tories. This benefit cap will affect them and squeeze their living standards even further. That aside trying to get by on £71 per week and then facing a real time cut must be a worrying prospect. Many people loose their jobs for many different reasons and for the chancellor to tar everyone on benefits as scroungers is contemptible.

        • 2trueblue

          This government has raised the level at which those at the lower end pay tax. What answers have Liebore got? that is the nub of the matter, they have no answers. I would be impressed of just one of the party in question engaged in real dialogue. With the BBC managing the main media for Liebore there will be no reality portrayed, just rent a mouth Balls and his likes to give their viewpoint. After all They did get us where we are.

  • Gary Gimson

    Labour: A party that never saw a tax rise nor a spending commitment it did not like.

  • Jebediah

    Typical Labour “We don’t know what we’d do, but we wouldn’t do that”. There must be a mystical massive spending programme that brings benefit to no one that Labour can cut without harm to anyone. If only they’d tell us what it is.
    Labour: Spending tomorrow’s money today.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Ah, bless. Labour’s big state money tree. Let’s hope it has grown faster than the economy by the time they start enlarging the state, crowding the island and bribing foreigners in 2015.

    • telemachus

      Again Nico you deny the need to stoke the economy and build for growth

  • Chris lancashire

    Let no one be under any illusion – Labour have learned nothing from their experience of wrecking the economy. Spending promises fall easily from front benchers’ lips, how to earn that money – yes earn – is merely a troublesome detail. Let this lot back in in 2015 and a slowly recovering economy will revert to Labour spending disaster mode.

    • HooksLaw

      Correct. The biggest clear and present danger to the country is the Labour Party. The true traitors to our country are those who would conspire to put Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in Downing Street.

      • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

        Well said. Use of the word traitors is not an exaggeration.

  • BenM_Kent

    No doubt economically and fiscally things are going to be pretty bad in 2015 after 5 years of disastrous Tory and coalition failure on the economy.

    Labour is right to be wary of committing to much right now, it doesn’t know what kind of fiscal clusterf is going to be handed to it by Osborne at the next election.

    • HooksLaw

      No. Labour are hoping the Tories will have made all the hard choices for them. Hard choices resulting from a disastrous economy they once again left behind.

      • BenM_Kent

        The Tories always raise unemployment. The Tories always post the highest unemployment figures.

        Until 2008-9 all recessions had occurred under Tory governments. Until then, the highest borrowings had also occurred under Tory governments.

        The idea the Tories are better custodians of the British economy than Labour is risible.

        • Jebediah

          Typically because they gain power after Labour have eaten all the pies. Labour get turfed out because they’ve wrecked the economy. It’s painful and unpopular to fix the economic disasters Labour Govts leave behind.

          • BenM_Kent

            This is a nice fantasy for Tories to comfort themselves with but the evidence is that it is the Tories who wreck the economy.

            Labour then spends years rebuilding and reinvesting – that’s what is going to happen (again) after 2015 election.

            • Colonel Mustard

              I do like the way that destroying and wasting become “rebuilding and reinvesting” in Labour’s Dictionary for Fools. Labour wrote the book on fantasy in government. And on lies, deceit, hypocrisy, double standards, duplicity, dissembling, not taking responsibility, shifting the blame, pointing the finger, etc., etc. Exactly as you have demonstrated here.

            • David B

              The economy in 1997 was the best it every had been. Gordon Brown destroy it and mortgaged the next generation tyring to keep Labour from being destroyed

              • BenM_Kent

                In 1997 nominal borrowing was at record levels, manufacturing had been hollowed out and the cultural and economic over-reliance on financial services was already embedded.

                • David B

                  The simplest graph I can find on manufacturing output is this

                  http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/22/manufacturing_figurecs/

                  It shows that manufacturing output falling from 1978 (yes the last year of the Labour government) through to 1980, then growing strongly through to 1997. After that if fell for a few years and then rises slightly (but never reaching its 1997 high) before collapsing again. Not quite hollowed out.

                  With regard to the national debt and the deficit on the government spending (the budget deficit), I think you will find that it more than doubled since 1997.

                  The reliance on financial services actually started under Blair/Brown. They were heavily reliant on the tax from this sector to finance their spending during the period from 2000 to 2008.

            • Fergus Pickering

              Who are you, Ben M? I haven’t seen you here before. Are you the good Telemachus under another soubriquet. Your style is similar, but you forgot about Maggie Thatcher eating Irish babies..

        • 2trueblue

          Liebore hid their figures really well, they spent 13yrs re-classifying them. They increased the gap between rich and poor, youth unemployment grew, (they were our future whom Liebore consigned to the scrap heap) and child poverty grew. So how do you square that reality?

          If you are employed you get up and travel to work and that costs money, so why would you give an advantage to those who do not have to travel each day?

          The precedent that Liebore are setting is that if you work, pay your taxes and strive to get on and contribute, you matter less than those who do not work. But our media are vacuous so that will not be articulated.

          • BenM_Kent

            No one widened inequality like Thatcher did. The Gini coefficient grew wildly under her baleful government.

            No Labour government has ever matched the Tory record of 3 million unemployed (twice!).

