Liam Byrne obviously hasn't let the recently departed festive season slow him down. First, he was busy leaking an upcoming speech to the Daily Mail and then he found time today to pen an article in The Guardian. One hopes he isn't actually staking his own claim to being the 'Beveridge of this centuary' because he quite clearly isn't.
Byrne manages the rare double of not understanding basic realities about either side of his brief. Incidentally, we should be under no doubt that the proposals put forward by Byrne are those favoured by Ed Miliband himself - he is not a 'loose Blairite cannon' as some on the left, unable to see bad in 'their Ed' - have wrongly claimed. Byrne tells us as much here:
"As Ed Miliband has said, tough times expose your values, and Labour is clear: we are on the side of people who work hard and do the right thing."
Well, Mr Byrne, Mr Miliband, I work hard, I also don't earn a particularly large sum of money and struggle financially. So, are you on my side? The answer has to be a clear no. Put simply, I don't subscribe to beggar-thy-neighbour politics and I don't like the sound of a "something for something" welfare system. This, to me, whispers of a hidden tax hike - a rise in contributions for people like me either through a direct increase in National Insurance Contributions or the addition of a new type of taxation altogether. I wonder why, when you say you are 'on my side', you are likely to be asking me to pay more in tax just so, if the worst happens, I have something I can rely on.
I wonder if you understand the challenges people like me face and I think, frankly, that you don't. All your talk of 'evil' scroungers obscures the realities of a world of work where pay is unacceptably low and conditions so poor that most of Britain is dependant on Prozac just to get it through the day. Yes, I realise that a proportionally small number of people do take advantage of the benefits system but I wonder if you bother to ask why they do so? Do you really think these 'evil' people just pop out of the womb determined to make that the last effort they make in their lives? Do you really understand problems of fecklessness are caused by a world of work which is unequal and unrewarding for most people and communities and people which have been left literally to rot. What are you doing about that?
Nobody who is sensible would claim that nobody has ever taken advantage of the system but equally it is incumbent upon people to keep a sense of perspective and proportionality when debating this issue. The lack of both those qualities introduced into the debate by both the media and right-wing politicians is a deliberate slight of hand designed to obscure their actual agenda which is to destroy the welfare state and return us to a Victorian era of the splendour reserved for the rich and the imposition of terrible squalor on the rest. Your failure to absorb that truth, messers Byrne and Miliband, makes you willing accomplices in furthering that agenda. Your talk of 'evil' alienates and crushes people who already find every day a struggle already and, increases their feeling of alienation and atomisation - driving some of these people so far into the pits of despair, some of them consider paying the ultimate price, taking their own life. You should be utterly ashamed of yourselves, speaking as you do on your extravagant salaries and from positions of extraordinary privilege.
Above all you should remember you are both traitors. Traitors to the founding values of this Party, traitors to the people who depend on it to be their voice when nobody else will. It makes you traitors to me, because I am 'doing the right thing' in your estimation but still, rather than support me, you want to score some easy Daily Mail headlines. Above all, you have betrayed people like me, people who want to see real improvements in their lives and feel that the way society is structured is designed to keep them in their place - in a position of servitude. No 'meritocracy' exists here and your solutions, your rhetoric has nothing to offer towards the building of one, a society where everybody has the equal opportunity to progress and where wealth, socially produced as it is, is democratically socially shared between us all. Maybe rather than commit further betrayal by circumventing the Labour Party's democratic policy making process, you should now pause and reflect on just whose side you are actually on. I know one thing for sure, it isn't mine.
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