Tag: The Labour Party

A comparison of Labour and Conservative manifestos – CLASS

The Institute For Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis of the Conservative and Labour manifesto proposals, which shows that both parties will run a surplus by 2019/20 , with Labour having £21 Billion spare. 

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) is a thinktank established in 2012 to act as a centre for left debate and discussion. Originating in the labour movement, CLASS works with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies. 

CLASS produces briefings, policy papers and think pieces to influence policy development, which spans a field. Projects already underway address issues of growth and the economy, work and pay, housing and equality, security and aspiration, democracy and welfare, amongst many others.

CLASS have produced a comprehensive briefing which  breaks down and compares Labour and Conservative manifesto proposals across policy areas including public services, tax, education, employment and Brexit.

Here is a summary. I recommend you read the full report here.

Brexit

Labour has pledged to focus on jobs and living standards as the first priorities in Brexit negotiations:

 Labour states that leaving the EU with no deal would be the worst possible outcome, and reject it as a possibility.

 Labour has accepted the end of freedom of movement, meaning that the UK will have to leave the single market.

 Labour wants to maintain as many benefits of the single market and customs union as possible.

 Labour will scrap the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will protect working rights, consumer rights, equality law and environmental protections.

The Conservatives have made Brexit a central theme in their manifesto, stating that it is the biggest challenge the UK will face in most of our lifetimes.

 The Conservative manifesto maintains that no deal would be better than a bad deal.

 The Conservatives have pledged to scrap freedom of movement as a red line in Brexit negotiations. This means that the UK will leave the single market, which is made clear in the manifesto.

 The Conservative manifesto pledges a deep and special relationship with the EU, but there are no specific details. 

Conclusion: Both Labour and the Conservatives have pledged to accept the referendum result, and both parties voted to trigger Article 50 and start the formal process of leaving the EU.

However, their priorities in Brexit negotiations are different. The Conservatives’ acceptance that no deal is a possibility for Brexit would have huge implications for the UK economy. We welcome Labour’s statement that leaving with no Brexit deal should not be an option.

Immigration

The Labour party has stated that freedom of movement will end post-Brexit, but have not pledged to reduce immigration.

 Labour would guarantee the rights of EU migrants in the UK immediately.

 Labour will not set an arbitrary target on immigration levels to the UK.

 Labour will reintroduce the Migrant Impact Fund, to ensure that increased migration in certain areas does not place a strain on public services. The Conservative party have pledged to end freedom of movement and reduce migration, claiming that when immigration is too high it is difficult to build a cohesive society.

 The Conservatives will not guarantee the rights of EU citizens before Brexit negotiations start.

 Despite missing their immigration targets repeatedly while in government, the Conservatives have again pledged to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands -including students.

Conclusion: Both parties are committing to ending freedom of movement post-Brexit. This could have serious consequences for the UK – 10% of our doctors and 4% of our nurses are from elsewhere in the EU.

It is also concerning to see that students will be included in Conservative immigration numbers. However, while the Conservatives continue to suggest that immigration must be limited, Labour have stated that immigration targets are unhelpful. This is a positive step forward in our national conversation about migration.

Tax and redistribution

Labour pledges to make the taxation system fairer through a combination of increasing existing taxes on the top 5%, new taxes, and tighter rules on existing taxes to crack down on evasion and avoidance. This aims to raise £48.6bn in revenue. Key proposals are as follows:

 Lowering the 45p additional rate threshold to £80k (Top 5%) and reintroducing the 50p rate on earnings above £123k. Raising £6.4bn.

 Excessive Pay Levy: paid by employers directly on salaries over £330k. Raising £1.3bn.1

 Increase corporation tax to 26% in 2020–21 (2011 levels) with a lower rate for companies with annual profits below £300k. Raising £19.4bn.

 Introduce a Robin Hood Tax – a tax of about 0.05% on financial transactions. Raising £26bn.

 A clamp down on tax avoidance. Raising £6.5bn. A £3.9bn allowance has been made for behavioural changes and uncertainty.

The Conservatives have emphasised a low tax economy with a new deal for ordinary people (see our employment section). As could be expected with a low tax focus, their plans are more modest than Labour’s:

 Increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate of tax to £50,000 by 2020.

 Cut corporation tax to 17% by 2020.

 Conduct re-evaluations more frequently to prevent large changes.

 Stop tax avoidance and evasion.

Conclusion: Tax is one of the biggest dividing lines between the parties. We welcome Labour’s plan for increased taxes on the rich and bold measures to tackle inequality. We are concerned that the Conservatives plan for a low tax economy would simply mean high earners and corporations gain, while low and middle income earners would see their wages eaten away by inflation.

Investment

Labour announced a £250bn fund for investment in infrastructure – transport, energy systems, telecommunications – scientific research, and housing (to be raised by borrowing). Funds will be targeted at:

 Extending HS2 into Scotland.

 Building Crossrail for the North.

 Investment in new, state-of-the-art low-carbon gas and renewable electricity production.

 Universal superfast broadband by 2022.

 3% of GDP on research and development.

 A goal of 60% of jobs created through investment to be high skilled.

The Conservatives have also proposed an industrial strategy with major investment in infrastructure, skills and research and development. They plan to continue the existing £170bn infrastructure investment plan over the next parliament. A part of this funding will come from borrowing and part is already allocated in the budget.

They aim to:

 Meet OECD average of 2.4% of GDP on research and development.

 Launch a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund.

