Saturday, 29 March 2014

Welfare betrayal and Labouring under false hopes

In a despicable act of conformity, all but 22 Westminster MPs have voted for George Osborne's benefits cap bill.

Only 13 Labour rebel MPs joined the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party's Caroline Lucas in opposing it:

Diane Abbott
Ronnie Campbell
Katy Clark
Michael Connarty
Jeremy Corbyn
Kelvin Hopkins
Glenda Jackson
John McDonnell
George Mudie
Linda Riordan
Dennis Skinner
Tom Watson
Mike Wood

Scotland's Labour MPs voted overwhelmingly for the legislation.

Here (courtesy of Bella Caledonia) are their names:

Margaret Curran – Glasgow East
Tom Greatrex – Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Ian Murray – Edinburgh South
Willie Bain – Glasgow North East
Gordon Banks – Ochil and South Perthshire
Tom Clarke – Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Dame Anne Begg – Aberdeen South
Alistair Darling – Edinburgh South West
Ian Davidson – Glasgow South West
Thomas Docherty – Dunfermline and west Fife
Frank Doran – Aberdeen North
Gemma Doyle – West Dunbartonshire
Sheila Gilmore – Edinburgh East
David Hamilton – Midlothian
Tom Harris – Glasgow South
Jimmy Hood – Lanark and Hamilton East
Cathy Jamieson – Kilmarnock and Loudon
Mark Lazarowicz – Edinburgh North and Leith
Gregg McClymont – Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East
Anne McGuire – Stirling
Anne McKechin – Glasgow North
Iain McKenzie – Greeenock and Inverclyde
Grahame Morris – Livingston
Jim Murphy – East Renfrewshire
Pamela Nash – Airdrie and Shotts
Sandra Osborne – Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
John Robertson – Glasgow North West
Frank Roy – Motherwell and Wishaw
Lindsay Roy – Glenrothes
Anas Sarwar – Glasgow Central

Only Katy Clark - North Ayrshire and Arran, and Michael Connarty - Linlithgow and East Falkirk - voted against. (Others among 41 Scottish Labour MPs abstained or didn't vote.)

As warned by Save the Children, the ConDem benefits cap bill will now plunge another 345,000 children across the UK into deep poverty.

In a long, shameful history of political collaboration and class betrayal, such abandonment of just social welfare should now confirm for many Labour voters the true intentions of any potential Miliband government.

For Iain Macwhirter:
Labour is now on record as accepting the logic of an indefinite limit on welfare, something no party has ever proposed before because it locks in unfairness and penalises those least able to look after themselves.
Some might say that Labour's approval of Osborne's bill reflects 'the public mood' for a cap on benefits. While partly true, as Macwhirter accepts, even in more left-leaning Scotland, such impressions have been largely framed by Labour itself, which:
through its actions in Westminster yesterday, legitimised the Conservative welfare agenda. The party that created the welfare state has lost the ability to defend its fundamental principles.
Consider also how much of that shrill message has been hyped by a Daily Mail-type denigration of benefit recipients.

Macwhirter, thus, asks:
If Labour can't defend benefits, who can? Welfare is not devolved to Scotland and there is no obvious way in which the Scottish Government can mitigate the impact of these reforms. No doubt Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont will continue to claim the cuts are, in some mysterious way, the fault of the Scottish Government and Alex Salmond in person. But that is going to be a very hard argument to sustain after yesterday's vote.
So, as the great Tony Benn is laid to rest, is there any remaining prospect of a Labour socialist alternative, something akin to the forces and hopes that formed the 1945 welfare state?

No, thinks Ken Loach, who is now in no doubt of Labour's true colours:
Labour's rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but its fundamental stance is limited by the same imperative: profit comes before all else. Can the Labour party be reclaimed? Or, rather, made anew into one that will represent the interests of the people?

History suggests it cannot. The high-water mark of 1945 is long gone. The many great achievements of that government have largely been dismantled, either with the collusion of Labour or directly by the party when it has been in power. The Labour left has all but disappeared, and even Tony Benn's voice is now sadly silent. A Miliband government will not reverse any of the privatisations in the health service or elsewhere. It will not take the railways back into public ownership – despite the popularity of such a move – or even reclaim Royal Mail.
For Loach, Labour's only motivating force is complicit neoliberalism:
The coalition parties proclaim the importance of the market economy. So does Labour. The coalition cuts back on public enterprise and prioritises the interests of big corporations and private companies. So did the last Labour government. Whenever workers organise to defend jobs, wages or conditions, who supports them? Not Ed Miliband or other Labour leaders. An open letter to Miliband from Labourite "intellectuals" published in the Guardian this week is as peripheral is it is self-important.
Convinced of Labour's decayed state, Loach is now championing a new true socialist party, Left Unity. We should support and wish it well.

Loach has also declared his support for an independent Scotland, as a promising opportunity for people to release themselves from the enduring stranglehold of Tory rule, protect the welfare state and help build those same socialist alternatives.

Both movements should be seen as mutually supporting, driven by the same aims, serving to build a new radical politics beyond the mythology of Labour deliverance.

Progressive Labour supporters in Scotland should surely now see that UK Labour is unredeemable, and that the only possibility of realising a radically reformulated Labour party in Scotland, at least, lies within the political opportunities of independence.

If there's one thing the establishment fear more than a Yes outcome it's the actual demonstration that big power can actually be taken on, it's multiple coercions resisted and its privileged interests rejected by ordinary citizens. A Yes result would open up promising new scenarios for radical politics not only in Scotland but, in encouragement of a vibrant post-Labour left, all across the UK. 

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