Friday, 7 June 2013

Not his finest hour

It’s undeniable, to use the terminology currently in vogue, that there are ‘shirkers’ who don’t work and don’t want to.  The number of them, and the cost of keeping them, is a great deal lower than is generally believed, but the numbers are non-zero.  It’s also undeniable that pandering to that pretence that the number is much higher than it is, and that the cost is much greater than it is, is popular with a certain section of the electorate.
Whether it is true that the votes of that section of the electorate are essential to the chances of any party seeking to win an election, or that the votes of that section of the electorate can only ever be won by pretending that they’re right and playing to their prejudices, is another matter entirely.
Clearly the policies of the UK coalition partners are based on the assumption that both of those assumptions are ‘true’; ‘welfare’ then becomes a cost we ‘cannot afford’ and must therefore cut.  They know, of course they know, that the losers will not be restricted to that small group of ‘shirkers’ whom they love to demonise – such a restriction could never generate the savings that they’re looking for.  That matters little to them – the real target has little to do with welfare at all, it’s about appealing to prejudice and ignorance to win votes.
From his speech yesterday, it looks as if Miliband and Labour have also concluded that those assumptions are true, and have decided to join in the attack on ‘welfare’ and agree that it is ‘unaffordable’.  Sure, they’ve tried to say that they’ll cut it in different ways; that their priority is in getting people into work rather than merely cutting benefits.  But subsidising employers to take on staff that they don’t need to do jobs that aren’t really there looks like a bit of a smokescreen to me; an attempt to pretend that they’re not really reducing welfare payments at all.
The Tories have been quick to criticise, claiming that Labour’s skeleton of a policy ‘lacks credibility’ because it doesn’t spell out in detail what they’re going to cut and how.  In a sense, I agree with the Tories on that – but only in a sense.
By joining the attack on welfare, by trying to appeal to that same section of opinion for electoral reasons, Labour are legitimising theTory/Lib Dem attitude to welfare as unaffordable.  Instead of refuting the argument with reason, and pointing out the flaws in it, they are effectively adding their voice to it.  And once they’ve done that, any less than full-blooded proposals they put forward will always look weak compared to the harsher proposals of their opponents.
It’s potentially the worst of all worlds for Labour – accepting the premise of their opponents but not the conclusions means that they probably won’t even succeed in appealing to those whom they are targeting.  It also leaves the vulnerable without an advocate, and allows the Tories and Lib Dems to shift the centre ground in UK politics in their direction.
It wasn’t Miliband’s finest hour.

1 comment:

G Horton-Jones said...

Decline and fall of the Empire
Peripheral colonies revolt and go independent
The motherland disintegrates in a chaotic mix of Political infighting. Economic collapse, Uncontrolled immigration, Appeasing the masses with a diet of handouts and increasingly expensive games.
Random military adventures which in real terms achieve little but are presented as triumphs in which all participants are heroes especially the dead
Borrowing money on a massive scale to erect structures to be remembered by

Does this sound like something you know