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Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Labour Party & the General Election: Future of the Welfare State

In 1996, the Conservative government introduced the jobseeker's allowance that cut benefits to the young and 18 to 24-year-olds automatically got 20% less, the new allowance was designed to replace unemployment benefit and income support.

It’s the unemployed who are the forgotten victims - who seem to be demonised, patronised & blamed for unemployment within the wider media. In 1995 Labour shadow ministers just like now in 2014 promised to be fair and to respect benefit claimants. In 1995 Labour gave clear indications, if elected, they would tackle some of the worse parts of JSA. They gave assurances & intention to make “speedy and far reaching reforms to eliminate the worse excesses” Not scrapping the "Job Seekers Allowance" was Labours’ Betrayal!

Labour's proposal if elected in 2015 is to strip claimants of benefits if they refuse to take the jobs offered under its Compulsory Jobs Guarantee is a dismal extension of  that betrayal and a reinforcement of Tory "scrounger" propaganda .

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants Respect Petition calling for a Public Inquiry

The disinformation peddled by Daily Mail columnists, Con-Dem Cabinet ministers and - appallingly - their Labour counterparts, most jobless people do not choose not to work because they fancy "a life on benefits," a phrase Chancellor George Osborne preachers at Tory conferences that was tellingly echoed this week by Ed Balls.

Ed Balls was correct about the ....  "shocking number of young people stuck on the dole for more than a year has doubled under David Cameron."

Long-term joblessness is rising under the coalition because it is an anti-jobs government. Hundreds of thousands of secure, skilled jobs have been axed - are still being axed - across the public sector. A survey by trade union GMB found 631,000 public-sector roles had been given the chop by autumn last year, a figure the government's own projections suggest will exceed a million by the next election.

Stopping workfare in its tracks

From workfare - which effectively provides forced below-minimum-wage labour to private firms at taxpayers' cost - to ever increasing sanctions on jobseekers who can't jump through a constantly changing set of hoops, people who are out of work have been exploited, punished and demonised by the Department for Work and Pensions and its sanctimonious henchmen Iain Duncan Smith. Indeed, last year the Chancellor decided to introduce a waiting period between losing your job and being eligible for jobseeker's allowance, presumably as an extra kick in the teeth for the 631,000 people his government has chucked on the scrapheap.

Unite Community members remember Bob and Tony. The Fight goes on !
Labour should be highlighting the rank hypocrisy of a regime that sacks people en masse and then blames them for it. Instead it seems content to follow in its footsteps.

The ConDems must be replaced by a Labour government committed to scrapping the jobseeker's allowance & replacing it with Social Security - Unemployment Benefit. A future Labour government must introduce the kind of policies that will benefit the vast majority of the people of Britain, which means taking on the powerful, vested interests of big business and the ruling elite. It must, therefore, be a Labour government of a new type - kept on course by a militant mass movement around an alternative economic and political strategy.
Wal Hannington NUWM

Can such a government be achieved, especially when the right wing leaderships of the Labour Party and TUC are striving to abandon left-wing policies and socialist principles and are rushing to embrace the European Union and social partnership with big business? History indicates that the balance of forces within the labour movement can be changed through debate and struggle. Agitate, educate, organise is still the slogan which, if put into practice, can create the conditions for defeating the present Tory led government. But it should not be replaced by a Labour government as was done in 1997 under Tony Blair which appeased big business, fails to democratise the state and ends up attacking the low-paid and poorest sections of society, as happened in 1978-79 and today under David Cameron.

Mark Twain famously said: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." and George Santayana said ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’


The late Bob Crow gives his opinion on what kind of society we should strive for & the priorities for a future Labour government

What kind of Labour government is Ed Miliband striving for - is he about to repeat history ? A right wing labour party would simply pave the way for an even more right-wing Tory government.

There is no shortage of serious options for tackling mass unemployment. Britain is crying out for a huge programme of council-house building. Our NHS needs more midwives, more nurses and far more resources dedicated to treating mental health issues. We face a teacher recruitment crisis. And rebalancing the British economy away from an overheated and reckless financial sector and towards a future based on quality manufacturing could create hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs.

A generation has grown up with the impression that counting the unemployed in the millions is normal - a legacy of Thatcher, who created the mass unemployment we've lived with ever since. But it doesn't have to be. Full employment has existed before and it can again. If we want to see a Britain where everyone can be assured of decent, well-paid work - a Britain where everybody counts - we need to get rid of the neoliberal gang who have hijacked this country and start putting people before profit.

Fairness & Respect:

Every day, certain sections of the press and television voice concerns over the apparent lawlessness of young people. This has led to calls for even more repressive measures against young offenders and for army-type discipline. Yet the link between increased property crime and depressed economic activity is well established.

There is also a relationship between unemployment and crime, something that this Tory led government denies. This is, of course, not surprising as the admission of such a link makes the government directly culpable for the subsequent expansion in crime.

People see a government persuing policies which stop them getting jobs and the same government withdrawing their entitlement to benefit. We should blame the cause, not the effects.

Once again, political parties across the board put the blame at the door of the individual, saying: "It's your fault you are unemployed. You don't want jobs." But when there are very few real jobs out there, it is meaningless. The government and the capitalist class which it serves have created unemployment, but blame the unemployed who have no control over their lives when they are thrown out of a job and thrown onto the scrap-heap, lives ruined.

Not content with cutting benefit, the government wants to make a strict benefit regime even stricter.
The British benefits system is 'unfit for purpose' - a future Labour government must hold a Public Inquiry:

Respect For the Unemployed &; Benefit Claimants sets out the following as a program to replace the discredited Department for Work and Pensions on the  return of a Labour government.

*  A Public Inquiry needs to held within the first year in office regarding the systematic abuse of benefit claimants in regard to workfare, benefit sanctions & sanction targets. The remit of this public inquiry must look into the way disabled benefit claimants have been treated by the state & by the contractor ATOS. The  remit must also look into the benefit rates for claimants - described as '
manifestly inadequate' by the Council of Europe.
UnemployedNet and Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants responded to the 'Independent Review of Sanctions' - Both organisations issued a call to unemployed & benefit claimants after the Oakley review was announced. Comments gathered via Facebook, email and other sources, and the responses form the basis of our document.

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants Respect Petition calling for a Public Inquiry

Email: respect_unemployed@ovi.com
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