Roll On the General Election

LIke many people, I stayed up all night on 1 May 1997, in anticipation of a resounding Labour victory.

I shall probably vote Labour in the next General Election, and in any local elections that occur before then. I won’t be doing so as enthusiastically as I did in 1997 though. I won’t be voting for somebody as much as against somebody else.

In the constituency that I live in, the choices are usually limited. There are the usual three main parties; Labour (least bad); Conservative (currently leading the war on the poor); and Liberal Democrats (the Conservatives’ willing collaborators).

In addition there are usually an assortment of fringe candidates, mostly even more right-wing than the Tories, such as UKIP and the BNP.

My problem with Labour is that they use similar, demonising language to describe people on benefits as the Coalition do. Their “Job Guarantee” scheme is not much better than the workfare being promoted by the government. People will be paid, but at minimum wage, and the job might not be suitable for the person being forced to do it. While ATOS are declaring genuinely sick and disabled people fit for work, this is a real risk, and Labour have yet to say that they’ll stop the Work Capability Assessments, or even to reform them into something fair.

Ed Balls has said, more than once, that their regime for welfare will be “tough but fair”. Why “tough”, and on whom? Why not just “fair”? If it’s fair, then anyone who doesn’t really deserve help will find it tough, but what about everyone else, all the people who are now terrified that they’ll be left destitute by this uncaring government? Labour’s rhetoric isn’t much comfort, I’m afraid.

There were some hints of what I’d like to hear from Labour during the debate on the Benefits Uprating Bill yesterday, but mostly from backbenchers, and some of the most powerful contributions came from other opposition parties, such as the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Labour’s front bench needs to stop running scared of the Tories bellicose attacks, and stand up for vulnerable people. There would then be a real choice, and potential voters wouldn’t be able to make the all too familiar claim that “they’re all the same!”

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