New Labour’s welfare reforms will force single parents, the disabled and sick and drug addicts to find work — or lose their benefits. As the economic crisis bites, jobs will become harder to find. The government has a solution. Force people onto cheap-labour “workfare” schemes.
James Purnell. Any idea who he is? Try listing everything you know about him.
Before now I’d have written: Blairite lick-arse, slicker than Hazel Blears; slimmer than John Prescott, some sort of arts responsibility...
So I thought he was off-brief when I read the strap-line in his Guardian column which appeared on Monday 21 July, “The Tories still don’t get it. They believe tackling poverty is all about individual responsibility.”
Clearly something was going on. He had “placed a story” in the Guardian, for some reason.
Could I be bothered to read it? No, the obituaries were more interesting. If it indicated anything important, I would soon find out. As indeed I did.
By lunchtime Radio 4 had informed me that Mr Purnell now had a responsibility for persecuting the poor and vulnerable. Eagerly fulfilling his brief he had rushed out new welfare “reforms” – and New Labour “reforms”, as we all know now, mean one thing: savage attacks on working class living standards and democracy.
The key planks of Purnell’s reforms are:
- Work, similar to that given to people convicted of crimes — litter collection etc — for dole money. This “workfare scheme” is a long-standing Tory policy.
- Incapacity Benefit claimants will all move to the new Employment Support Allowance by 2013, accompanied by a drive to cut the numbers claiming. Only the most disabled people will be exempt from working.
- Drug addicts are also being targeted, with the government expecting them to declare their problem and to embark on treatment. If they don’t? They lose their benefits.
- Single parents with children aged 7 and upwards will be expected to work.
Opposition spokesperson Chris Grayling stated, "Since these are Conservative proposals we will certainly support them."
Tory MP Robert Goodwill announced, "As someone who likes to think he is on the rightwing of my party, I am absolutely thrilled!" And Bob Spink MP, the ex-Tory who is now the only UKIP MP in the Commons, said he liked the package "because it follows UKIP’s policy".
Purnell’s Guardian article was a minor part of his operation – an attempt at reassuring and shoring up a “left” wing vote. His main aim was to occupy Tory ground and get good coverage from the right-wing press. In this he was successful. The Sun reported in glowing terms “Labour blitz on dole scroungers”.
There are a tiny number of people who “fiddle” the dole, and a very few individuals have stolen thousands of pounds this way. But the vast majority of claimants are simply people in need of work, who can’t get work, who need to look after young children, or who are unable to work for good reasons. They deserve our solidarity and sympathy. The “dole scroungers” label is an insult to these people and is a cynical ploy designed to get workers blaming each other for problems created by capitalism — unemployment and a “job market” which is completely indifferent to the needs of carers and the disabled. The problems created by capitalist politicians like James Purnell.
In essence the government wants to make claiming benefits harder, and staying on benefits as unpleasant as possible. A socialist alternative would be to provide useful, well-paid work for all those that can work, and generous benefits for those that can not. The trade unions should stop funding Labour MPs who vote for these proposals.