Opposing the Tories on welfare
John Woodcock continues the series of "To win again, Labour must do as I’ve always said" with an article about how Labour must be the party of radical public service reform.
He argues that "we were at our best in government when we showed we were resolutely on the side of the users of public services and when we avoided being captured by the concerns of the producers of those services, valid though those concerns may have been" and that "if the British people detect that we no longer have the zeal to embrace real and difficult change to our schools, hospitals, and welfare system, they may not show any great zeal for renewing their embrace of us."
In the case of the welfare system, I would certainly agree with this. The Tory minister Lord Freud has said he would like the welfare market to mirror that of the supermarkets’, with about four dominant providers each given multi billion pound contracts to run services in different regions of the UK.
The people who use these services will be compelled to go to the welfare provider in their area, and will be fined if they don't. Following on with Freud's supermarket analogy, this would be like the government giving Tesco's a license to run all the supermarkets in the North West of England, and then fining people if they didn't do their shopping at Tesco's. A more blatant example of a government being "captured by the concerns of the producers of services", at the expense of their users, would be hard to imagine.
That's even before you consider that one of the main companies which is likely to win some of these contracts has had to pay back thousands of pounds after an investigation found examples of benefit fraud, and that one of their sales reps apparently accompanied David Cameron on his trip to India.
So when Lord Freud announces the government's plans for the Work Programme, which will favour the producers - including convicted benefit fraudsters - over the users of this service, I agree with John Woodcock that Labour should come up with an alternative of radical reforms which put the people who use employment support services first.
I just wish that John Woodcock had been around at the time when some idiot Labour minister and his special advisers had the chance to introduce welfare reforms which would have put the users first, and mysteriously and incomprehensibly instead decided to hire David Freud to do a report on welfare reform, even though by his own admission he 'knew nothing about welfare'.