“Inequality at levels not seen under Macmillan, Heath, Thatcher or Major. Real cuts in the incomes for those at the bottom of the pile. No progress in reducing child or pensioner poverty. A record number of working-age adults without children living below the breadline.”
So began Larry Elliot of The Guardian’s attack on rising inequality and poverty in Britain. You would think he was talking about the coalition’s record during the past five years but in fact the article was published in May 2009 after 12 years of Labour government. He goes on to say that Labour “inherited one of the west’s most unequal societies from the Conservatives in 1997 and, far from reversing the trend, it has allowed the gulf between rich and poor to widen.”
It’s sometimes assumed that Tony Blair’s version of Labour was a blip or a deviation from the true Labour Party. During the long 13 years of New Labour you’d hear people describing themselves as “Old Labour” and lamenting the party of the past.
New Labour wasn’t a blip, it was the culmination of everything the party had been heading towards ever since it was founded in 1900. That we can’t trust Labour isn’t due merely to what happened from 1997-2010 – undeniably bad though that was – it is a reflection of its whole sorry history.
Labour’s past is the story of conscripting working class men into armies and sending abroad to die, rearmament, using the police and army to break strikes, compensating and doing deals with company bosses while workers lose their jobs, freezing or even cutting wages, and reducing public spending on health and education (some of the first anti-cuts protests were against the Labour government of the seventies) while spending billions on nuclear weapons and waging war.
That’s all I want to say about Labour’s past here because I want to deal with the present and the impending election. Click on the libcom link at the end of this article to find out more.
Given what is already known about Labour, nothing should come as a surprise but the proposals in its manifesto are genuinely shocking. Benefits will be scrapped completely for 18-21 year olds and replaced by some form of mass YTS or workfare scheme. All those over 25 and out of work for two years will be forced into the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee (CJG) programme, or lose their benefits.
This has been described as workfare plus a sandwich scheme. In an analysis of the scheme that appeared on his blog last year, Johnny Void said ne believed many people in these new compulsory jobs could be worse off than on current Tory workfare schemes.
The jobs will be only 25 hours per week and those over 21 would receive only about £160, meaning they will have little more than they get on the dole after paying rent and even less once travel expenses are deducted.
It gets even worse, however, as those on CJG no longer be classed as unemployed – handily for the government – and therefore could no longer be eligible for Council Tax Support, the scheme introduced by the Tories to replace Council Tax Benefit by handing control to local authorities to help the poorest pay local taxes.
Those on the CJG will also face mandatory training for 10 hours a week. Labour hasn’t specified exactly how this will be implemented but a press release put out last year suggested employers would be given an extra £500 to provide it. Those on the scheme would have to work an extra 10 hours without wages under the guise of it being “work experience”. This means participants would five hours a week more to work than those on current workfare.
Labour has said it will keep the notorious Work Capability Assessment (not really a surprise as it was introduced by the party) and introduce an additional “work support programme” for disabled people who can work. This could be a euphemism for a type of workfare. There are no plans to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund, scrap or even reduce benefit sanctions, reverse the appalling reforms to Council Tax benefit mentioned above, and Universal Credit will only be “paused and reviewed”.
Shockingly, Labour not only endorses the benefit cap but intends to investigate the possibility of lowering it in some areas. That means more social cleansing for families in certain places. And total social security spending will be capped as part of each spending review. Child benefits will be cut in real terms, some pensioners will lose winter fuel allowance and the age we receive pensions will be raised which will entail more people working till they die.
The key to Labour’s election campaign is balancing the books. This is apparent from the first page of the manifesto where the first commitment is cutting the deficit every year and getting the national debt falling “as soon as possible” in the next parliament. On the same page it also talks about tough spending decisions, and boasts that it will cap social security spending and rises in child benefit for two years.
This is the same old Labour Party, doing what it has done throughout its history: attacking the living standards and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, instead of taking the struggle to the bosses, the rich and privileged
As Johnny Void says:
“This is the fucking Labour Party in 2015. Every bit as intent on punishing the poorest as the Tories. If the Labour Party wins next month then don’t be ordinary, don’t be young, don’t fall ill and don’t be old. Because Ed Miliband could not give anymore of a shit about the poor than Iain Duncan Smith.”
Tomorrow I will explain why Labour can’t be trusted on animal protection