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Now what’s that creepy Liam Byrne up to?
The Torygraph has claimed this is Labour’s “strongest backing yet” for Universal Credit.
Is Ed Miliband, as Labour’s leader, blind to the amount of damage this will do to his party?
It seems likely that Byrne is trying to improve his position ahead of a shadow cabinet reshuffle, but Miliband would have to be stupid to keep him on, after the shadow work and pensions secretary caused one disaster after another.
Look at the Guardian article. The lead paragraph declares: “The coalition’s benefit cuts have descended into “chaos” that will cost an extra £1.4 billion because of delays, extra claimants, waste and complaints, Labour claims.” [Italics mine]
What about the human cost, then? What about the huge damage that these Conservative-led policies will cause to hard-working people up and down the UK? We know that the benefit cap has already caused huge harm to working-class people, and the bedroom tax is doing the same – and these are only recent examples of stupid, cruel Tory policies (forget the Liberal Democrats – they’re only around to rubber-stamp the plans of a Tory government).
This is telling us that Labour actually agrees with the ideology behind these schemes; it is in the execution of them that the parties differ. Here’s proof of it in the Guardian article: “The focus of Byrne’s speech will not be challenging the substance of reforms brought in by Iain Duncan Smith… but criticism of his failure to deliver them properly.
That is a terrible, terrible mistake for Labour to make and, as leader, Ed Miliband should be putting a stop to it at once.
The Guardian says, “he will pledge to ‘bring social security spending under control’.” That’s what the Tories say! Labour should be promising to bring fairness back to social security. Labour should be promising the removal of Atos, Unum and any other profit-making concerns from the business of the Department for Work and Pensions and Labour should be pledging to bring in a new system that concentrates on the needs and abilities of each claimant, as determined by proper medical evidence and not some silly made-up tick-box computer questionnaire that was devised to make it easier to sell bogus insurance schemes.
Why is Byrne making such silly promises? Because, the Guardian says, Labour wants to “shake off Tory claims that it is too much on the side of benefit claimants over working people”. In other words, he and they are worried about what the Tories say, and not about the torture through which they are putting ordinary people like you and me. They won’t win any elections that way!
Attacking the Tories over the way they are doing things, rather than the things they are doing, has of course left Byrne wide open to any kind of attack the Tories wished to launch and, sure enough, an ‘aide’ to Iain ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith dismissed Byrne’s claims as “laughable”.
Quoted by the Guardian, she said this was “yet another disastrous speech, void of any ideas”. It’s a rare situation in which I am forced to agree with a Conservative!
“Same old Labour is in the wrong place on welfare,” she continued. “They want people on benefits to make more money than the average hard-working family earns.” Now that – of course – is utter nonsense, but it will stay in people’s minds because the claim that the speech has no new ideas to offer, coupled with one that it is a “last-ditch attempt… to keep his job in the shadow cabinet” rings true.
The Telegraph article says Byrne has called for cross-party talks to clear up the “‘mess’ of delays and IT problems that he says have hit the policy.” Again, no mention that the policy is wrong. In fact, the article later states, “The project… is a good idea but needs to be rescued from the ‘disaster’ that it has become under [Mr Returned To Unit], he will claim.” A good idea? Universal Credit?
It’s a shame that he has decided to support the principles of the Tory regressions (we can’t call them reforms, and changes isn’t strong enough), because he did come up with a decent comment, that is also a truism: “There is now a private joke in Whitehall – to err is human, but to really foul things up you need Iain Duncan Smith.” But of course Byrne ruined it by saying it was Smith’s fault his harmful reforms are in crisis, rather than pouncing on them as bad ideas in their own right.
The Guardian article says “Shadow cabinet members are under pressure from Labour grandees to start spelling out their policies more clearly.” If this is Byrne’s idea of a Labour policy he should be dumped – not only from the shadow cabinet, but from Parliament and the Party – with haste.
Byrne has always been a dangerous liability – remember the damage he caused with one silly note about there being no money left after the 2010 general election?
He persuaded hundreds of Labour MPs to abstain from voting against the Tories’ hasty plan to legalise their robbery of millions of pounds from thousands of Jobseekers – the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act – in March, claiming that he had secured “concessions” that would make it worthwhile.
The first was a guarantee of appeal rights – a safeguard that had always been in place and that the Conservatives had not suggested they would drop.
The second was an independent review of the sanctions regime, with an urgent report and recommendations to Parliament. It is now nearly six months since that concession was made. Has anybody – anywhere – heard any more about this “urgent report”?
Byrne was hoodwinked into giving way on a policy that is hugely damaging to the financial security of millions of people and receiving nothing at all in return. That’s not even mentioning the damage caused to the Labour Party by this and other unnecessary concessions to the Conservatives.
The only sane choice for Ed Miliband is to sack Byrne on the spot and announce a reversal of Labour policy that will halt any support for regressive Conservative austerity measures that harm not only hard-working people and jobseekers who want to get onto the employment ladder but also the economy in general.
But Miliband seems weak – or at least indecisive. It seems he needs encouragement.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and he is on Twitter as well: @Ed_Miliband
If you feel strongly about this, give him a piece of your mind.