Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lib Dems surrender to Tory Right on welfare

One thing which caught my eye about the terms of the Lib Dem/Tory pact was that the welfare policy will be entirely run by the Tories. None of the ideas in the Lib Dem manifesto made it in, and Iain Duncan Smith will be the minister responsible, assisted (according to reports at the time of writing) by Chris Grayling and Lord Freud.

What makes this particularly regrettable is that the Lib Dems had some good ideas on welfare policy, and Steve Webb, their former spokesperson, is an expert in welfare policy and has lots of good ideas for helping people get jobs and reducing poverty.

(Of course, the fact that Webb is an expert and is left-wing is probably why he didn't make it into the Cabinet).

I don't think I need to explain why Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling will push through a set of authoritarian, illiberal and ineffective policies which will be designed to stigmatise and punish people on low incomes while providing bigger handouts to private companies - it is not as if it is a big secret that this is what they want to do, indeed it is all written down in the coalition document.

What the coalition have got planned is much worse than what Labour was doing, even before you consider that it will be combined with savage cuts to public services. And every single one of the policies agreed by the coalition government are ones that the Lib Dems opposed just one week ago. It will lead to more people being enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity.

More than that, it is worth noting that at the elections last Thursday, the Executive Director for Duncan Smith's think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, as well as the founder of one of their leading so-called "poverty fighting charities" stood for election. And both Philippa Stroud and Shaun Bailey were pretty decisively rejected by the electorate despite lavish support from the Conservative Party.

If the Lib Dems had cared about welfare policy, then they could have insisted that one of their most able and effective ministers was given a job in the government. They could have made welfare policy a "red line" issue, and fought for their ideas, or at least modified some of the worst of what the Tories plan. Instead they chose to hand over control over the policies which affect the most vulnerable people in our society to Christian fundamentalists, homophobes and City bankers. And no one in the Liberal Democrat Party seems to care or object.


At 12:23 pm , Anonymous Josh FG said...

It is bad and the closer Lord Freud is to the discussion the worse it is with punative measures for those who need them the least.

However there were eliments of the CSJ's dynamic benifits report that were progressive, and we would do well to remember and argue for them, the idea of wedge shaped benefits for example.

Sadly I feel the more punative eliments will be those that come to the fore.

At 12:32 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

The dynamic benefits stuff was ok, in that spending an extra £4 billion on benefits for low paid workers is a generally good idea (though may not be the most effective use of scarce resources). But as you say, they aren't going to increase welfare spending by £4bn because the lib dem "red line" was for a flat rate tax cut instead + slashing public services.

At 1:01 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Webb is Pensions minister and the Lib Dems actively signed up to the combined programme of employment support proposed by the Conservatives. They also supported the use of 'sanctions' in principle in multiple debates in the last parliament so I'm not entirely sure what you think their underlaying policy was.

At 2:32 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

Anonymous - Webb was one of the main critics of a lot of the conditionality approach.

For a good e.g. of what Lib Dems used to think before the coalition, see:

At 7:22 pm , Blogger Matt Sellwood said...

A similarly terrifying outlook on housing, which I shadow for the Greens. Slashed funding, Eric Pickles in the Cabinet, and Grant Shapps as Housing Minister. Ugh.


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