Thousands of people were marching today to protest against yet another weapon being deployed in the Con-Dem war of attrition on the poor- the Bedroom Tax – the tip of a deadly iceberg, the latest in a tsunami of cuts set to devastate families and hit the disabled hardest. This is even before Universal Credit, a tornado of chaos due to hit in October. The only faint hope lies in an announcement sneaked out late on Thursday. The DWP are delaying three out of the four pilot Universal Credit projects due to go live on April Fools Day. The best case scenario is that IT glitches and the sheer unworkability of this welfare “deform” will see it hit the buffers before the next Westminster election…except…what difference would it make if the Tories are booted out and New Labour come to power again in Westminster ?
It is a truth that has to be universally acknowledged (apologies to Jane Austen) that despite the real and genuine opposition to the bedroom tax and “welfare reform” amongst grassroots Labour and their trade union comrades, their leaders in the Shadow Cabinet and most of their MP’s are in a different head space. Labour MP’s are currently displaying levels of industrial deception (and possibly self-deception, to be kind to some of them) by running around their constituencies collecting signatures on petitions opposing the bedroom tax without any intention of repealing said tax if in a position to do so.
This is the acid test for Labour, and especially Labour in Scotland. Predictably enough there have been howls of outrage at the SNP and other parties in the Yes campaign pointing out that the consensus in Scotland is against punishing the most vulnerable in our society by implementing crude measures such as the bedroom tax. Therefore, a vote for independence in 2014 is the only way to ensure those powers to decide what sort of society we want and what measures we put in place to support those most in need will be in the hands of our local decision makers. Welfare and benefits are not devolved, nor are all the economic levers in place to control the finance required for a socially just Scotland. Apparently, pointing this out is “cynical party political point scoring”.
Surely there is a degree of cynicism in pretending to be against policies that your leadership team have every intention of implementing when/if they come to power? I stand to be corrected, but what with Liam”no money left” Byrne as Shadow Work + Pensions minister and a track record from his colleagues of equivocal statements all round (a YouTube clip of Helen Goodman trending on twitter, Ed Balls still talking about a “tough but fair” approach to welfare reform) , it’s fair to say the Labour Party could be accused of facing both ways at once. Campaigning against the very welfare “reforms” they will sadly, reluctantly have to continue with as unfortunately when we all vote out those nasty Tories, they open up the books and, oh, guess what..there’s still no money left…Well, surely politics is all about the choices we make especially when finances are tight and choosing to dismantle the welfare state is an odd choice for a democratic socialist party..
The Bedroom Tax is the most pernicious piece of legislation since the Poll Tax, and arguably worse. It is designed to divide the poorest and weakest in our society.
If the official opposition at Westminster continue to show a lack of vision or a real alternative to the current path of austerity, then a No vote in September 2014 is a vote for no change at Westminster.