Monday, August 31, 2009

Labour must not abandon the poor

Reading various blogs, websites and newspapers over the summer one cannot help but be struck by the number of so called left-leaning commentators who have been at pains to point out that the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson aren’t too bad and that if we do end up with a Tory government in a couple of years time it wouldn’t be such a disaster after all. Too many of the Left's 'intelligentsia' appear to place punishing Brown and Labour for their collective ‘failings’ above the reality of the very real improvements to the lives and life chances of whole communities that were abandoned by the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s.

For many middle class bloggers and journalists voting Tory or even Lib Dem is a luxury that they can easily indulge. Why? Because they are the very people who can afford to not have a Labour government in office - but the poor cannot. Labour has a good record in terms of fighting poverty over the past decade: 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty since 1997, the poorest fifth of families will be £4000 a year better off by 2010 and the winter fuel allowance, pensioner credit and increases to the state pension have taken over 2 million pensioners out of poverty. The 10p tax fiasco was not a deliberate attempt by Labour to penalise the low paid, neither was it a calculated, cavalier act designed to appease middle England. It was, quite simply, a mistake – nothing more and nothing less.

The ‘talk left but act right’ tendency that is so prevalent in much of Britain’s media appears to have decided that Labour does not deserve another term. They are apparently untroubled by the fact that so many of the changes made since 1997 could end up being rolled back by a Cameron led, right wing Tory government that could easily dismantle most, if not all, of the things that have been achieved.If Labour does fail in winning a fourth term and is therefore unable to introduce further reform of public services then the Tories will find it almost impossible to resist the ideological temptation to demolish the very ethos on which they are built - with more charging, less investment, good services for the well-off middle classes and second-class services for the poor.

Labour used to be the party that gave comfort to the afflicted whilst afflicting the collective conscience of the comfortable. It needs to regain its sense of identity and purpose and above all it needs to remind people that under the Tories it is unlikely that things would get better but they could get a whole lot worse.

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