God, I'm not sure I ever felt as demoralised or as close to giving up. It seems we will lose both Anne McGuire AND Liam Byrne in the reshuffle and whilst I realise most of you will dance happily on Liam's grave, if nothing else, he'd got to a stage where he really understood the issues. Now we have to start from scratch with a whole new team. No continuity and absolutely no guarantee that they will give a monkey's about disability OR will take forward any of the VERY promising Making Rights a Reality proposals I'd found so encouraging.
I gave a speech for the Labour List rally at Labour conference. I didn't really write it for the audience, but for the Labour rising stars who would be present, urging them to get passionate and take the fight over welfare to the Tories with passion and confidence.
I thought I'd publish it here in the hope that whoever might get the jobs next read it and take note.
*Withers in corner and whimpers*
"We’ve all heard this government of Tories say that they plan to make the next election about Welfare.
They want to paint Labour as “soft on scroungers”
Well it’s time we fought back!!
This government have failed in every last strand of their so called “welfare reforms”. They haven’t just failed, they’ve failed spectacularly.
Universal credit is a total mess. IT systems are not up to the job, the national rollout has been put back time and time again and staff say there is a total lack of strategic management. It’s terrifying!
The Work Programme has failed too. In half of the places it’s operating, people are more likely to find a job on their own!! For people with an illness or disability it’s failed even more completely, with just a handful of people helped into work.
Personal Independence Payments, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance has been rolled out against the wishes and advice of the entire disabled community. It will strip half a million people with real barriers to society of the help they need to live and work.
The so called Youth Contract has helped just 4,600 young people to get jobs against a target of 160,000
Half a million people now rely on foodbanks to feed their families!! Half a million! In the UK, in 2013. And what do Lord Freud and Michael Gove have to say? That people only take free food because it’s available, that they don’t know how to budget. Disgusting, out of touch nonsense as offensive as it is misguided.
The Bedroom Tax – costing a billion more than it might have saved, pushing people out of their homes, their communities. Forcing them into poverty and despair.
And Employment Support Allowance. ESA. The greatest failure of all. Over 200,000 rejected claims found to be wrong and overturned in law. 10s of Thousands dying just months after being found fit for work. Half a million people in limbo because their claims are lost somewhere in the Atos chaos.
Newspapers fed lies unchallenged, about “scroungers” and “skivers” to prop up a system that can only hate, sanction and judge. Hate crime soaring, Sick and Disabled people trapped in their own homes, care packages slashed, independent living under threat.
And all the while the benefit bill soars.
So for all this pain, all this failure, for all the fear and misery Ian Duncan Smith’s botched reforms have caused, for all the cuts, how much have this government managed to cut the benefit bill by?
They haven’t!!! They haven’t succeeded at all!! Far from it!! In fact this government will have seen the welfare bill RISE by 20 billion pounds!!! 20 Billion!!! Why? Because George Osborne has failed just as dramatically at the treasury!! All that pain, all those ruined lives for nothing, just to balance out the incompetence of a failed chancellor!!! Growth has failed to hit any of the targets Osborne set, inflation has remained high, eating into our wages and savings and jobs have not materialised. All of this failure has to be paid for! People with no jobs can’t pay tax! Parents pushed out of the jobs market need support.
Oh the cuts are real. The pain is real. But Osborne’s failures have been so great, none of this has made a scrap of difference to the economy. These cuts have been sucked into the black hole of his economic failures and still they’re not enough. Still the balance sheet is 20 billion short! Are you SURE you want to gloat about your welfare track record Mr Cameron? Are you SURE you want the public to focus on how completely you’ve failed?
When Labour were in power, the jobseekers bill fell EVERY YEAR. Out of work sickness benefits fell EVERY YEAR. Lone parent benefits and Youth unemployment fell EVERY YEAR. Why are we so afraid to tell people? Why have we allowed the public to believe this Tory nonsense?
Do the coalition really want to ask how Labour can possible care about the welfare of our people? ALL of our people? We should make no apology for it!! Does that make us “the party of benefits” Everything I’ve just said shows exactly the opposite. The EVIDENCE shows the opposite.
We MUST take up their challenge. We must be prepared to talk about social security with fire and passion. We must remind people how they slashed tax credits for disabled children, how they removed child benefit from hard working families. We MUST shout from the rooftops that this government set about dismantling every last service and support our sick and disabled people rely on to live with dignity. Most of all we must remind the country how they promised a welfare revolution but provided nothing more than total chaos, a lot of hot air and a huge bill.
We must remind the country how this government of fools watched their wages fall and did nothing. How they watched their rents soar and did nothing. How they watched them struggle to find homes they could afford and did nothing. How they allowed the welfare bill to spiral out of control and did NOTHING.
Friends, welfare isn’t a dirty word. It means to “fare well” and we in this Labour Party I love, want every last person in this country to fare well. Not just a rich elite. Social Security means the security to live IN society, not on its fringes.
The ONLY way to reduce the benefits bill is to make sure that people have work that pays. To make sure the economy grows and that the right support is in place to help people on their way. This government have failed at every attempt. There is no doubt left, it’s not up for debate. Their so called “reforms” are a mess and because of it, people up and down the country don’t know how they will pay their rent next week. They have no idea where the next meal will come from.
We should make no apology for defending them. For speaking out for them. We should make no apology for promising that we will do everything we can to make sure that those abandoned by this government are treated once again as human beings.
By 2015, the media will be full of these stories of suffering and pain. As more and more are abandoned, more Mums, Grans, Brothers and Daughters, the public will turn, as they are turning already towards a party that offers compassion, justice and hope. We can make sure that welfare WINS us votes, we don’t need to hide away behind the Daily Mail.
And most of all, we should NEVER apologise for caring about the people who’s votes we hope to win.