Labour Must Move To The Left And Challenge Tory Welfare Myths

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Guest Post By Lesley Roberts.

Voters listen and think they see what the rhetoric tells them. They don’t dig deeper unless they have a direct interest in politics or a determination to do so, or are directly affected by the negative side of right wing policies.

They see the childish bully games, believe them and take sides. Well that is how I saw the last general election. It was a bit like watching a football game, with many undecided supporters and a few of those supporters deciding to punish one side, Labour. Because of the same negative spin, the voter just lost their trust.

The Bully said Labour had “spent, spent, spent”; they left that note saying “there’s no money”. That Labour is the supporter of “those who want something for nothing”, so the rhetoric went on.

The voters couldn’t see the obvious truth that “we” as a country hadn’t gone bankrupt. They couldn’t see how the Tories were selling off our assets and continue to do so, using the national debt as an excuse. They just believe what they’d watched and read, with too many stories and TV programs creating the hype and hysteria about a false image of the “scrounger on benefits” and not the reality. And with that they followed the beat of the drum.

Not once did Ed Miliband check that spin and ask how voters would feel about losing the safest and cheapest form of welfare they could pay for including their state pensions; paid for via their national insurance and tax payments.

With many voters lead to believing that the recession was the responsibility of the Labour party and that claiming welfare benefits, even the state pension was a “lifestyle choice”, many saw this deception – especially those affected by the cuts and change of policy towards Welfare claimants. But no matter how loud we shouted, not once has a political party in full tried to turn that spin.

Ed Miliband never once voiced his concerns during the election about ensuring workers of a reasonable safety net; not something for nothing, but something you can afford. This was never explained, nor used.

Labour lost. Ed Miliband resigns, with many saying he wasn’t up to the job; he was ineffective, wasn’t able or didn’t change the political spin used upon the voters and now we have a Labour leadership contest. The big question is, will they square fairness with affordability in the voters pocket? I could dig deep into each individual contestant for the Labour leadership and draw upon the way the media is presenting them and perhaps find out who I would vote for, if I was a Labour member. Are you surprised that I am not?

The choice of contenders vary from Andy Burnhams’ style of Blairism to that of Jeremy Corbyns’ socialism. The only trouble is the way the “spin” works, changing the view to suit who, the opposition? No one is asking just how much Labour has been infiltrated by “right wing” players. I’ve checked out their past parliamentary history on the website and can’t help but wonder how many others have done the same.

The very fact that the Labour leadership candidates appear not to have the experience or the ability to counter the spin. Or even to understand the effects of policies upon the voter, makes me wonder how strong they will be at the job and will they save our Welfare state. When asked who I would choose, I don’t reply because I don’t have a vote in that selection, and not because I don’t have an opinion!

Following on from that, in the fore-coming selection process I wonder just who will refute the past rhetoric and stand for our NHS, Social Security (Welfare benefits) and the creation of proper affordable social housing for all – giving people a choice, not a life choice. Whoever wins needs to be able to take the opposition to task about all of those misleading myths and call them to account, instead of the normal slap on the wrist for show between political friends, or that of inexperience!

After all, not once during the election did I hear, read or see any form of attempt made by Labour to counter the rhetoric from the right. Not once did I see “hard working” people been tied to the “safety net”, it was more of a case of isolating it away from them. Claiming benefits became a “lifestyle choice”. Not once was anyone asked what they would expect if placed into the situation of actually claiming benefits, with many pensioners not realising that the state pension is a Welfare benefit. It’s as if Labour was scared of opposing the rhetoric and changing the “spin” to flow to their advantage. Will the next Labour leader do the same?

Perhaps the new leader needs to change that political mantra of “benefit claimant versus hard-working people”, so that people can see that Welfare belongs to them as pensioners, in-work claimants, during times of unemployment, disability or longer term illness. But most of all for when they need it as a safety net. Spending money on Welfare, NHS, social care and social housing could not only save lives but also put money back into society, as has been proven again and again in the past.

Is the sigma used against benefit claimants the main reason for why they are not questioning people in employment about the possible loss of their safety net? Cannot people see it’s subtle privatisation and how much it could cost them in the future, if it becomes fully privately run?

It’s as if somehow we’re allowing the very thing that all of us pay into to be side-lined into something so negative that we could lose it, in exactly the same way the NHS services are been abused. Yet if asked, not many voters would have considered or are able to afford private welfare insurance to cover themselves for illness, disability or unemployment. And I’m not talking about life insurance or PPI. So where is the Labour party for the welfare of the people because the business world isn’t there for them, except to take our money for profit?

Labour needs to explain to voters the need to consider and to compare the experience of the private sector that can go bust, act negligent or become expensive over time, as a negative option against what the public sector can offer.

A capable Labour leader would remind us of what it was like before the welfare state. Where we, the workers, the long-time ill, the disable and unemployed had very little but our wits to survive, or not as the case maybe. So what would today’s worker expect? It is important, as George Osborne has recently stated that the Tory party intends to take us back to financial Victorian values. Perhaps those “hard working” people need to be reminded of what it was like for them, then, with no job security!

Many commentators talk about “the right”, “the centre” and “the left”, without realising that not all voters’ understand the labels or how they work to change the mixture of MPs’ in the main political parties. The way that the slow infiltration of the right has affected how Labour looks and acts; an old saying comes to mind “you can’t make a silk purse from a pigs’ ear” so why should Labour keep to what has not worked?

In simple terms, Labours’ new leader needs to move the party away from looking like a “mimic” copy of the right-wing and turn back to the left so as to offer a genuine alternative. “Blairism” has no positivity about it and neither has the centre-ground, a place already “weakly” taken by Lib Dems and who have found that it’s hard to hold. It’s not exactly the place for Labour to be.

Time for Labour to return not to its roots, but back to the people and their labour in sickness, health and wealth!