Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bevan Will Be Turning In His Grave

The welfare state is being dismantled by a heartless government bent on using a big stick to beat the weak and vulnerable, with a raft of cock-eyed draconian plans.

Harsh, misguided measures of social control will replace the benefits culture with Orwellian anti-social insecurity, ripping Bevan's In Place of Fear to shreds.

After more than a decade of lulling people into a false sense of security, creating a soft benefit culture, that same government now turns round with plans to pull the rug from under the feet of those who have come to rely on state handouts as a way of life.

It took a decade to create this dependence on a benefits culture, it should take a decade to remove it.

The government created the benefits culture, wasting billions of pounds on half-baked job creation schemes to keep down the dole queues and spin the stats. Scrapping the New Deal sham and creating real jobs would be of more benefit, as Labour MP Frank Field has suggested today.

Welfare reforms are needed. But this shameful move to use the big stick of penalties and community service to force people into work, smacks of social control and rips the heart out of the welfare state.

Wielding a big stick needs an army of enforcers made up of petty pen-pushing officials or more likely contracted out to a private army of uncaring, disinterested contractors, forcing people to jump through hoops for a crust of bread and a roof over their head.

The welfare state was created as a safety net so no-one would be left out in the cold to suffer the hardship of illness, homelessness and starvation. It gave people in desperate times the insurance of food in their belly and a sense of security. It was never meant as an alternative to work but equally it was never meant as an agent of social control.

The government made welfare reform a centrepiece of the Queen's Speech under the joke title of 'fairness'. But sinister plans by Blairite work and pensions minister, James Purnell, include penalties for people who turn down job offers or interviews, including the loss of benefits so the kids go hungry, or mandatory community service forcing claimants to clean up other people's crap.

Plans to get the jobless back to work, or cut their benefits have already been slammed by a senior government adviser who warned the new measures may push people into poverty and should be delayed.

For those with their roots in the Labour movement, the cruel and heartless plans are nothing short of heresy with some backbench left-wingers threatening revolt.

That action is laudable. There just aren't the jobs out there anymore. With the country facing a grave economic crisis, the move will do nothing to help the millions caught up in the poverty trap of spiralling debt and despair.

Once again, it's innocent children who will suffer, struggling parents will be forced onto the streets, picking up a menial and degrading job while scratching around for childcare.

But just what did they expect? Time and again New Labour has been exposed as a smug, arrogant bunch with no heart and no soul. Any pretence ministers had to care for the traditions of a welfare state or the less fortunate were ripped to shreds a long time ago.

In 1952 Nye Bevan published In Place of Fear, a landmark in socialist literature. Today he'll be turning in his grave.

The Orange Party would be happy to man the barricades of socialism. But the true Labour Party had its chance over the summer to kick out the New Labour usurpers. They blew it, preferring instead the power, influence and privileges of government.

It's a bit rich now coming over all sanctimonious - just where have they been hiding for the last ten years?

The dependence on a benefits culture must end but reforms need to be brought in with a caring heart and compassion, not bulldozed through as a cheap trick to plug Brown's borrowing gap on the slippery slope of social control.

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