Conclusion: Both parties have pledged to invest in infrastructure and skills. Labour’s measures are more ambitious in outlook and funding, and are more clearly costed. CLASS believes that this big and bold idea brings the investment the UK so vitally needs.

Environment

 The Labour party used their manifesto to link the environment to sustainable agricultural industries and flood defences. Their main policies are:

 An end to fracking.

 Championing sustainable farming, food and fishing by investing in and promoting skills, technology, market access and innovation.

 Introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with illegal levels of air pollution.  Halt the privatisation of public forests.

The Conservative party talked about the environment in the context of business, with relatively little on environmental protections by themselves, arguing for:

 More fracking, hailing the technique as a “revolution”.

 Devise a new “agri-environment system”.

 Produce a 25 year Environment Plan.

 A pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than they inherited it.

Conclusion: There are clear dividing lines on the environment, most noticeably regarding fracking, with the Labour party firmly opposed to the industry, and the Conservatives proudly supportive.

There is also the matter of Labour’s greater emphasis on environmental protection and clean air, and lack of Tory attention to these issues. Given this divide, we do not see how a Conservative government would be the one to leave the environment in a better state.

NHS and social care

The Labour party has focused on additional funding for the NHS and social care, stating that cuts to NHS and social care budgets by previous Conservative governments have led those services to crisis point.

 Labour has committed to £30bn in extra NHS funding over the next parliament.

 Labour has committed £8bn for social care over the next parliament.

 Labour pledges to guarantee access to NHS treatment within 18 weeks, and that patients will be seen in A&E within 4 hours. The Conservative party manifesto has pledged to increase NHS spending, while proposing new rules for social care costs.

 Conservatives will increase NHS spending by at least £8bn over the next parliament.

 The Conservatives propose ensuring that anyone who needs social care will be able to keep £100,000 of assets.

 People will be able to defer payment on social care until after their death, enabling them to keep their house.

Four days after the Conservative manifesto launch, Theresa May announced that there will be a cap on the amount an individual will pay towards their care, despite the manifesto mentioning no cap and specifying only that no one would be left with less than £100,000 in assets after paying care costs. There has been speculation that a narrowing poll lead led to this announcement, which the Conservatives refuse to describe as a change.

Conclusion: We welcome commitments to properly fund the NHS, but Conservative commitments do not equal the missing funding identified by many campaigners, and their figure is less than a third of Labour’s commitment.

The Conservative social care proposals are also flawed, as people would be likely to pass on their assets to their children to avoid charges. While four in five councils can’t cope with the demand for elderly social care, Labour’s proposals for a big funding boost would be the better option for social care.

Education

The Labour party has pledged to create a National Education Service to reform our education system.

 Labour will reverse cuts to school funding.

 Labour will increase Sure Start funding.

 Labour will create a National Education Service for cradle to grave education, free at the point of use.

 Labour will reduce class sizes to less than 30 for all five, six and seven year olds.

 Labour has pledged to scrap tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants.

 Labour has pledged to restore the Education maintenance Allowance (EMA).

 Labour will provide free Further Education, including English lessons. The Conservative party has made pledges to increase school funding and make sure that more children attend good schools.

 The Conservatives have pledged that no school will have their budget cut as a result of the new funding formula.

 The Conservatives will build 100 new free schools a year.

 Conservatives will lift restriction on creating grammar schools.

 Conservatives will open a specialist maths school in every major English city.

 Conservatives will stop universal free school lunches for primary age children, replacing them with free universal breakfasts. The savings will be used for £4bn in schools funding over the next parliament.

Conclusion: Labour’s commitment to reversing school cuts should be welcomed – 99% of schools will have per pupil funding cut by 2020 under current government policy.1 The creation of a national education service for lifelong learning is another welcome proposal, enabling people to retrain in a fast changing jobs market.

However, we were disappointed to see another commitment to new grammar schools from the Conservatives, with a pledge to lift restrictions on the creation of new selective schools. As we have highlighted before, there is no evidence that shows grammar schools increase social mobility – it actually shows the opposite.

Welfare system

The Conservative party state that they have no plans for further radical welfare system reform in the next parliament. The Conservatives will therefore continue to roll out universal credit.

The Labour party has pledged to reform the controversial Universal Credit program. Labour has also pledged to:

 Scrap the bedroom tax.

 Scrap punitive benefit sanctions. 

 Scrap the Work Capability Assessment.

 Scrap cuts to bereavement support.

 Restore housing benefit for under 21s.

Conclusion: After several years of cuts to benefits, and numerous examples of suffering caused by those cuts, it is disappointing to see no changes to the welfare system proposed by the Conservatives. However, we should welcome commitments by Labour to scrap some of the worst features of recent welfare reforms.

Working rights and employment  

Labour released a 20-point plan to increase workers’ rights and provide better security at work. The most important are as follows:

 Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or temporary.  Ban zero hours contracts.

 Legislate to ensure that recruitment of labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home.

 Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining.

 Maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and in companies bidding for public contracts.

 Raise the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) – for all workers aged 18 or over.

 End the Public Sector Pay Cap.

 Action on bogus self-employment so the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.

 Double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay.

The Conservatives have taken a different focus on workers’ rights. Their promises are certainly less ambitious, but there are some positive commitments:

 A statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative.

 EU workers’ rights protected.

 Protection from the gig economy.

 Improve worker representation on boards – watered down from previous commitments to have workers on boards.

