Have Libdems abandoned those most in need of help?


10:45 am - May 17th 2010

by Adam Lent    


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There is a lot to like in this coalition deal stuff that the Labour Government should have attended to long ago: political reform, cracking down on tax avoidance, regulating and taxing the banks, restoring the link between the state pension and earnings, environmental measures.

But there are three parts of the agreement that must make any serious progressive question the priorities of the Liberal Democrat leadership. Unemployment, the deficit and immigration have all been handed over to the Tories with only moderate qualifications. They are all areas which will most seriously impact on the poorest and most disadvantaged.

The Conservative Party policy on unemployment is very weak, planning to abolish the most effective initiatives of Labour – the Future Jobs Fund and the Job Guarantee – and replace them with half-baked schemes such as a sole trader mentoring programme for young people.

On immigration, the Liberal Democrats humane plans have been ditched in favour of a Tory policy designed to please the tabloids rather than deal realistically or fairly with the issue.

And on the deficit, it seems, the Conservatives have been given carte blanche to start cutting services as quickly as possible.

As a result, these policy areas are now controlled by Conservative Cabinet and junior ministers with the one exception of David Laws at the Treasury.

The Tories are not entirely the Tories of old, it is true, but on these three issues I can see little to distinguish them from their Thatcherite fore-runners who had such an abysmal record on protecting those without work, those reliant on public services or those trying to survive away from their home country.

Liberal Democrats need to ask themselves whether, come 2015, they will really be able to look back and say that their coalition helped those most in need of that help.

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About the author
Adam is an occasional contributor, former Head of Economics TUC, Associate Fellow at IPPR and co-author of 'In The Black Labour'.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Equality ,Libdems ,Westminster

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Reader comments


“a sole trader mentoring programme for young people” – is that otherwise known as “cheap, minimum wage-avoiding labour for small businesses”?

2. Gaf the Horse

Good article. A few points to make

Immigration – We have to accept that the constant “drip drip” of the media demonising immigration has made a difference to opinion in the UK. The LD policy is not currently sellable to the general public. The important thing now is to smooth the edges of the Tory policy and try to slowing change the attitude to immigration over the 5 years of the coalition.

Unemployment – Couldn’t agree more. I hope that, gradually, this will change as the new government actually look at some of the excellent Labour ideas and see that they work.

The Deficit – We knew it was bad, it now looks like it is actually worse. At least we have David Laws and Uncle Vince keeping a steadying hand on young Gideon’s shoulder. The press conference this morning was very scary, but when Laws spoke about trying to protect the less well off I felt a little better

“Liberal Democrats need to ask themselves whether, come 2015, they will really be able to look back and say that their coalition helped those most in need of that help.”

Surely they can’t ask themselves that question until 2015?

“On immigration, the Liberal Democrats humane plans have been ditched in favour of a Tory policy designed to please the tabloids rather than deal realistically or fairly with the issue.”

This is true, and very depressing. Our only hope is that the cap is exposed as the unworkable fantasy that it is. However, you should’ve mentioned that the Lib Dems have made the Tories agree to ending child immigrant detention – a massive stain of shame on Labour that until they apologise for, they have no credibility. That the Lib Dems, consisting of 57 seats out of 364, were able to get this is a massive step forward. There have been compromises, but that is life – and it’s better they got what they did then get nothing.

We shouldn’t stop putting pressure on the Tories to change their minds on immigration, and on Labour, and on the public.

“the Conservatives have been given carte blanche to start cutting services as quickly as possible.”

We aren’t really out of the recession, not by any substantial measure. Things will get worse before they get better. The cuts would’ve come under any government. We as a society either need to pay much higher taxes or get used to less public expenditure. We’ve had it both ways for too long, and it can’t last.

I’ve actually had people sent to my organisation from the Future Jobs Fund. Not convinced yet how good it is. Unemployment went up massively under Labour. We need to find new ways of finding jobs for people, as simply expanding the state doesn’t work nor does Tebbitism.

No. It’s not true. Altogether: Everything-Is-Gonna-Be-Alright (repeat ad infinitum).

“However, you should’ve mentioned that the Lib Dems have made the Tories agree to ending child immigrant detention – a massive stain of shame on Labour that until they apologise for, they have no credibility.”

