Home > Uncategorized > We was poor, but we was honest

We was poor, but we was honest

A few hours ago the Guardian published Labour’s Liam Byrne’s rather grandiosely titled article A William Beveridge for this century. In the article Byrne in essence posits that too many people are doing too little for too much while too many are doing too much for too little. While this may sound like a critique of the pernicious hold neoliberal capitalism has taken hold on our society, it’s not: instead we have another lecture from a senior politician on how social welfare is being undermined by some of those claiming it. In other words, we’re back in the rhetorical realm of the deserving and undeserving poor.

Byrne uses a double pronged attack: firstly on the number of people claiming unemployment benefits, more specifically at the ‘long term unemployed’; his second attack is on the amount being claimed in housing benefits. In neither case does he address the cause behind what he would no doubt refer to as ‘these horrifying effects’. He graciously touches on the fact that those claiming disability benefits are being ripped apart by the reforms, but fails to mention that Labour themselves are also at fault for the damaging deficiencies in the ESA award/appeals system.

It is not mentioned that at present there is only one job available for every 5 or 6 people claiming unemployment benefit. Byrne’s solution to this comes in the form of Workfare, although he would undoubtedly claim that his vision is much more socially aware and far less exploitative than the Tories’, sorry, the coalitions’.

It is not mentioned that social housing has been devastated over the past 30 years; that the ever present fetishisation of home ownership serves only to provide an artificial boost to housing market, and in turn the economy; that the private rental market is severely under regulated allowing landlords to charge more and provide less; that all these elements have come together to present us with the worst housing crisis of modern times.

It is not mentioned that the architects of the burgeoning unemployment figures and the housing crisis are the neoliberal political and financial elite of the past 30 years, which his own party was, and seems to remain, part of.

No, instead there are words like ‘idleness’, ‘evil’, and ‘we are on the side of people who work hard and do the right thing’.

Liam Byrne’s article claims to be attacking the way in which the Tories are reforming the Welfare State: there is a need for reform, he says, but Labour could do it better. However, it essentially shares the same kind of divisive rhetoric used by the government in the search to appease everyone’s favourite, the ‘squeezed middle’. There is no questioning of the role played by our leaders, by finance, by corporations in bringing us to this place. Byrne has no criticism of the system, just how politicians work within that system. There is no fresh thinking here, no brave new ideas, just another iteration of that famous old lyric:

It’s the same the whole world over
It’s the poor what gets the blame
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure
Ain’t it all a bloomin’ shame

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 8, 2012 at 6:08 pm

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