 A right to training.

However, the Conservatives have weakened their National Living Wage commitment to meet 60% of the median wage by 2020. With rising inflation, this is likely to cause increased poverty among low earners.

Conclusion: Although this is one of the Conservative party’s more worker friendly manifestos, Labour’s finger is definitely more on the pulse when it comes to workers’ rights. Labour’s manifesto has a real potential to tackle the deep inequality that the UK suffers from.

Inequalities

Labour has pledged a range of measures to reduce equality for several groups. Some of these include:

 Labour will assess future policy for its impact on women.

 Bring offences against LGBT people in line with hate crimes based on race and faith.

 Labour will introduce a requirement for equal pay audits on large employers to tackle the pay gap faced by BME workers.

 Labour would classify British Sign Language as a recognised language.

The Conservative party had a particular focus on disability discrimination.

 A one year national insurance holiday for companies who employ a person with a disability.

 The Conservatives will continue plans to tackle hate crimes against a person based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and religion.

 The Conservatives will review access for disabled people and pledge to work with service providers to reduce any extra costs faced by people with disabilities. 

Conclusion: Labour have proposed concrete policies to help improve equalities in the UK. Although the Conservatives have clearly stated a commitment to people with disabilities, this is in the context of cuts to benefits under a Conservative government which have had a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities.

Housing

The Labour Party has an ambitious goal of council house building and a raft of protections for renters:

 Build 100,000 council and housing association dwellings for every year of the next parliament.

 Build more affordable housing.

 Make three year tenancies the norm.

 Abolish the bedroom tax.

 Inflation capped rent increases, and a ban on letting agent fees.

 New minimum standards introduced for the private rental sector.  Reinstate housing benefit for 18-21 year olds.

 A plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, with 4,000 additional homes for people with a history of rough sleeping.

The Conservative Party is also making bold pledges on house building:

 A promise to deliver on their 2015 manifesto commitment to build a million homes by 2020, and a pledge to built another 500,000 homes by 2022.

 A new generation of fixed-term council housing linked to a new Right to Buy.

 Free up more land for new homes.

 Give housing associations more flexibility to increase their stock.

 Give councils more power to intervene when developers don’t act on planning permissions.

 Look at increasing protections for renters

Conclusion: We are happy to see commitments from both parties to building large numbers of houses, though this does reflect how bad the crisis has become.

We call on both parties to commit to building 200,000 social houses to meet demand. We applaud the multiple new protections for renters from Labour, and are concerned with the lack of firm policy commitments from the Tories.

Pensions

Labour plans bring both strong protections for pensions and a potentially radical shift in pensions policy. Proposals include:

 Keeping the triple lock on pensions, so the state pension rises by 2.5%, inflation, or earnings growth.

 Commission a new review of the pension age, to develop a flexible retirement policy reflecting people’s contributions, the variations in life expectancy and the varying health effects of work.

 The Winter Fuel Allowance and free bus passes will be guaranteed as universal benefits.

 Protect pensions of UK citizens living overseas.

The Conservative proposals broke with the political consensus on pensions and the elderly (See the social care section for more detail on that particular policy). Their commits on pensions are:

 Means testing the winter fuel allowance (potentially affecting 9m pensioners).

 Change to a double lock on pensions, so they go up in line with earnings or inflation, whichever is higher (removing the third 2.5% lock).

 Measures to protect private pensions by increasing punishment for mismanaging schemes.  

Conclusion: We are happy to see commitments from both parties to building large numbers of houses, though this does reflect how bad the crisis has become. We call on both parties to commit to building 200,000 social houses to meet demand.

We applaud the multiple new protections for renters from Labour, and are concerned with the lack of firm policy commitments from the Tories. 

Public services and nationalisation

The Labour party has pledged to prioritise public service over private profit, and stated that prices have risen and services have suffered in privatised industries.

 Renationalise railways by bringing them back into public ownership as franchises expire.

 Renationalise Royal Mail.

 Establish publically owned regional water companies.

The Conservative party have pledged to take action on rip-off bills.

 Pledge to freeze energy bills, a policy that was also in the 2015 Labour manifesto.

 Pledge an independent review into energy costs.

 Pledge the largest investment in railways since the Victorian era and extra capacity to tackle overcrowding.

Conclusion: Labour have made it clear that privatisation of public services, all natural monopolies, has not worked. We should welcome the commitment to nationalise industries to make them accountable to the public who use them, and with the aim of reducing prices.

The Conservatives have made no pledges on nationalisation, but have promised rail investment. It is unlikely that investment alone could tackle the issues facing our railways. 

 

 


Related

What Labour achieved

Image result for manifesto 2017


 

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Osborne’s housing benefit cap could mean tens of thousands of the most vulnerable citizens losing their homes

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Grave concerns regarding the impact of proposed housing benefit cuts on the most vulnerable social groups have also arisen. Last month a specialist housing association warned that people under the age of 35 in mental health accommodation face rent shortfalls of almost £200 a week under  government plans to cap housing benefit for social housing tenants at Local Housing Allowance rates.

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Housing and Planning, warned at the time that housing providers could be forced to close accommodation for the most vulnerable because of housing benefit cuts.

Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) said that its fincancial modelling of the impact of capping housing benefit for social tenants, including supported housing tenants, at Local Housing Allowance rates revealed that 70% of all its homes would be unaffordable to under 35s under the plan, as they would only qualify for the “shared room rate” – the cost of renting a single room within a house.

