lizw: text: the truth will set you free... but first it will piss you off (politics)
[personal profile] lizw
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

So, Nick Clegg thinks I have "a messed-up set of priorities" that he "cannot for the life of [him] understand".

Between this and the Welfare Reform Act, I am really not sure I can stay in this party. I'm still glad we got Labour out in 2010; I still think I was right to vote for the Coalition Agreement; and I think the Coalition Government is doing better than the last Labour Government did on all the issues I listed in this post. But workfare, the withdrawal of ESA from people whose partners earn £7,500, and the benefits cap were no part of the Coalition Agreement, and are arguably inconsistent with the promise in the Coalition Programe that we would introduce measures to protect people on low incomes from the effects of spending cuts and that we would support the Minimum Wage. Our MPs don't have to vote for them, and while Nick has to support them in public because of collective Cabinet responsibility, he doesn't have to do so in terms that other the dissenters in quite that way (many of whom are in our own party).

I've hesitated in the past to declare a red line in the area of benefits, because compared to, say, torture and the waging of illegal wars, it's an issue where pragmatism in the form of budgetary constraints inevitably has to play a greater part. I'm not an economist, so to a large extent I have to rely on the input of those who are to assess what's reasonably achievable and what isn't. But when it comes to saying that disabled people should rely on the income of a partner who earns as little as £7,500 - considerably less than a full-time minimum wage - I start to feel we're in territory where no economist could convince me that we have no better choices. That change is going to "save" around £1.4bn; the MOD budget for 2012/13 is £33.7bn. I realise that in itself represents a substantial cut, but there have to be more programmes we could cut. Honestly, if it really came to it, I'd sooner get rid of the whole bloody lot than treat disabled people like this - and those of you who know of my personal history with and resulting sense of loyalty to our armed forces will know how significant a statement that is. Our national spending priorities are badly, systematically fucked up; they need rethinking from the ground up. By allocating cuts between Departments before the specifics were worked out, the Coalition Government has precluded that. So yeah, I'm going to say that the Government has crossed one of my red lines with the decision on ESA, which means that according to my own principles, I need to either work from inside to reverse that, or else I need to resign.

So which is it going to be? I will probably wait until a reasonable period after our Spring Conference in Gateshead before I make a decision, because I want to gauge what scope there actually is for the internal party democracy to achieve a change in direction. I am not too hopeful, given that the last Conference I was able to attend voted against the withdrawal of child benefit from higher income earners, which has now been introduced by the back door via the benefits cap. On wider benefits issues, those of us who oppose the changes may well be in a minority in the party anyway, judging from the most recent Lib Dem Voice members' survey. I'm also conscious that my own ability to participate in the internal party democracy is severely limited at the moment by the effect my father's disability has had on my finances and available holiday time; I don't know how comfortable I can be sitting back and leaving it to those in the party who do share my views to sort everything out, while meanwhile my membership fees are still going to support a party that increasingly seems to me to be headed in the wrong direction.

Date: 4 Mar 2012 14:22 (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
I've never been a party member, but I did vote LD at the last election. At this point, if someone suggested I join (or vote for them again) I hope I would be able to explain calmly why I'm even less likely to do that than to join the Conservatives. I'm on the Work Programme myself at the moment, so it's a fairly personal issue for me.

I agree entirely with your economic points - I'd also like to add one thing, which is that this policy seems very likely to take spending money away from the very poorest, who are both the only ones who are guaranteed to spend nearly all of it rather than saving it, and the ones with the biggest incentive to spend it sensibly. (We are, in fact, the Invisible Hand.) So the decreased tax receipts, both from the direct fall in spending and the resultant fall in growth as demand drops, will offset the savings to some extent anyway.

Also, this is a social engineering policy as much as a financial one: all the unpaid work placements, as far as I can tell, are with companies or charities doing low-grade unskilled or semi-skilled work, in jobs that would pay barely above the minimum wage if they paid at all. Campaigners have suggested that this is partly an effort to make sure that the unemployed have no time & energy left for agitation, but that's a conspiracy theory too far for my taste. It is certainly an effort to direct poorer people towards "suitable" or "appropriate" jobs, though.

Date: 4 Mar 2012 14:42 (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
Oh, I should add - since I'm on the Work Programme due to a mental health disability, I've been referred to the Camden Society, who are a Seetec subcontractor. So far, they seem very nice and actively helpful, and I don't expect to have any problems myself with regard to workfare. On the other hand, I don't want to fall into the "I'm OK, it's those other unemployed people who might be in trouble" trap.

Date: 4 Mar 2012 23:11 (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
Agreed, but I think it's also worth drawing a distinction between pre-existing jobs to which claimants are directed, and work experience posts created for a claimant (which I'd argue that, by definition, don't relate to a pre-existing vacancy) with no expectation of that same job at the end of the period.

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