Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Liberal Democrats should not be voting to cut benefits for the poorest, working or not

I aIways knew when we went into Coalition that there would be moments when I would need to be locked in a cupboard with a bottle of gin. Tonight is one of them when MPs vote on a proposal, which, sadly is almost assured to pass, to raise benefits by only 1% for each of the next 3 years. The current inflation rate is 2.2%. To give the poorest in society less than half of what they need to stand still is simply not acceptable.

I do realise that Nick Clegg's position is different from the Tory undeserving poor rhetoric, but it's so subtle that nobody will really notice. People will hear his line that a nurse should not have less of a rise than someone not working and think it's the same thing. If you are a nurse, your sub inflation pay increase is unlikely to mean that you won't be able to feed yourself adequately. If you are existing on benefit income alone, it most likely will, especially if you are living on your own, without children. £71 a week Job Seekers' Allowance won't go very far if your shoes spring a hole, for example.

Nick Clegg insisted that the benefit rise was paid in line with inflation last year and I'm disappointed that he has not won the battle this year. Benefits are supposed to be the minimum people need to live on. If we effectively cut their value, then what are we saying? You can have less than you need to live on? That's not on. I would rather have foregone the extra rise in the tax threshold for this year. I sort of understand that achieving it this year means that we must get to £10,000 but it's still not right.

I am also not at all convinced by Iain Duncan Smith's claim that this will cut the deficit. Surely plunging people into worse poverty will only increase poor health which has its own NHS cost implications? We all know there's a link between poverty and ill health.

If I were an MP, I'd be with Sarah Teather tonight, voting against this plan. I really don't understand why the rest of them have agreed to support it. Voters are in favour of it, but that's because they're fed the scaremongering scroungers rhetoric by the Daily Mail, not the TUC's facts.

I feel profoundly depressed and frustrated by what has been agreed to in my name in this instance. But however upset I am, I will not be taken in by Labour's rhetoric. It's not as though they have much to be proud of - remember the 10p tax and the 75p pension increase? And they introduced the iniquitous Work Capability Assessment  that's still rubbish despite Coalition improvements. They bleat about cut in the top rate of tax, conveniently forgetting that the top rate of tax for all but a month of their 13 years in office was 5% dearer and Capital Gains Tax was 10% less until the Coalition's first budget.

Being able to demolish Labour's nonsense, though, gives little comfort when I know the harsh reality that people with jobs and  without, but whose circumstances make them need benefits, face in the future.

UPDATE: John Leech is joining Sarah Teather in the "no" lobby tonight. Of course I'm pleased, but I do take exception to part of his reasoning:

I find it objectionable that the Tories are ramping up the  “Skivers Vs Strives” rhetoric to justify a benefit cut to 7 million working families.
If you are one of those 7 million, you have made your choice to work. You should be encouraged by the system, whether that be through benefits or tax breaks.  That is why I strongly support rises in the tax threshold.
The phrase I've written in bold is an appalling phrase. Does John think that everyone out of work wants it that way? If so, he's very much mistaken. Some folk just can't get work and that's not for lack of trying. And what about those who are too sick to work? Thoughtless wording, really.


mike cobley said...

It is profoundly dishonest of the Coalition to frame this discussion in terms of percentages rather than hard cash numbers - 5% of weekly dole is rather less than 5% of the average wage. Also, its become wincingly clear that the will to pursue tax dodgers and shut down loopholes is just as important as the tax rate that is set. And with the continuing cuts in HMRC staff I have little confidence that dodgers will be caught.

Andrew Hickey said...

Having known John (albeit not at all well, but I've campaigned with him numerous times) for about seven years now, I know he's not especially good at choosing his words, but does have absolutely good, strong Liberal instincts.


Related Posts with Thumbnails