The Trust said in its specialist supported housing, under-35s would face a shortfall of between £52.60 and £193.49 in 71 of 101 mental health units. There would also be shortfalls of up to £75 per week in specialist drug and alcohol units, homelessness hostels and young people’s accommodation.

Tenants older than 35 would also be unable to afford many of the homes, although the benefit gaps would be smaller.

BHT is a specialist housing association which provides for tenants with support needs, even in much of its general needs accommodation.

The association warned that the government’s offer of additional Discretionary Housing Payments to plug the rent shortfalls would also be insufficient.

The housing benefit cuts which were announced last Autumn in  George Osborne’s budget Statement are claimed to be aimed at bringing housing benefit rates for social housing in line with the sums paid to landlords in the private sector. However, the National Housing Federation has raised further concerns in a press release statement today. The Federation’s Chief Executive, David Orr, said:

“New homes for people with support needs – vulnerable people – that would be being built have been cancelled.

The impacts of the LHA cap are real and immediate. The threat alone has caused the building of thousands of specialist homes for the nation’s most vulnerable to grind to a halt. And if the cap comes into force, our research suggests that 156,000 specialist homes could be lost.

The PM has said that this would be a government that supports the vulnerable. But if this cap applies, society’s most vulnerable – dementia patients, women fleeing domestic violence, army veterans suffering mental health problems, older and disabled people – will be asked to find an extra £68 a week.

“We have repeatedly tried to engage the Government on the urgency and severe impacts of this cap on supported housing – we need clarity that this won’t apply to those in specialist homes today.”

Mr Osborne said the move, which will affect England, Scotland and Wales, would deliver savings of £225m by 2020-21, and is part of a £12bn package of cuts from the welfare bill. Conservative ministers claim they are reviewing the sheltered housing sector “to ensure it works in the best way possible”.

But hundreds of planned new sheltered accommodation units have been delayed or scrapped owing to proposed cuts to housing benefit. And several housing associations have said they are no longer financially viable. The National Housing Federation (NHF) has calculated that nearly 2,500 units have so far been scrapped or delayed as sheltered housing providers face losing an average of £68 a week per tenant.

Flats for elderly people and people with learning disabilities are more expensive to build and run because they provide crucial additional support. Concerns raised about the cap on housing benefit will affect society’s poorest and most vulnerable people, such as  women fleeing domestic violence, dementia patients,  army veterans suffering mental health problems, older and disabled people, because these peoeple  will need to find an extra £68 a week.

BBC News reports that a further four housing associations confirmed their plans had needed to change:

  • Southdown Housing in East Sussex has ben forced to scrap plans for 18 units for people with learning disabilities
  • Knightstone Housing in Somerset has delayed a complex of 65 homes for the elderly and 13 properties for learning-disabled people
  • In Manchester, Contour Homes has had to put on hold a scheme to build 36 units for the elderly
  • In North Yorkshire, Harrogate Neighbours has delayed construction of 55 extra care flats

John Healey MP Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Housing and Planning, has commented further today on the new reports of the effect that the Chancellor’s planned cuts to housing benefit are having on specialist accommodation for elderly and vulnerable people. He said:

“George Osborne’s crude cuts to housing benefit could mean tens of thousands of people losing their homes, including elderly people with dementia, veterans and women fleeing domestic violence.

“The consequences of these cuts are being felt right now, with the building of thousands of new homes stopped or scrapped because of Ministers’ failure to act.

“Labour will continue to lead the opposition to these crude cuts. George Osborne must halt these dangerous plans and consult fully with housing providers to safeguard this essential specialist housing.”

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Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

A brief history of social security and the reintroduction of eugenics by stealth

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Introduction

Our welfare state arose as a social security safety net – founded on an assurance that as a civilised and democratic society we value the well-being and health of every citizen.

There was a cross-party political consensus that such provision was in the best interests of the nation as a whole at a time when we were collectively spirited enough to ensure that no one should be homeless or starving in modern Britain.

As such, welfare is a fundamental part of the UK’s development –  our progress – the basic idea of improving people’s lives was at the heart of the welfare state and more broadly, it reflects the evolution of European democratic and rights-based societies.

Now the UK “social security” system is anything but. It has regressed to reflect the philosophy underpinning the 1834 Poor Law, to  become a system of punishments aimed at the poorest and most marginalised social groups. The Poor Law principle of less eligibility – which served as a deterrence to poor people claiming poor relief is embodied in the Conservative claim of Making work pay: benefits have been reduced to make the lowest paid, insecure employment a more appealing option than claiming benefits.

Unemployed people have absolutely no bargaining power or choice regarding their work conditions and pay. They are coerced by the state to apply for any work available. This also negatively impacts on collective bargaining more widely, the creation of a desperate reserve army of labor serves to drive wages down further. (See: Conservatism in a nutshell.)

The draconian benefit sanctions are about depriving people of their lifeline benefits because they have allegedly failed to comply in some way with increasingly stringent welfare conditionality – which is aimed at enforcing compliance, “behaviour change” and achieving reductions in welfare expenditure rather than supporting people claiming benefits and helping them to find work.

Removing a person’s means of meeting basic survival needs presents significant barriers to that person finding work. If we can’t meet our basic needs, we cannot be motivated or “incentivised” to do anything but struggle for survival.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

 

Such a political aim of “behaviour change” is founded entirely on assumptions and moral judgements about why people are unemployed or underpaid. And of course serious concerns have arisen because sanctions have tended to be extremely discriminatory. Young people, women with childcare responsibilities, people with learning disabilities, people with mental illnesses and disabled people are particularly vulnerable as a consequence of the rigid conditionality criteria.

