Corbyn talks a good talk on poverty but doesn’t walk the walk
For the past 7 years I have sat in Liverpool Council listening to Labour speaker after Labour speaker deriding the Lib Dems for austerity. These Braveheart Trots always missed the fact that for every £10 that the coalition introduced in cuts Labour would have cut £8 according to their own figures. Even now as they thrash around trying to hide from the inadequacies of their own Party’s manifesto they seek to blame the Lib Dems for things done since the 2015 General Election.
I did not like everything the Lib Dems did as a junior partner in Government but I was proud of 4 things that would not have happened if they had been there that made a real difference.
- The triple lock for pensions was introduced in the face of Tory opposition. For 25 years under both Tory and Labour Governments pensioners had drifted way, way behind the increase in earnings. This measure made significant changes to the pensioners.
- By increasing income tax thresholds well above inflation those at the bottom of the earnings ladder made significant savings in tax. In total more than 25 million workers benefited from this reduction with about 5 million being taken out of tax paying altogether.
- Free schools meals were given to all infants school children. This [presents a saving of about £450 per child and improved the quality of education as children with rumbling tums cannot concentrate.
- The pupil premium redistributed money for schools from wealthier areas to poorer areas to try and bridge the gap between rich and poor.
In addition there was another real benefit for 18 year olds. The introduction of improved grants massively increased the uptake of children from working class families going to University.
I’ve been thinking about these things because of an article that I have read in today’s Guardian. This is reproduced in full below. In it the Guardian reveals the research of the Resolution Foundation, a highly respected independent think tank that of the £9billions of welfare cuts planned by the Tories up to 2020 Labour will keep £7 billion of them! In fact this will get worse because the estimates of £9 billion depended on a much lower rate of inflation than seems to be heading our way. Earlier this month we got information which shows that earnings as a whole are falling behind inflation. This is exacerbated by the Tories Benefits Cap which is now being supported by Labour.
Lib Dems have made it abundantly clear in our fully coasted manifesto that one of our priorities would be to remove the benefit cuts. But are we surprised that Labour are not doing likewise. No, Not really. Just look at what they have done in parliament.
In 2015 the Labour Party twice supported benefit changes that discriminated against the poor. This year the Labour Party abstained no less than 3 times in the House of Lords when bad benefits policy could have been defeated.
Why does Labour behave this way? Who knows? I have a suspicion though that the well-heeled Islingtonites who control the Party have little idea of the effects of their policies on people outside their own bubble. They can fulminate against the Tories but when given the chance to beat them they raise the white flag and fail to accept the problems that are being faced by those at the bottom of society’s ladder..
As always the decision about who is working on these issues is up to you and I would be delighted to get feedback from you. In the meantime here is the Guardian article. At the very least it will make you think about the gap between Labour’s rhetoric and its reality.
Article from Today’s Guardian
At least £7bn of George Osborne’s plan to slash welfare will go ahead after the election Labour wins power, an analysis of the party manifestos has revealed.
Three-quarters of the huge package of benefit cuts announced by the former chancellor in 2015 are yet to be implemented, including a major reduction in support given to the low-paid, and limiting payments to families with more than two children.
The Conservative manifesto suggested that the party would plough ahead with the cuts, should it win a majority. However, despite opposition to the cuts within Labour, the party’s manifesto only pledges to reverse £2bn of the £9bn cuts to come as part of a review, according to an analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank. Jeremy Corbyn was among 48 Labour MPs to rebel against the party whip in 2015 to oppose the cuts. Corbyn also criticised the decision by the party’s frontbench to abstain during his first leadership campaign.
There are three areas in which big cuts are scheduled to be made in the next parliament. A further two-year freeze to most working age benefits, which includes Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing benefit and child benefit, is expected to save £3.6bn a year by 2021.
Reductions in the payments given to people in work through the new universal credit system are set to save £3.2bn. Meanwhile, limiting support to two children per family and reducing payments to new families will save £2bn a year. Labour’s manifesto includes a pledge to hold a “review of cuts and how best to reverse them”. However, the Resolution Foundation said that the £2bn Labour has allocated for the review would reverse less than half of the £5bn cuts to universal credit and support for children
It would also leave the benefits freeze intact just as inflation begins to bite. The foundation said that, under Labour’s proposals, 78% of the welfare cuts would still go ahead. It also said that neither party’s pledges to increase the minimum wage would come close to offsetting the welfare losses that low-income families face.
However, Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said Labour’s spending plans included £20bn over the next parliament to reverse Tory cuts to social security. She added that the party was committed “to ending the benefits freeze at the earliest opportunity”.
“Our plan will improve support for young people, sick and disabled people, unpaid carers, working families, bereaved families and pensioners,” she said.
Torsten Bell, the Resolution Foundation’s director and Ed Miliband’s former policy chief, lambasted both main parties for their failure to deal with the welfare cuts.
“Tackling the renewed squeeze on living standards that risks seeing incomes actually fall for low and middle income families in the years ahead, should be front and centre of the next government’s purpose,” he said.
“Instead both parties are guilty of neglecting the living standards concerns of working families by allowing George Osborne’s welfare cuts to be rolled out, either in full with the Conservatives or largely intact under Labour’s plans.
“The concerns of low and middle income families are at the heart of Theresa May’s rhetoric but this week was a missed opportunity to live up to it. Improving the living standards of working people is the reason the Labour Party exists at all – something it’s time they remembered.”
The cuts are “heavily concentrated” on low-paid working families and will reduce their incomes by around £1,200 a year, the Resolution Foundation said. In some extreme cases, families will lose up to £3,000 a year.
It comes with the Lib Dems attempting to outflank Labour on welfare by promising to reverse all of Osborne’s cuts package, including the benefits freeze.
The party said that as a result of the freeze, a family with one low-paid working parent and two children under-seven living in London would be around £787 worse off a year by 2020-21. With other welfare changes taken into account, the family is likely to be £1,630 a year worse off by 2021.
Simon Hughes, the former Lib Dem justice minister, said: “Soaring inflation and higher prices as a result of Brexit will worsen the impact of the benefits freeze for millions of families already struggling to get by.
“But after having voted to give Theresa May a blank cheque for Brexit, Labour is now is refusing to help vulnerable families cope. It is a double betrayal.”