Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Year Of Consequences

Back in June something alarmed me. At Prime Minister's Questions Edward Miliband used all five of his permitted questions to ask the same one. Each time he did, David Cameron gave a response that could only mean he didn't understand the question, didn't know anything about the policy he was being asked about or both of those. The leader of the official opposition asked if the Prime Minister was aware that seven-thousand recovering Cancer patients would be kicked off contribution-based ESA after just twelve months under plans in the Welfare Reform bill. David Cameron seemed to think 'recovering Cancer patients' meant 'terminally ill'. The Prime Minister made this mistake five consecutive times in a row, even though Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan-Smith were sitting close enough to whisper to him where he was screwing up. Either they shared his ignorance or they didn't want to risk exposure to themselves and their plans in the house during PMQs. Or they hate David Cameron and secretly relished him making a fool of himself. Cameron compounded this ignorance, with arrogance; he actually acted as if though it was Miliband who was confused and didn't know what he was talking about.

Edward Miliband knew exactly what he was talking about. For me that was his finest hour. For David Cameron though, this was confirmation of a suspicion I had about him since just a week before The Hardest Hit march a month earlier when he was asked by Labour MP Kerry McCarthy at PMQs if he would meet with the protesters. He showed absolutely no specific knowledge of his own government's policies on welfare and instead changed the subject:

“I make two points to the honourable Lady. First, the most important line of defence to help people with severe disabilities and severe need is the national health service and it is this Government who are putting more money into the national health service-£11.5 billion extra. That money would not have been available if we had a Labour Government; we know that because we can see Labour cutting £1 billion off the NHS in Wales. In terms of reforming benefits, I thought we had the support of the Labour party to reform benefits to make sure they are helping those who need the help most.”
This, combined with his dreadful PMQs performance against Edward Miliband had revealed that David Cameron and his Cabinet crumble under the weight of Reason and Evidence on the issue of welfare policy. Whether it is by collective ignorance or because they are happy to dump their leader in a mess to avoid drawing attention to themselves, the Cabinet ministers in charge of welfare policy are not able to withstand scrutiny nor debate specific points about it. David Cameron has allowed himself to be ignorant because he has invested such trust that they not only know what they are doing (in some cases, they do), but also that the policies are genuinely right, Reasonable and Evidence-based. Their agenda could be quickly crushed when faced with the full might of the Reason and Evidence pressed against it.

So Labour's behaviour since then has been a puzzle. This is an issue on which they could easily win an argument yet they've barely talked about it and when they have the focus has been entirely on the empty 'scrounger' rhetoric that saturates the media. Short-term headlines are not worth the lasting brilliance of a solid paradigm change in a national debate, they're certainly not rational for an opposition that is at at least a few years away from an election and have no pressure to set themselves in stone yet. It's come to a head at the Labour party conference this week when their leader failed to mention the appalling treatment of the sick and disabled under the Coalition and spoke for less than a minute on welfare just to regurgitate what he thinks tabloids want to hear, even if they had already made it clear days earlier that almost nothing he can say will make them like him.

Kaliya Franklin of The Broken of Britain challenged him on this and his response was disturbingly like that of David Cameron's to his own questions on Cancer patients claiming ESA. Mr Miliband promised to meet with her again to discuss these things further, a meeting I doubt will be productive unless he acknowledges that there are consequences. We feel these consequences, not Edward Miliband. The Coalition acts as it does because they do not see the consequences that we do. There are the consequences of the false economy of welfare reforms. There are consequences for pointless, meaningless rhetorical 'toughness' on benefit claimants that do not fit into the ridiculously narrow expectation that we are now expected to meet (as the programme Saints and Scroungers from the 'Left-biased' BBC highlights with its name).

The consequences of not falling in with the rhetoric that Edward Miliband has is that newspapers that don't like him anyway will not change, but they were not going to anyway. When confronted with the evidence of the actual prevalence of benefit fraud, the majority of people suddenly become reasonable even if they are eager to avoid having to look at it. It gains more respect than speaking to their prejudices. This seems so obvious that there is only one possible reason that explains Miliband and Labour's behaviour: their position on welfare is identical to the Coalition's. They do not want to raise the Reason and Evidence against the government's plans because their plans should they get back into office are so similar and this could be used against them.

