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Why Labour are right on the benefits cap

Today, parliamentarians are discussing the potential cap on benefits, proposed by the Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. The government is proposing to restrict social security and tax credit payments to below-inflation rises. It appears that the government will win the vote today and push the measures through delighting Tories and dismaying Lib Dems up and down the country. The Labour Party has bravely decided to vote against the measure, despite the inevitability of the government’s victory and the views of the public, who are largely in favour of the cap.

The simple fact of the matter is that those who receive benefits, particularly those out of work, are in dire need of them. The unemployed often live on the breadline, struggling to feed families and at a time when the government’s economic policy is failing to produce enough work to go round, those who find themselves in Job Centre queues must be supported to prevent widening the chasm that already separates large chunks of our society.

Although the majority views of the public show a willingness to restrict benefits, the Tory Party is treading a very thin line. Thus far, Osborne, Cameron and co. believe that their “strivers v skivers” rhetoric is garnering them support from the middle and lower classes and will be the downfall of a Labour Party they say is on the side of the feckless and the lazy. However, with more troubled waters ahead for the economic ship, it is likely that we will see this tide of public support turning, as more lose their jobs or their benefits and find themselves hard-pressed. However, due to the levels of public support in favour of the move, the Labour Party’s position is not only brave, but morally correct.

Duncan Smith claimed that the move was right as restricting the growth of benefit payments to below inflation meant that low-paid workers would no longer be left to foot the bill for greater government debt. Someone should point out to Iain that his government has just cut taxes for those earning over £150,000 a year (i.e. those who could afford better than the low-paid to foot the bill) and is also sitting idly by whilst corporations and the super-rich make a mockery of UK tax laws to pay a lower percentage in tax than the working class often do. Labour must point out to the public the frailty of the arguments in favour of this move and expose the Tory’s real motivation.

Furthermore, this move risks pushing families, including children, below the poverty line (a number we have already seen dismally increase under the coalition) probably forcing families into the arms of loan-shark-esque payday lenders and sky-high interest rates. Not only this, the coalition risks damaging social cohesion with their visions of an underclass who they probably will force to the kinds of activities that they imagine the feckless poor doing in only their worst nightmares.

The below inflation rises mean that families and individuals who receive benefits will suffer the impact of price rises, and all this to ensure that the pockets of the rich are still lined and the UK maintains a AAA credit rating that we will eventually lose anyway.
Due to the abhorrent nature of the move, I cannot fault the Labour Party’s brave stand, even if the party is damaged momentarily in the eyes of the public who somewhat subscribe to the Tory’s notion of the undeserving poor. Indeed, it is a shame that the Liberal Democrats cannot grow big enough balls to stop the move instead of shamelessly decrying “strivers v skivers” rhetoric and then supporting this bill through Parliament. Ed Miliband is right to propose a rise in benefits in keeping with inflation, particularly if he wishes to present himself as a One Nation prime ministerial candidate, whilst exposing the damaging, divisive and negative policies of a Tory government intent upon maintaining the wealth and interests of the rich at the expense of the rest of society.

BY: Thomas Hollywood