Frankly, such an approach to welfare seems to be cruelly designed to exclude those people who need support the most. Not only does the current government fail to recognise socio-economic causes of poverty, poor wages, underemployment and unemployment because of political decision-making – preferring to blame individuals for economic misfortune – it also fails to recognise the detrimental wider social and economic implications of penalising poor people for the conservative engineering of a steeply hierarchical society.

As a government that values social inequality, and regards it as necessary for economic growth, insolvency and poverty for some is intrinsic to the Conservative ideological script and drives policy decisions, yet the Tories insist that individuals shape their own economic misfortunes.

Worse, the Conservatives are prepared to leave people without a basic means of support – one that the public have paid for themselves.

Austerity – which is aimed at the poorest members of society – has served to increase inequality, and since the Tory welfare “reforms,” we have seen a re-emergence of absolute poverty. Up until recently, our welfare system ensured that everyone could meet their basic survival needs. That no longer is the case.

A brief history of welfare

A welfare state is founded on the idea that  government plays a key role in ensuring the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and both political and social responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for well-being.

It was recognised that people experienced periods of economic difficulty because of structural constraints such as unemployment and recession, through no fault of their own. It was also recognised that poor health and disability may happen to anyone through no fault of their own.

The welfare state arose in the UK during the post-war period, and following the Great Depression, for numerous reasons, most of these were informed by research carried out into the causes of poverty, its effects on individuals and more broadly, on the UK economy. There were also political reasons for the Conservatives and Liberals supporting the poorer citizens – the newly enfranchised working class.

Charles Booth in London and Sebohm Rowntree in York carried out the first serious studies of poverty and its causes. They both discovered that the causes were casual labour, low pay, unemployment, illness and old age – not laziness, fecklessness, drunkenness and gambling, as previously assumed. The poverty studies raised awareness of the extent of poverty in Britain and the myriad social problems it caused.

The Boer war of 1899-1902 highlighted the general poor state of health of the nation. One out of every three volunteers failed the army medical due to malnutrition, other illnesses due to poor diet and very poor living conditions. The military informed the government at the time of the shockingly poor physical condition of many of those conscripted.

It was realised that the effects of poverty were potentially damaging to  the whole of society. Health problems and infectious disease – rife in the overcrowded slums – could affect rich and poor alike. It was recognised that the economy suffered if large numbers of people were too poor to buy goods and social problems such as exploitation, debt, crime, prostitution and drunkenness were a direct result of poverty, and not the cause of it.

The discovery of  widespread poor health as a consequence of poverty raised concerns about Britain’s future ability to compete with new industrial nations such as Germany and the USA. National efficiency would only increase if the health and welfare of the population improved.

The growth of the Labour Party and Trade Unionism presented a threat to the Liberals and the Conservatives. The new working class voters were turning to these organizations to improve their lives. The traditionally laissez-faire Liberals recognised this and supported the idea of government help for the working class.

Back to the present: welfare is no longer about welfare

The current Conservative government has taken a distinctly behaviourist turn – a form of psychopolitics which essentially reduces explanations of poverty to the personal – blaming poor people for poverty and unemployed people for unemployment, formulating policies that are about making people change their behaviour, based on a simplistic “cause and effect” approach. The government nudges and we are expected to comply. Increasing the use of benefit sanctions is one policy consequence of this psychopolitical approach.

Of course this brand of psychopolitics is all about the government assuming the fallibility of the population and the infallibility of the government when it comes to decision-making and behaviours.

Although Cameron claims that “Nudge” draws on a “paternalistic libertarian” philosophy, any government that acts upon a population, by reducing liberties, choices and by imposing behavioural modification without public consent – expecting people to change their behaviours and choices unwittingly to fit with what the state deems “right,” rather than reflecting public needs via democratic engagement and a genuine dialogue, is actually authoritarian.

As I’ve said elsewhere, welfare has been redefined: it is pre-occupied with assumptions about and modification and monitoring of the behaviour and character of recipients, rather than with the alleviation of poverty and ensuring economic and social well-being.

Eugenics by stealth

Further intention of directing behavioural change is at the heart of policies that restrict welfare support such as tax credits to two children. The Conservatives have recently announced plans to cut welfare payments for larger families. Whilst this might not go as far as imposing limits on the birth of children for poor people, it does effectively amount to a two-child policy.

A two-child policy is defined as a government-imposed limit of two children allowed per family or the payment of government subsidies only to the first two children.

Of course this is justified using a Conservative ideologically driven scapegoating narrative of the feckless family, misbehaving and caught up in a self-imposed culture of dependence on welfare.

This restriction in support for children of larger families, however, significantly impacts on the autonomy of families, and their freedom to make decisions about their family life. Benefit rules purposefully aimed at reducing family size rarely come without repercussions.

It’s worth remembering that David Cameron ruled out cuts to tax credits before the election when asked during interviews. Tax credit rates weren’t actually cut in the recent Budget—although they were frozen and so will likely lose some of their value over the next four years because of inflation.

Some elements were scrapped, and of course some entitlements were restricted. But either way a pre-election promise not to cut child tax credits sits very uneasily with what was announced in the budget.