Until proven otherwise, Mr Miliband has betrayed sick and disabled people. If he can betray us, is there anyone he won't? At the conference he stood up to shake hands with Rory Weal, who DID acknowledge the assault on the vulnerable and this earned him a factually-selective attack from Right-wing newspapers. This in turn provoked a small reaction from members of the business class who themselves value the welfare state for entrepreneurs who it permits to take risks, fail their start-up ventures and then try again. They're silent until it's one of their own who are made a target.

If Edward Miliband has a working brain he would see that we are all in this together and the consequences will not be confined to some 'others' he can pay lip-service to for easy Leftist credentials. If the poor are not protected from attacks on the welfare state, fuelled by the same stupid rhetoric he has begun to join in with, then the wealthy are not protected from the attacks on the welfare state that they too benefit from.

But if Edward Miliband has a heart, he shouldn't even need these pragmatic reasons to act. The Evidence is sufficient that attacking people for no real fiscal gain in reducing the deficit is blatantly cruel and should be opposed on that basis. He should distance himself from the exaggeration of fraud in the system immediately.

However, if he has a spine, then he should outright apologise for what he has said and start being quite rude towards those that propagate it. There is nothing inherently Labour-like in making a mountain out of a molehill and basing welfare policy on what a mere 1 percent of claimants do, which is four times less than the harm caused by errors. Saying that it is important to address the issue of those who abuse the system because people are concerned about it, when those concerns are not based on Reason and Evidence but on the very same fact-free rhetoric that terrifies the disabled is no different from propagating it yourself. It is spineless to do so rather than confront it.

"In 2011, thousands of our bravest men and women will continue to serve far from home in Afghanistan with the highest commitment and dedication. My thoughts are with them and their families at this New Year. Here at home, 2011 will be a year of consequences for Britain. Consequences that will be felt by hardworking families across the country. Consequences of the decision taken to reduce the deficit at what I believe to be an irresponsible pace and scale. Many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities. The political forces in Whitehall which have made these choices appear forbidding and unheeding. It is the message I get talking to young people about the loss of their educational maintenance allowances and trebling of tuition fees, people in different areas worried about their services and those wondering where the new jobs to replace those lost are going to come from. In 2011, many people will wonder what they can do. Some will ask whether there really is an alternative to this scale of cuts. Still more will shrug their shoulders at casually broken promises and conclude politicians are indeed all the same. Labour's challenge and duty in 2011 is to be people's voice in tough times and show that these are changes born of political choice by those in power not necessity." -Edward Miliband

The issue of Labour's position on welfare policy and why they pursue it is now being included in Case File #1 alongside the Coalition's stance and motive. I see them as being nearly identical but both equally as important: either side doing a U-turn would bring current national policy on welfare crashing to the ground, such is the extent and power of the Reason and Evidence that is weighed against it. An argument that could be easily won, but which Edward Miliband surrenders without even having it and failing to keep to the spirit of the words above reveals him to be unworthy of praise and support from anyone that opposes existing policy.


  1. Great minds think alike(or fools seldom differ!)

    I made similar points via e-mail to Mr.M and my MP (Labour) stating that the former's words in his speech and his unconvincing response in the Q and A session that you mention,was totally unacceptable to me ( a Labour party supporter for longer than he has lived)and if he did not apologise or at the very least repeatedly clarify he did not view those of working age who happen not to be in paid employment for whatever reason as second class citizens subject to discriminatory treatment and stop pandering to Dail Mail readers he risked losing the support (and it is large) of people like ourselves and all decent thinking people.

  2. Money Is Not Real5 October 2011 at 00:04

    Good post.

    For me the greatest problem is that the people in power view things in terms of abstractions that they take literally.

    For example, they like to talk about 'benefit claimants' and weave narratives about what kind of morals and motivations these abstract people have, but the only thing we can truthfully deduct from the category 'benefit claimants', is that they are people claiming benefits. Instead they go on about their failings and lack of motivation as if they actually know anything about the subject.

    In short: Money is an abstract fiction, People are are real.

    They reverse this and think that Money is real and that people are an abstract fiction.

    Keep up the good work Mr Dixon!

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