Labour should do as Osborne says on welfare
I saw three articles yesterday from telling the Labour hierarchy that they’ll be making a terrible mistake if they fall into the Osborne welfare trap.
Dan Hodges’ talking linkbait (it worked, clearly):
Ed Miliband’s decision to fight the Tories on welfare is the biggest tactical blunder since General Custer said “I hear the Little Big Horn’s looking good this time of year”. For a start, he has put Labour on the wrong side of a binary issue. You are either in favour of cutting back on welfare, or you’re not.
Hopi Sen talking tactics:
The trap isn’t so much whether we agree with Osborne’s cuts, it’s that in responding to them, we allow the current Chancellor to define the priorities of the next Labour government.
Jacqui Smith talking New Labour orthodoxy:
What are the cut-through headlines which show we’re serious about dealing with the deficit? In the same Observer piece, a ‘senior figure close to Miliband’ said, ‘Make no mistake, we would come down very hard on people who milk the system’ Let’s flesh out what this would look like and how to rebuild support for a modern welfare system focused on work and opportunity.
All, though, talking bollox. There really is no need for Ed Miliband and Co. to beat themselves up about getting ‘on the wrong side’ of public opinion, of being seen to side with the shirkers, not the strivers.
All they need to do is keep on quoting Osborne (2011 Autumn Statement version):
I also want to protect those who are not able to work because of their disabilities and those, who through no fault of their own, have lost jobs and are trying to find work. So I can confirm that we will uprate working age benefits in line with September’s CPI inflation number of 5.2%.
Why, Labour should ask, has Osborne changed his mind? Why did those unlucky enough to be out of work need protecting in 2011, but not in 2012? Is it, by any chance, that Osborne’s management of the economy has been so disastrous that he is left with no choice? Isn’t it therefore perfectly justified for Labour to vote in favour of something Osborne so clearly wants himself?
If Labour follows this tactical path past ‘Osborne’s trap’ in the short term, it might even gain the confidence to talk about what welfare benefits are actually for – something our three worthy commentators have not felt the need to even mention.