David Cameron has just released his Christmas message, calling on us to mark the birth of Jesus and to remember those who are hungry or lonely at Christmas. I find Cameron's message hard to stomach. David Cameron speaks of the meaning of Jesus even as his government wages class war on the poor and pursues endless war in the Middle East.
The truth is that a robust welfare system accompanied with a better distribution of wealth actually helps an economy, contrary to what you may have been told. By providing a strong safety net in case of difficult times, welfare actually encourages individuals to start up their own businesses or to change profession, as they know they will be protected if it all goes wrong.
Welfare state policies are the link between economic crisis, unemployment and far right party support. Welfare cuts have increased the insecurity of the European middle classes that are being hit by the economic crisis. This matters because of the implications it has for policy. By reversing austerity, which results in welfare cuts and increases insecurity, we can limit the appeal of right-wing extremism.
I wonder now, as we prepare for draconian cuts, if we should not be petitioning for constructive utilisation of budgets, budgets for social change, rather than shrill and angry complaints. Should we not jettison our outrage at government policy as little more than theatrical, and instead constructively temper our minds to solutions. We should learn to box clever. I get a distinct feeling that many of the angriest welfare cuts critics shout as though fascism has won, the poor have be driven into the streets, and all social good has been routed. These representatives of the poor might want to start involving the poor in their own redemption out of poverty.
My friends in Scotland, many of whom used to be Labour supporters, have now left Labour to join the SNP or the Greens. There is no mystery to this. This is not about 'nationalism' it is about values; it is about justice. Scots are saying that they have more faith in themselves than they do in London.
Social enterprise is a great idea, but still will not, and cannot, replace state social welfare programs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against social enterprise. Indeed, I have worked for social enterprises all my working life and I champion the causes across the University of Northampton in the UK, where I now work. I have started, stopped, advised, been a director of, researched and published about, social enterprises over the last twenty years.
Not only does Benefits Street propagate the myth of the work-shy, morally reprehensible benefits scrounger, it also neglects the majority of benefits claimants. Contrary to popular belief, most are not on unemployment benefits. In fact, the largest part of the welfare bill is spent on state pensions, with disability benefits and family benefits also coming in costing substantially more than unemployment.
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self- sufficient. But our systems of state charity - aka welfare - have too frequently had the opposite effect: they have actually created dependency. It is time to re-think the way we help people.
We need a party that will stand by trade unions, not cut them adrift as they face yet another damaging setback for workers' rights at Grangemouth. We need a socialist party, a party that will fight as vigorously to defend the rights of the oppressed as the Tories do to defend the pockets of the privileged. Labour used to be these things, but no more.