Iain Duncan Smith said last year that limiting child benefit to the first two children in a family is “well worth considering” and “could save a significant amount of money.” The idea was being examined by the Conservatives, despite previously being vetoed by Downing Street because of fears that it could alienate parents. Asked about the idea on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Duncan Smith said:

“I think it’s well worth looking at,” he said. “It’s something if we decide to do it we’ll announce out. But it does save significant money and also it helps behavioural change.”

Firstly, this is a clear indication of the Tories’ underpinning eugenicist designs – exercising control over the reproduction of the poor, albeit by stealth. It also reflects the underpinning belief that poverty somehow arises because of faulty individual choices, rather than faulty political decision-making and ideologically driven socio-economic policies.

Such policies are not only very regressive, they are offensive, undermining human dignity by treating children as a commodity – something that people can be incentivised to do without.

Moreover, a policy aimed at restricting support available for families where parents are either unemployed or in low paid work is effectively a class contingent policy.

The tax child credit policy of restricting support to two children seems to be premised on the assumption that it’s the same “faulty” families claiming benefits year in and year out. However, extensive research indicates that people move in and out of poverty – indicating that the causes of poverty are structural rather than arising because of individual psychological or cognitive deficits.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a study that debunked  the notion of a “culture of worklessness” in 2012.  I’ve argued with others more recently that there are methodological weaknesses underlying the Conservative’s regressive positivist/behaviourist theories, especially a failure to scientifically test the permanence or otherwise of an underclass status, and a failure to distinguish between the impact of “personal inadequacy” and socio-economic misfortune.

Back in the 1970s, following his remarks on the cycle of deprivation, Keith Joseph established a large-scale research programme devoted to testing its validity. One of the main findings of the research was that there is no simple continuity of social problems between generations of the sort required for his thesis. At least half of the children born into disadvantaged homes do not repeat the pattern of disadvantage in the next generation.

Despite the fact that continuity of deprivation across generations is by no means inevitable – the theory is not supported by empirical research – the idea of the cycle of “worklessness” has become “common sense.” Clearly, common perceptions of the causes of poverty are (being) misinformed. The individual behaviourist theory of poverty predicts that the same group of people remain in poverty. This doesn’t happen.

However, the structural theory predicts that different people are in poverty over time (and further, that we need to alter the economic structure to make things better). Longitudinal surveys show that impoverished people are not the same people every year. In other words, people move in and out of poverty: it’s a revolving door, as predicted by structural explanations of poverty.

Many families are in work when they plan their children. Job loss, an accident or illness causing disability, can happen to anyone at any time. It’s hardly fair to stigmatise and penalise larger families for events that are outside of their control.

Limiting financial support to two children may also have consequences regarding the number of abortions. Abortion should never be an outcome of reductive state policy. By limiting choices available to people already in situations of limited choice – either an increase of poverty for existing children or an abortion, then women may feel they have no choice but to opt for the latter. That is not a free choice, because the state is inflicting a punishment by withdrawing support for those choosing to have more than two children, which will have negative repercussions for all family members.

Many households now consist of step-parents, forming reconstituted or blended families. The welfare system recognises this as assessment of household income rather than people’s marital status is used to inform benefit decisions. The imposition of a two child policy has implications for the future of such types of reconstituted family arrangements.

If one or both adults have two children already, how can it be decided which two children would be eligible for child tax credits?  It’s unfair and cruel to punish families and children by withholding support just because those children have been born or because of when they were born.

And how will residency be decided in the event of parental separation or divorce – by financial considerations rather than the best interests of the child? That flies in the face of our legal framework which is founded on the principle of paramountcy of the needs of the child. I have a background in social work, and I know from experience that it’s often the case that children are not better off residing with the wealthier parent, nor do they always wish to.

Restriction on welfare support for children will directly or indirectly restrict women’s autonomy over their reproduction. It allows the wealthiest minority to continue having babies as they wish, whilst aiming to curtail the poor by disincentivisingbreeding” of the “underclass.” It also imposes a particular model of family life on the rest of the population. Ultimately, this will distort the structure and composition of the population, and it openly discriminates against the children of large families.

People who are in favour of eugenics believe that the quality of a race can be improved by reducing the fertility of “undesirable” groups, or by discouraging reproduction and encouraging the birth rate of “desirable” groups.

Eugenics arose from the social Darwinism and laissez-faire economics of the late 19th century, which emphasised competitive individualism, a “survival of the wealthiest” philosophy and sociopolitical rationalisations of inequality.

Eugenics is now considered to be extremely unethical and it was criticised and condemned widely when its role in justification narratives of the Holocaust was revealed.

But that doesn’t mean it has gone away. It’s hardly likely that a government of a so-called first world liberal democracy – and fully signed up member of the European Convention on Human Rights and a signatory also to the United Nations Universal Declaration – will publicly declare their support of eugenics, or their totalitarian tendencies, for that matter, any time soon.

But any government that regards some social groups as “undesirable” and formulates policies to undermine or restrict that group’s reproduction rights is expressing eugenicist values, whether those values are overtly expressed as “eugenics” or not.

Conservatives are not known for valuing diversity, it has to be said.

Implications of the welfare “reforms”: Human rights

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory, reads:

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2.  Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

A recent assessment report by the four children’s commissioners of the UK called on the government to reconsider its deep welfare cuts, voiced “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts, and called on ministers to rethink plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.

The commissioners, representing each of the constituent nations of the UK, conducted their review of the state of children’s policies as part of evidence they will present to the United Nations.

