Kill the (other) Bill….
With the media and political spotlight focused on the woeful nature of the NHS Reform Bill its probably a little easy to forget the other horrific Bill that is grinding towards the statute book. The Welfare Reform Bill is still out there,lurking with intent to cause havoc and misery in millions of peoples lives.
Labour’s admirable performance in making the governments life very difficult over the NHS only makes its performance in this regard all the more lamentable. We have shown what we can do when we put out minds too it, we have shown that we can lead and inform public opinion and when we do the government is on the back foot.
Leadership is desperately needed on this issue. Six groups recently told The Guardian that the governments reforms and overblown rhetoric are increasing the stigmatisation of disabled people. Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, told the newspaper;
The Department for Work and Pensions is certainly guilty of helping to drive this media narrative around benefits, portraying those who received benefits as workshy scroungers or abusing a system that’s really easy to cheat.
Iain Duncan Smith,writing for the Independent on Sunday, makes it clear that next week the government will try to regain the front-foot after this weeks disaster by pushing Ed Miliband on his Bill. Ed should accept that challenge and call for a rational debate over welfare and call for an end to rhetoric that is scapegoating vulnerable people. In his article, for example, Duncan Smith cites the spiraling cost of welfare with absolutely no reference to the causes of this to be found in his own governments policies.
It would deeply impress me if Ed did this but sadly I don’t expect it to happen. Welfare,along with the economy is actually another area that our atrophied National Policy Forum needs to discuss because it is an area where the leadership is missing the opportunity to make another courageous stand. Maybe, at first, it would be an unpopular one but we cannot be the Party of always taking the line of least resistance. This country desperately needs an informed discussion about welfare – one free from the pollution pumped into it by the media and the government, after this week Labour and Ed Miliband should use their enhanced standing in the country to make sure we have one.