Hey Ed, leave those poor people alone!
Although Ed Miliband has drawn some correct conclusions during the News of the World/Hackgate saga I have consistently questioned the angle he has taken. As I have explained elsewhere, Ed ‘responsibiliy’ riff is a) reactionary in some of the conclusions it draws and b) guaranteed to eventually backfire and probably sink his leadership and career without trace. Yesterday, he gave a perfect example of the reactionary nature of the responsibility agenda in a speech meant to be targeting the ‘irresponsibility’ of the powerful he snuck in;
We needed to reform the benefit system to encourage a sense of responsibility.
We can’t endorse a something-for-nothing society
So, now there is no difference between phone-hacking editors, media moguls and benefit cheats? This analysis is completely divorced from a objective view of the different structural relations within society and it shows in its comparison of chalk to cheese. It is therefore completely useless when it comes to solving the problems caused by those relations. One of the core problems, for example, that encourages benefit fraud is the particularly poor level of wages for people in work. A compulsory living wage (a vastly increased minimum wage) would be one way to deal creatively with that (actually, in a way that would benefit the economy as well). However, Ed is completely content to use ‘scrounger’ rhetoric lifted out of the pages of the Daily Mail.
What is most disgusting about this aspect of Ed’s speech is that it lumps people on benefits once again in with people who are socially despised; like MP’s, media moguls, etc, and thus increases the stigmatisation and victimisation of this social group. Ed Miliband’s ‘responsibility’ agenda might sound good and even slightly ‘leftish’ when its turned against the likes of Murdoch but it really is not leftish at all when judged in it’s totality, which is the only fair way it can be judged. In fact, it is reactionary politics placed in a shiny progressive wrapper with the implied hope nobody will scratch beneath the surface; we need to expose it for what it is and not swallow it whole.