Yesterday, Labour’s Leadership let itself, its members and its supporters down.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith has instructed his civil servants and their private sector agents to break the law. 20 years ago, the Minister would have resigned, and why not? It’s not as if he didn’t mean to illegally threaten job seeker allowance claimants with loss of benefit if they didn’t take ‘work placements’, in effect working for free.
Having been declared to have acted illegally, the Government’s response was to pass a law legalising their behaviour, not just for the future, but backdating the law. They did this using emergency timetabling procedures designed for legislative response to national security threats.
While the Condem Government is wrong on the issues, which I explore below, and others have done so since; it took me several days to publish this, I have been busy, we must also remember,
- The definition of democracy is the rule of the majority within the rule of law.
- Pretty much the second rule is that people must know what the law is. You can’t do that if laws can be backdated!
There were two reasons that Labour should have voted against this shameful law and they failed the challenge.
Labour’s spokesman, Liam Byrne makes his case at Huffington Post, in an article called, “The DWP is Guilty of Incompetence on an Industria Scale”. If so, Industrial Scale Incompetence is yet another reason to call for IDS resignation.
On the night, on twitter Eleanor CS says,
Are there ANY @uklabour members who support the majority of our MPs’ vote on workfare non-compensation? (Genuine, not rhetorical, question!)
— Eleanor Saunders (@EleanorCS) March 19, 2013
It seems she’s had no reply.
44 Labour MPs broke their whip to oppose the law, supported by opposition MPs from other parties
Some people saying they think Labour can’t escape its past with Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor, I suggest we can’t escape our past with Liam Byrne doing anything. He is damaged goods ever since he left the “There’s no money left” memo in the Treasury. Like too many Labour MPs, he’s forgotten where he’s come from, no matter how clever the abstention was in terms of Parliamentary tactics, the headline is shit, and we have broken another tenant of democracy, and we risk still talking about it on Thursday, when Osborne presents his 3rd budget. For those that argue the alternative headline that Labour support an unfair benefits systems would be worse, they need to remember our fundamental values and some basic facts. There aren’t enough jobs because the Condem Government have destroyed them; people deserve help while finding worthwhile jobs . We shouldn’t support the punishment of the unemployed or the poor, or their children. Workfare subsidises low wage payers, and destroys jobs. One of the two plaintiffs, Cait Reilly and seem to be ideal for the case. She is a trained scientist and had organised voluntary work experience in a museum. She was told she had to swap this for 6 months full-time work at Poundland for no wages, giving up her work relevant voluntary work, and denying her the time to look for work.
The good news is that Reilly seems to be ready to go to Europe, to claim this retrospective law denies her a right to a fair trial. Where’s her fighting fund?
The following day, Sue Marsh, in an article called, Yesterday’s Labour Workfare Masssacre, compares the night and actions with the French Generals at Agincourt, and reminds Labour’s front bench that
“But every time they take what they know is the wrong decision on principle, the response is swift and horrific.“
Later on the 21st, the story broke that Managers in the DWP are being put on “Personal Improvement Plans” if their management commands were failing to refer enough claimants for sanctions. The DWP have also been shown to have league tables of offices ranking their sanction rate. This is more proof that the Duncan-Smith is looking breaking the law, how can the DWP know how many claimants aren’t looking hard enough for work; if they don’t know they can’t set targets.
On Thursday 21st, the Labour Lords were whipped into voting against the Law when it went to the Lords for approval. Not only did they lose, but the ‘concessions’ offered to win the abstention in the Commons were withdrawn.
Also on the 21st, Mark Ferguson writes about the events of the week, stating that this wasn’t a rebellion by the usual suspects.
Personal Improvement Plans are ‘agreed’ between management and staff and document that the staff need to meet certain performance improvements, usually at the the threat of dismissal. While an active Trade Unionist, our view, backed by our lawyers was that the law required performance improvements, or performance goals to be achievable through an individuals own efforts and that individuals were adequately equipped by management; competitive goals were thus unacceptable, one’s own efforts cannot impact the performance of peers, or staff, or customers. Adequately equipped usually referred to training.