Many of the government’s policy decisions are questioned in the report as being in breach of the convention, which has been ratified by the UK.

England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:

“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty. What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.”

Another worry is the impact of changes to welfare, and ministers’ plan to cut £12bn more from the benefits budget. There are now 4.1m children living in absolute poverty – 500,000 more than there were when David Cameron came to power.

It’s noted in the report that ministers ignored the UK supreme court when it found the “benefit cap” – the £25,000 limit on welfare that disproportionately affects families with children, and particularly those with a larger number of children – to be in breach of Article 3 of the convention – the best interests of the child are paramount:

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to all children and young people aged 17 and under. The convention is separated into 54 articles: most give children social, economic, cultural or civil and political rights, while others set out how governments must publicise or implement the convention.

The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 16 December 1991. That means the State Party (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) now has to make sure that every child benefits from all of the rights in the treaty. The treaty means that every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

Article 1

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

Article 2

1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Article 3

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

Article 4

States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.

Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

Article 6

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 26

1. States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of this right in accordance with their national law.

2. The benefits should, where appropriate, be granted, taking into account the resources and the circumstances of the child and persons having responsibility for the maintenance of the child, as well as any other consideration relevant to an application for benefits made by or on behalf of the child.

Here are the rest of the Convention Articles

The Nordic social democratic model of welfare

Finally, it’s worth noting, as sociologist Lane Kenworthy has pointed out, that the Nordic welfare experience of the modern social democratic model can:

“promote economic security, expand opportunity, and ensure rising living standards for all . . . while facilitating freedom, flexibility and market dynamism.”

Nordic welfare models include support for a universalist welfare state which is aimed specifically at enhancing individual autonomy, promoting social mobility and ensuring the universal provision of basic human rights, as well as for stabilizing the economy, alongside a commitment to free trade.

The Nordic model is distinguished from other types of welfare states by its emphasis on maximizing labor force participation, promoting gender equality, egalitarian and extensive benefit levels and the large magnitude of income redistribution.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted that there is higher social mobility in the Scandinavian countries than in the United States, and argues that Scandinavia is now the land of opportunity that the United States once was. The Nordics cluster at the top of league tables of everything from economic competitiveness to social health to happiness.

They have avoided both southern Europe’s economic sclerosis and America’s extreme inequality. Development theorists have taken to calling successful modernisation “getting to Denmark”.

The Nordics demonstrate very well that it is possible to combine competitive capitalism with a large state: they employ 30% of their workforce in the public sector, compared with an OECD average of 15%. The main lesson to learn from the Nordics is not ideological but practical.

The state is popular not because it is big but because it works. A Norwegian pays tax more willingly than a Californian because he or she has access to decent schools, support when times are difficult and free health care as a result.

Norway ranks among the richest countries in the world. GDP per capita is among the highest in the world.

Norway regards welfare services not as social costs but as fundamental social investment for open innovation and growth.

Innovation should not be an opportunity for a few only. It should be democratised and distributed in order to tackle the causes of growing inequality.

Inequality hampers economic growth.

We can’t afford not to have a welfare state.

See also:

Children’s Commissioner warns that UK is now in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Human rights are the bedrock of democracy, which the Tories have imperiled.

Welfare reforms break UN convention

Welfare reforms, food banks, malnutrition and the return of Victorian diseases are not coincidental, Mr Cameron

The government refuse to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of welfare “reforms”. Again.

Suicides reach a ten year high and are linked with welfare “reforms”

The poverty of responsibility and the politics of blame. Part 3 – the Tories want to repeal the 2010 Child Poverty Act

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Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

Labour plan to extend their excellent animal welfare policies

1390721_542502649152601_378674621_nI have often said that a person’s attitude towards animals is a pretty good indication of their attitude towards people, too. Valuing and respecting the right to life, and ensuring freedom from cruelty and abuse for all living beings is a fundamental starting point for a civilised society.

We know that the Labour Party’s track record on Human Rights is excellent: they brought us the Human Rights Act in 1998, and the Equality Act in 2010.

The Labour Party also have an excellent record of promoting animal rights and creating animal welfare law.

Six things you need to know about Labour’s future plans to protect animals

2) Labour will ban wild animals in circuses
Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals. Being moved from place to place in cramped and substandard enclosures, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are the unavoidable distressing realities for animals in circuses. Despite promising to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, the Tory-led Government has failed to do so. The next Labour government will ban this cruel practice.

3) Labour will end the ineffective and inhumane badger culls
Badger culls are supposed to reduce Bovine TB but experts say the Tories’ culls will make the problem worse. Following repeated failures to meet deadlines and targets, the Tories are effectively pursing an unscientific mass cull with no rigorous monitoring or evaluation. Labour will end this and develop a better plan to eradicate Bovine TB.

4) Labour will improve the protection of dogs and cats
At present we have ineffective regulation, a lack of information for pet owners and a failure to deal with irresponsible and cruel breeding practices. Labour will review the inadequate regulations on the sale and breeding of dogs and cats and develop a new strategy to improve their welfare.

5) Labour will tackle wildlife crime and reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates
More needs to be done to protect animal welfare on shooting estates. The next Labour government will undertake an independent review into the most effective way to end the illegal persecution of birds of prey, such as the hen harrier; prevent non-target animals getting trapped in snares; and ensure the humane treatment of game birds.

