Liam Bryne – less backbone than a Jellyfish
So, Liam Bryne has said that Labour in the Commons will vote with the government to overturn the Lords amendments on the Welfare Reform Bill. Spineless and contemptible are two words that immediately spring to mind.
Bryne’s defenders will doubtless latch onto what according to polling seems to be majority support for a benefit cap amoung the electorate and Labour supporters. I don’t disagree that this is the case; I do dispute whether this is the correct and whether its a properly informed view. Anybody who bases their view of welfare on what they read in the pages of the tabloid press or see in the media generally, is, I would argue deeply uninformed and badly mislead about the real state of play not just on welfare but on a great many things.
It is simply wrong to say that even elected politicians must always toe the majority line. Democratically it is wrong because there must be checks and balances in place to protect vulnerable minorities from unchecked majority power. This is ABC – if any one group exercises unlimited power in a society then the plain truth is that your society isn’t democratic. Its also worth noting that majorities are not set-in-stone. Indeed, it is likely that the terms of the debate on welfare when people see the real suffering these reforms inflict. Put simply, pure majoritarian rule is tyrannical on the suffering minority but also the majority itself – which is effectively prevented from ever changing its mind.
It therefore falls upon politicians sometimes to challenge the majority view and even defy it. However, representative democracy makes Liam Bryne’s of most of our politicians because they are concerned solely with winning elections and getting a bump in the polls. Peers don’t have this concern so they are naturally more independent-minded. However, some people don’t like being told they are wrong so politicians don’t do it – however, they then complain about the ‘insincerity’ of politicians with no apparent sense of irony. Part of the reason we have insincere politicians is the fact the electorate themselves electorally rewards sincerity less that they should. However, once you open a dialogue based on a sincerely held view many come to respect that, even if they continue to disagree.
The truth about welfare is that the numbers who abuse the system are tiny. In fact, the Welfare Reform Bill is a rather sad attempt to crush an ant with a Sherman tank in that regard.
Welfare dependency is as much caused by poor in-work conditions as it is a ‘scrounger’ mentality. Major structural problems of worklessness also exist in communities caused by economic shifts – like the decline of industry – something that successive governments have been too ‘workshy’ to actually get a grip of. None of this will appear in the pages of the press though because it doesn’t make for particularly ‘sexy’ and appealing headlines.
You certainly won’t hear Liam Bryne say this because he has no moral courage. He has failed to stand-up for the weakest in our society and in doing so he has failed the values and principles which shape this Party. I’d say he should hang his head in shame but to do that, he’d need a backbone…