Tomorrow Labour will announce the stuff they've announced tonight, don't ask me how that works. I am holding off for 24 hours before criticising it because I am promised that there is much more flesh on them bones.
That being said, my optimism remains non-optimal. Sue Marsh says this is cynicism, but to me it is no more cynical than a weatherman predicting rain- it's looking at the best information which is there and drawing a conclusion. Politicians are malevolent by default. No, that's not the conclusion- that's the best available information; the conclusion comes later. But it's not fair to advance that statement as a point without doing what Liam Bryne has not yet done: put flesh on the bones.
The rotting pus-strewn meat of the issue is that these things always begin with high ideals. They always start out as progressive-sounding announcements by the would-be Gandhi's, the hopeful Beverege's, the promising heir's of Martin Jesus F Kennedy Robin Luther Hood Tolstoy Christ: the bestest and most noble man who ever aided the sick and defended the poor. Every horrific thing ever done, with the fig-leaf of legitimacy, to the weak and vulnerable started out like this. That is the crushing weight of history and not even Atlas, Hercules and Hulk Hogan combined could move that.
What happens as soon as these people get within smelling distance of power is a subtle change of tone too quiet for anyone to notice before a sudden ratchet of rhetoric steam-rollering it's way through sanity and reason too fast for anyone to stop it. A significant number of non-working disabled people say they want to work; this is confirmed by repeated surveys done by charities. This is the kind of stuff politicians latch onto for credibility, to show that they are 'in touch' when they want support for their latest enlightened proposal to help disabled people who want to work. But when things start moving, real stuff that actually affects the real world, people who want to work are the last thing on their minds. They are forgotten and the focus turns to those who do not want to work. There are lots of reasons why someone does not want to work: they have a condition which could be made worse, they want to look after their children, they want to study something, but what gets focused on is 'work-shyness' and it's weasel word twin 'the system trapping people on benefits'.
So what began as the next big idea to help those who want to work turns into the latest 'crackdown' on those who don't want to work. I am predicting that what Labour will do if they come back into office in 2015 will repeat the same story as last time, and the time before that, and before that, and before that. The Coalition strategy for social security has been basically this all the way through and Labour have been impotent in their ability to criticise this because it's exactly what they did in the New Labour years and exactly what they will do the next time they are given another chance to get it completely wrong. They have already delivered frequent tone-deaf messages which appeal to the basest predatory instincts of public opinion; we can guess accurately what disposition towards benefit claimants, including the disabled, they would prefer.