            And until 2008-9 no Labour government had ever borrowed as much as the Tories.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Oh, and now we get to the most tedious Labour cliché of all. Thatcher. It’s hilarious that you foam about a fascist theorist though – because it shows the connection to the ‘one nation, one party’ national socialists who were/are New Labour.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          You might like to run that idea by the IMF who I recall taking over management of the British Economy in 1976 and demanding huge spending cuts in the wake of Labour’s fiscally disastrous management of the economy. That episode however, pales into insignificance when compared to the fiscal incontinency of the years between 1999 and 2010 when Gordon Brown ran up the greatest peacetime deficit in the history of the UK, basing his spending on growth forecasts which were hoplessly optimistic.I recommend a visit to the website of the Office for National Statisticsto demonstrate the enormity of the deficit. The current financial crisis is of such a scale that it cannot be cured in a manner which will allow matters to ‘return to normal’. We face fundemental and permanent reductions in the degree to which the state can intervene financially and that is both the legacy of Gordon Brown and the reality which Labour must eventually face. The alternative is another visit from the IMF and I would suggest that once was enough. In closing please do not respond with all that Gordon saved the world, it was all the Banks and let us solve our problems by taxing bankers bonuses nonsense.

          • BenM_Kent

            In terms of the IMF (whose funding was never drawn down) if in 2013 Tories have the chutzpah to shirk their responsibility for three years of economic underperformance, then Labour in 1976 have a right to point to Heath’s disastrous government as the source of its problems in the mid 1970s.

            Reality? The Tories are not acquainted with it.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Is that the next connived at Labour script? The Coalition inherit the biggest deficit ever and in attempting to reduce it are opposed every step of the way by the same Labour gang, standing on the sidelines and pointing the finger as usual, the arsonists shouting directions at the fire brigade to throw more petrol on the fire they started.

              • BenM_Kent

                Labour’s warnings about the stupidity of Austerity in a slump were bang on the money.

                Osborne crashed the recovery that was ongoing in 2010 and is just about to post his 5th quarter of negative GDP growth in nine.

                Borrowing is up, unemployment is unacceptably high and the so-called “record” employment figures are being fiddled with to within an inch of their life.

            • David B

              Firstly every Labour Government has left power with unemployment higher than when they entered it.

              Yes Heath’s government did created problems, but he tried to create a “one nation” policy that was socialism by a different name and eventually the country ran out of other people’s money. Exactly the same mistake Gordon Brown made and the coalition are now trying to fix that mess, and the mistake the two Ed’s want to recreate.

              As a country we live well beyond our means with the public sector accounting for a massive proportion of the employment and an every reducing number of incoming generating works trying to support them. Government can easily create non-productive jobs (as the last government did), but income creating work is much more difficulty to create and very easy to destroy – as the last government did with manufacturing output shrinking virtually every year they were in power.

              On top of this the Labour party are playing party politics at every turn. I heard Angela Eagle on Radio 5 Live claiming that a temporary cut in VAT would have saved the jobs in the retail sector that are currently being lost due to business closure. She did not mention any business by name, but I assume she was referring to job’s in Blockbuster, HMV and Jessops. This is just plain wrong. These business went into administration because they did not evolve with the market and customers found alternative outlets that suited their needs

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              Judging from the up tick/down tick scores it would seem that very few people would agree with you but the I suspect you are part of the Labour party instant rebuttal unit. What gives you away is all the visceral anger and hatred expressed toward anybody who dares to take a contrary view to your own coupled with a complete absence of supporting data. I confess that I agree with the proposition that suggests that when you disagree with the Right they think you are foolish and misguided but when you disagree with the Left they hate you with ever fibre of their being, believe you to be unremittingly evil and that ever waking hour is dedicated to hurting the oppressed. What a thoroughly nasty, intolerant and unhappy group of people you are.

              • BenM_Kent

                Ah, you’re the victim now?

                And there was me thinking hatred for the poor and vulnerable is a Tory trade mark!

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  You do not seem to have read my response but your angry and ill-considered reply does seem to prove my point. Why do you socialists hate everbody who disagrees with you ? why can’t you simply engage in a discussion instead of screaming, spitting and writhing with anger? Calm yourself down a bit.

                • BenM_Kent

                  I dislike people who scapegoat the poor and the vulnerable for political ends as if it is all just a game.

                  And remember this: you were the one who came in swinging with the IMF stuff. I just rebutted you.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  “Came out swingng” – I offered an argument that you do not agree with and that is absolutely fine but don’t reduce discussion to a brawl and do try and keep all that sanctimony and moral superiority in check. You do not have a monopoly on compassion for the disadvantaged. indeed, most of us would like to improve their lot in life we simply believe in different methods of achieving that goal and do not go in for ideological purity. Disagree by all means but please refrain from being so sanctimonious and try and control all that pent up hatred and self-righteousness.

        • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

          The idea the Tories are better custodians of the British economy than Labour is risible.
          This surely has to be among the biggest jokes ever posted on any comment thread. Risible to whom?!! BenM_Kent, you cannot be serious.

          • David B

            I havn’t seen Tele on here for a while, do you think he has changed his name?

            • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

              probably! Or are he and David Lindsay the same defender of the indefensible? Full time employed by Labour.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Ha ha ha! Funny man!

    • 2trueblue

      Yes, the situation might indeed be worse. Paying down the debt is never quick or easy. Not so much fun as running it up whilst making no provision for the future.

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