Emma Burnell (a campaigns and public policy professional representing Labour’s Socialist Societies, no less) gets a dose of reality:
A few weeks ago, while canvassing in a marginal constituency, I knocked on the door of a man who had previously voted Labour but was now leaning towards Ukip. His opening salvo to me was: “What about homeless shelters?” Great, I thought, this is something I understand and really care about. Before I was able to respond he continued: “Put people who can’t afford their rent in shelters. Stop them scrounging housing benefit off the rest of us.”
If you’re currently reading this with tears of mirth running down your face, well, that’s pretty much how I typed it…
Exempting those who can’t work through sickness or disability, any Labour government worth its salt should ensure that there are as few people on benefits as possible. Benefits are the end product of systemic failure. An economy that has too many people needing support from the state is an economy that is failing.
Well, hurrah! She’s seen the light!
Failing to ensure employers pay wages people can live on or provide enough work to live a decent quality of life; failing to provide enough affordable housing where people live and work.
Ah. But of course, she’s lacking in any sensible policy option to tackle it, falling back on good old micromanagement.
The current system doesn’t work for those who use it. Those living on benefits feel vilified and victimised. Many do not have enough to live on – merely enough to continue to exist.
And a lot of them are the size of houses. Not thin, starving waifs.
… neither does it work for those who pay into the system – particularly those at the bottom of the income scale. People who are working at hard, unsatisfying, low-paid jobs deserve as much as anyone to feel their taxes are being well spent, and it is them as much as anyone with whom a new social contract will have to be made.
Maybe what they deserve is not so much a better way of people like you spending their money for them, but being able to keep more of their own money to spend on themselves?
Rachel Reeves was trying to reach people like the man I met on the doorstep. But to do so we can’t alienate those who need the support of an active state. The message that high benefit dependence is a failure of our broken system is the right one, but the ones on the rhetorical sharp end of that message ought to be those who created the system – not those who depend on it.
But ‘those who created the system’ are the political classes, who saw it as a way to cultivate a population who’d vote for more free money.
The political class that you aspire to, eh, Emma?