2012 needs to see more help for the poorest in our country

December 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

New Year, New Policies?

I’m writing this the day after Christmas Day, so there’s no point in asking ‘Santa’ for any extra wishes this year…but if I could summon up some kind of mythical being who could snap its fingers and give me exactly what I want, I’d ask for simply this: much more to be done, by this Coalition Government, to help the poorest and most vulnerable in our society and more help for women who (it has been argued) are hurt first and most by the Coalition’s cuts.

Now, let’s be clear, I salute this Government for taking the hard-headed decisions needed to help bring down the budget deficit bequeathed to us by a Labour party who might have thought they were doing right by spending like there was no tomorrow but, in actual fact, were leaving a debt it would have taken generations to pay off if they’d have stayed in office.

Let’s remember that, when Labour left office in 2010, the gap between the richest and poorest people in our country had actually grown.

So, we’ll take no lessons from Labour when it comes to social mobility and the need to give a hand out and up to the poorest people in our society.

But, neither should we winch ourselves too near a Conservative Party whose right-wing is obsessed with creating a smaller State, of cutting welfare, who talk of ‘troubled families’ and ‘Broken Britain.’

To quote the Lib Dem President, from a few years back, referring to the Tories, “If Britain is broken, who the flipping ‘eck do you think broke it?”

We need a solution to these issues which is neither Labour’s chuck money at them and hope for the best, but neither the Conservatives’ everything would be o.k. if we could just shrink the State a little more.

I believe in the State and I believe there is such a thing as Society.

I believe in an enabling State that is always there to support those in genuine need.

Therefore I’m very glad that it was Lib Dem MPs and Ministers who argued for an increase in the Welfare budget recently.

Welfare isn’t an end in of itself, but it must always be there to lend a hand out and up.

Of course we need a strong and enterprising economy and, of course, that must include a strong and thriving private sector, but we must always be aware of what impact our policies are having on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our land.

We’ve made a cracking start in doing this, from the Pupil Premium, to taking the poorest workers out of tax, but there is much more to do on this agenda in 2012 and beyond.

I think most people know that I’m a Social Liberal, but I’m more than prepared to work with other wings of the party to see how we can hone more policies to ensure Britain remains a thriving centre of productivity and business, ensuring more and more people have a chance at employment, whilst also always having fairness and greater equality at our core.

That way, in my view, lies not only more electoral success, but, and far more importantly, a brighter, better, bolder Britain.

§ One Response to 2012 needs to see more help for the poorest in our country

  • Daniel Henry says:

    I personally think that protecting the vulnerable have been some of our biggest failings so far.

    1) Forced Labour for below minimum wage.
    Some Jobseekers are being forced to take unpaid placements for “experience”. This has often led to graduates, unable to find a job in this recession, being forced to work like a normal staff member at Tesco just for their benefits.

    We need to draw a red line here and ensure that workers on compulsory placements are at least paid minimum wage.

    2) Have you been following George Potter’s campaign regarding incapacity benefit? He actually managed to get a motion passed through autumn conference, condemning what many “benefit scroungers” are being put through right now. The testing process is a mess; a tick box system that ignores advice from a doctor, where 70% of appeals with representation succeed. (I.e. over 2/3 of vulnerable people are denied their necessary benefits and have to go through a lengthy and stressful appeals process in order to get the support they need.)

    Apparently, even those going through chemotherapy, who don’t even know if they’re going to successfully recover will be expected to look for work.

    Clearly we need to make some red lines out of these issues. Cameron promised that those who were sick and vulnerable would not be hurt by deficit reduction but that’s not what’s actually happening.

    What we need for Spring Conference is a motion that not only sets out these red lines but also suggests some concessions we could make to the Tories. This would mean grasping the nettle and proposing concessions we don’t agree with, but are at least the lesser of two evils.

    E.g. Apparently we managed to talk the Tories out of a cap for benefits. Although a cap would have some undesirable benefits (some folk would need to move house out of an area), it’s the lesser of two evils. There’s also sense behind it (if a family earns considerably more on benefits than they would working then that’s a serious dependency trap).

    I think it would be really worth making concessions of that type in order to win over the urgent red line issues I mentioned above.

    What do you reckon?

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