And Mammon spoke. Let there be just one party that worships me. And lo and behold, the ConDemLab party came to pass. Some people were astonished and many declared in a firm voice: “We will not vote for this party. But who will represent us now?”
Who indeed. Ed Miliband’s acceptance yesterday of ConDem budget cuts for 2015-16, Labour’s refusal to restore child benefits to all, the attack on older people’s fuel allowances and the party’s plan to cap the overall benefits bill is clear enough.
Having previously stated that child benefit is “an important bedrock of our society”, Miliband said it would not be a priority to restore it to higher earners. This not only accepts the ConDem cuts but just as significantly abandons the principle of universalism in favour of means testing.
The demonising of the unemployed will continue. Unemployed people with children aged three to four will lose benefits if they do not prepare for work.
RIP Welfare State.
Miliband’s capitulation is, essentially, to Mammon, to the financial markets that dictated first the formation of the Coalition in 2010 and that since then have threatened just about every government running a budget deficit that wasn’t cutting fast enough.
So the Labour leader pledged to match Tory plans to cut the welfare bill. Speaking in one of the poorest parts of Britain in East London, he declared: “The next Labour government will have less money to spend . . . Social security spending, vital as it is, cannot be exempt from that discipline.”
Incapacity and housing benefit spending will be targeted while employers would be offered a state subsidy to encourage them to pay higher wages. This is “responsible capitalism” at the taxpayers’ expense. What a joke.
So you will not be surprised to learn that the Financial Times, the official mouthpiece of Mammon, welcomed Miliband’s conversion on the road to the money-lenders’ temple. Its editorial talked of Miliband’s “epiphany”, adding: “The Labour leader has made a welcome step towards credibility. He still needs to do more.”
And from the Blairite think-tank Progress, there was praised from co-founder Paul Richards, who said there had been a new “re-engagement with reality”. The Blairites, who never really went away, have their mouthpiece in the shape of Miliband as well as several cuckoos group in the shadow cabinet nest
Which leaves Miliband’s main backers in the trade union bureaucracy with eggs all over their face. Only the other week, Ed McCluskey, the leader of Unite which bankrolled Miliband’s election as leader, was raging against the Blairite influence in the party. Miliband rebuked him and yesterday McCluskey rolled over like the pussycat he is.
In an obviously pre-prepared statement, McCluskey claimed that Miliband’s speech “offers hope that there is an alternative to George Osborne's punishing experiment with the national economy”. He must have been referring to some other secret speech we know nothing about.
And Paul Kenny of the GMB union, who has also been critical in the past, lauded Miliband’s policy for “dealing with the housing benefit scandal”. The real scandal here, however, is that social housing rents soared under New Labour. Council rents in
London rose 60% and housing association rents
in the capital almost doubled between 1997-2010. This was entirely the result
of government policy. In the end, you had to be on benefits to be to live in a
property charging £400 a month.
When Miliband was elected in 2010, some people told us there was now a unique opportunity to “recapture” the Labour Party from the Blairites and win back the support of working people. How wrong was that scenario!
Labour under Miliband has reaffirmed its commitment to markets, capitalism, austerity, the cuts, extending the pensionable age, public sector pay freezes and a variety of other ConDem policies. In 2015, the electorate will be offered more or the less the same by the mainstream parties within a pretty rotten, undemocratic political system.
This is truly an historic crisis of political democracy as well as economy which we have to address with bold, revolutionary ideas and policies.