So, Ed Miliband MP (Labour, Doncaster North, Leader of the Opposition) gave this speech today on "Responsibility in 21st Century Britain"
The basic theme - and if you read the speech, you'll see that I'm not exaggerating in the slightest here - is that there is a moral equivalence between:
- fraudulently running a business for years, stealing millions for your own pockets while leaving your vulnerable customers to face abuse; and
- claiming benefits instead of getting non-existent jobs.
- causing a global financial crisis while taking millions in remuneration; and
- having an overgrown and litter-strewn front garden
and that a future Labour government needs to deal with the people who aren't "taking responsibility" for both.
I'm not going to pick apart the entire speech - it's quite long and just about every line involves some sort of confusion, false equivalence, and/or factual error - but a few examples.
The speech opens with:
While out campaigning during the local elections, not for the first time, I met someone who had been on incapacity benefit for a decade. He hadn’t been able to work since he was injured doing his job. It was a real injury, and he was obviously a good man who cared for his children.
But I was convinced that there were other jobs he could do.
And that it’s just not right for the country to be supporting him not to work, when other families on his street are working all hours just to get by.
Misty's post at Shakesville - "Those People" was written days before Miliband's speech, and about a different country - but could easily instead be about Miliband's bizarre belief that there are tens of thousands of job vacancies just waiting to be filled by disabled applicants, if only they'd apply.
The idea that looking after children is work - though not paid work, which is the only real sort, of course - also appears to have passed Miliband by.
In Manchester, as well as helping the most vulnerable with housing, they give priority to those who are giving something back to their communities – for example, people who volunteer or who work.
They also look to reward people who have been good tenants in the past and who have paid their rent on time and have been good neighbours.
This approach means that rather than looking solely at need, priority is also given to those who contribute - who give something back.
In other words, rather than basing benefits decisions on how much you need the benefit, they will in future also be based on how much Ed Miliband MP approves of your life.
Well, no change from the current or previous government's policy there.
For too many people at the last election, we were seen as the party that represented these two types of people.
Those at the top and the bottom, who were not showing responsibility and were shirking their duties. From bankers who caused the global financial crisis to some of those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work – but didn’t.
Labour - a party founded by hard working people for hard working people - was seen, however unfairly, as the party of those ripping off our society.
So: Labour were seen as being "not tough enough" on people on benefits. This is despite them bringing in massive restrictions on benefits over the 13 years they were in power - reducing eligibility, making the forms longer, bringing in the widely-criticised assessments for ESA, introducing an attitude of "better ten eligible people don't get benefits than one ineligible person does" to tackling fraud, and so on.
His solution - despite acknowledging that the perception was unfair - is to do it again, only more so, in the hope that it will work this time.
Well, so much for the claims that Labour under Miliband would be different to Labour under Blair. I suppose we've got several more years of headline-chasing to look forward to. Perhaps if a few more MPs had experience of claiming benefits and being looked down on as "scroungers" they might come up with some decent policies instead.