6) Labour will lead the fight against global animal cruelty
The humane treatment of animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society. National governments have a duty to work together to prevent cruelty around the world. Labour will push to end all commercial whaling and prevent the poaching and near extinction of endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

Here’s more on Labour’s plans to protect animals.

What Labour achieved lest we forget: animal welfare.

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for the memes.

 

What the Labour Party achieved, lest we forget

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1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
2. Low mortgage rates.
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52 per hour.
4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.
9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
10. 3,700 rebuilt and significantly refurbished schools; including new and improved classrooms, laboratories and kitchens. 
11. 85,000 more nurses.
12. 32,000 more doctors.
13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.
15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.
16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.
17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.
18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
19. Restored city-wide government to London.
20. Record number of students in higher education.
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.
23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to £300 for over-80s.
25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.
28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. The Child Poverty Act – 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997: the shortest waiting times since NHS records began.
35. Banned fox hunting.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.
38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.
40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s and disabled people.
41. New Deal – helped over 1.8 million people into work.
42. Over 3 million child trust funds started.
43. Free eye test for over 60s.
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.
46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.
47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.
48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.
50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school. 
51. Gender Recognition Act 2004/5
52. Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
53. Walk-in Health Centres and GP out of hours Service.
54. Digital hearing aids, through the NHS.
55. Children’s Act 2004, 2008 – Every Child Matters.
56. Introduced Smoke–Free legislation, 2007 – child health improving continually since.
57. Retail Distribution Review – ending commission for financial advisers
58. Introduced legislation to make company ‘blacklisting’ unlawful.
59. The Equality Act.
60. Established the Disability Rights Commission in 1999.
61. The Human Rights Act.
62. Signed the European Social Chapter.
63. Launched £1.5 billion Housing Pledge of new affordable housing.
64. The Autism Act 2009.
65. New Deal for Communities Regeneration Programme.
66. All prescriptions free for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer.
67. Introduced vaccination to be offered to teenage girls to protect against cervical cancer.
68. Rough sleeping dropped by two thirds and homelessness at its lowest level since the early 1980s
69. 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act.
70. Increased Britain’s offshore wind capacity than any country in the world, to provide enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
71. Led the campaign to win the 2012 Olympics for London.
72. Introduced the first ever British Armed Forces and Veterans Day to honour past and present achievements of our armed forces.
73. Created a new right of pedestrian access, so that every family has equal opportunity to access the national coastline.
74. Led the campaign to agree a new international convention banning all cluster munitions.
75. Launched the Swimming Challenge Fund to support free swimming for over 60s and under 16s.
76. Sustainable Communities Actcreated community safety partnerships.
77. Set up a dedicated Department for International Development.
78. Cancelled approximately 100 per cent of debt for the world’s poorest countries.
79. Helped lift 3 million people out of poverty each year, globally.
80. Helped to get 40 million more children into school, globally.
81. Worked to ensure polio is on the verge of being eradicated, globally.
82. Ensured 3 million people are now able to access life-preserving drugs for HIV and AIDS.
83. Improved water/sanitation services for over 1.5 million people.
84. Launched a Governance and Transparency Fund to improve governance and increase accountability in poor countries.
85. The Neighbourhood Renewal programme – introduced funding for neighbourhood improvements.
86. The Extending Schools Program – included Breakfast and Homework clubs to improved levels of educational achievement and the longer term life chances of disadvantaged children.
87. Launched the Connexions  Service – provided valuable careers advice and support to young people seeking employment.
88. Introduced Working Family Tax credits to support low paid parents in work and to pay for childcare.
89. Introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
90. Established The Future Jobs Fund to provide all young people access to a job, training or education.
91. Introduced Warm Front –  helped 2.3 million vulnerable households, those in fuel poverty, with energy efficiency improvements.
92. Guaranteed paid holidays – introduced a law to ensure that everyone who works is entitled to a minimum paid holiday of 5.6 weeks,
93. Introduced the right to request flexible working.
94. Introduced improved work hours – introduced a law so employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours a week.
95. Protection against unfair dismissal – introduced protections for workers and increased the maximum compensation from £12,000 to around £63,000.
96. Introduced Rights for Part-time workers – the right to equal pay rates, pension rights, pro-rata holidays and sick pay.
97. Introduced the Right to breaks at work
98. Introduced the Right to representation  – every worker can be a member of a trade union and be represented in grievance and disciplinary hearings.
99. Rights for parents and carers – introduced the right to time off to deal with unexpected problems for their dependants, such as illness.
100. Introduced literacy and numeracy hours in schools and extended diversity to the curriculum.
101. Reduced class sizes to 30 for 5-7 year old children.
102. Introduced a public interest test, allowing governments to block international business takeovers on three specific grounds: media plurality, national security or financial stability.
103. Introduced the (anti-)Bribery Act 2010
104. Established the Standards Board for England under Labour’s Local Government Act 2000 for promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and code of conduct in local government.

105. Introduced the first ever Climate Change Act 2008.

544807_370332463014480_1710535589_nThanks to Rory Doona for this excellent graphic.


 This list was condensed from: Political Parties – NOT all as bad as each other

Some more sources here.

1- 50 were originally listed in the Telegraph. However, I recognised that some of Labour’s best achievements were not included, so I gathered the rest together over couple of years for this compilation. 

Where Labour policies are cited, I have researched and verified them to ensure that the list accurate. You can find them listed on 

See also: Labour’s animal welfare policies

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his valuable additions and for his brilliant pictures.