The Callous Coalition……
When I saw the news that David Cameron is considering ordering an extra £25 billion in welfare cuts I blinked. Surely they couldn’t be serious? However, when I remembered that it is this governments ideological mission to dismantle the welfare state, brick-by-brick, then I realised that yes, sadly they obviously are. In its callous and inhuman attitude to the welfare state it really is going above and beyond the call of duty. When even Liam Bryne is compelled to complain and make hostile noises about the proposals you know that something is defiantly seriously wrong.
All this starts with the governments anti-state ideology. As far as it is concerned, the state is the enemy, it has carefully grafted Britain’s large debt onto a narrative about an over-mighty and obstructive state and in doing so is destroying the last safeguards that exist in our society which protect so many people from a long tumble into oblivion. The government will tell you they have the publics support for this war on welfare, concealed behind hypobolic rhetoric about ‘scroungers’. In many ways, sadly, I think they are right, however, public support does not make something automatically right and the important thing to remember here is that public attitudes are changeable. I tend to think that the government is drawing on a well of deep resentment and alienation that has been swelled vastly by the financial crash. However, that well is not a bottomless one and will eventually dry up.
Two things need to happen for this to occur. Firstly, the Labour Party, for it has to be us, has to make the moral and therefore ideological case for welfare. It really doesnt do this enough because its too timid too. Sadly, electoral politics has a habit of breeding sheep-politicians, people who stand up and say what they think the public want to hear, not neccessarily what they think nor therefore what is right in the longer-term. This problem is exacerbated by the simple fact that those who depend most on welfare probably dont vote, thus making themselves easy to ignore for politicians who are dependent on the people who do vote.
However, once presented with the human consequences of these policies, buried in a hostile media avalanche of media spin-stories designed to amplify the problem of benefit fraud, I doubt many people would support further swinging cuts. Secondly, the facts need to be explained in a clear and conscise manner but in a way which adds the human dimension too. Labour has never really done this properly. It instead is caught between its instincts, and therefore its own sense of its core values, and what basically boils down to electoral opportunism. Given the outright assualt on the welfare state though now really is the time for the Party to step-up to the plate and do something courageous before one its greatest legacies to this country is torn to shreds and is gone for good.