Am I the only person who would have preferred (had I found myself in that position as a child) to be in secure detention with my family, rather than in a local authority children’s home with strangers? I understand the concerns about locking people up, but I’m not going to cheer this policy until I see what they propose to do instead.

Something gaf the horse said reminded me of: Labour spent millions on contracts just before the election, ostensibly with the purpose of fucking things up for whoever formed the next government. Reported in most papers yesterday and this morning.

Despite being a Lib Dem voter in the last 2 elections and someone who refers to themself as a leftie Lib Dem – the 3 sections you’ve drawn out here are the ones that worry me the most about the coalition deal and were the ones that I asked the most questions over in a very recent email to the rep for my area that attended the Birmingham conference on Sunday.

I am appalled that the budget has been handed over to the Tories with barely a Lib Dem voice in sight to question decisions and propose alternatives that will be less damaging to those who need the most help from the welfare state & it’s services in the coming 5 years. Cameron has predictably (or at least predictably to me) done his damnedest to exclude any liberal voices from this section of the government, preferring instead to leave a complex economy in the hands of a man who struggled to even find his way to no. 11 Downing Street rather than make good use of the skills & lengthy experience of Vince Cable who spent years working on finances for Shell. The cynic in me is far from surprised by this, it was never going to be the case that Cameron was going to relegate Osborne to a sub-ordinate position under Cable – however, part of me had hoped that Cable may get a Treasury post so that he could advise, guide & influence Osborne and prevent the worst abuses of a Tory government towards the poor. This hasn’t happened and it does (in my mind) beg the question of just how scared is George Osborne of being shown up as the incapable fraud that he undoubtedly is? This is very definately the one big area that makes me hope for an internal split in the Lib Dems between those who are more left-leaning and those who are happy to let the overprividleged man-child that is George Osborne play with the nation’s economic abacus. The same idealist in me, is hoping that Cable himself may lead this split, but only time will tell.

As for the immigration amnesty – I’m not so sure it’s fair to pin the blame for the loss of the immigration amensty solely on the Lib Dems given that Labour were also very vocal in their opposition of this idea all the way through the campaign. If we bear that in mind, just how likely is it that Labour wouldn’t have demanded exactly the same price of dropping this amnesty that the Conservatives did?

The unemployment part baffles me as I’m firmly of the opinion that if a system isn’t broken, why fix it. I presume that part of the intention behind the changes to this is to streamline the system to a degree – I’m just speculating so I could well be wrong. This interests me – “a sole trader mentoring programme for young people” – I’ve not seen a mention of this anywhere in the coalition agreement stuff, would you mind pointing me in the direction of the source? I agree that it’s not the right way to go about dealing with unemployment as it doesn’t benefit the young people who need the help or the sole traders doing the mentoring.

“Have Libdems abandoned those most in need of help?”

Yes, the Labour Party are on their own.

9. Lorna Spenceley

“On immigration, the Liberal Democrats humane plans …” wasn’t how they were described by your Labour candidate colleagues during the election campaign, Adam …

A calm and fair blog in some respects, but in other respects we’re not even a month into their coalition. I say give them chance before trying to knock them down. People are too impatient and skeptical nowadays.

Look on the bright side.

I’d imagine grassroots yellow tories will be well represented in the forthcoming tsunami of layoffs and with any luck the loss of public sector advertising revenue might finally force their house rag The Guardian into bankruptcy.

Have others been inspired by the gleeful spite and class-hatred of our new overlords?

“Liberal Democrats need to ask themselves whether, come 2015, they will really be able to look back and say that their coalition helped those most in need of that help.”

Leaving aside the question mark over the long term survivability of the coalition for the moment, since it must be a real possibility that the LD’s will be “put to the question” long before 2015, it behoves those who are inclined to be thankful for small mercies, those adopting a wait and see attitude, and those who hope that the LD’s may serve as a balm to the unacceptable face of Cameronianism, to reflect on how much influence they REALLY have.

I suspect that failing to have at least one of the “major” cabinet positions will prove to have been a mistake. Those delivered are unlikely to give the LD’s the level of clout necessary to divert the Tory supertanker. Similarly the supine acceptance of the Tory plan to start the £6 billion of cuts immediately hardly bodes well for prospects of helping those most in need of it. A true coalition would surely have compromised on that aspect of the Tory manifesto, rather than have traded it for the other fairly minor (however welcome) measures where the parties were in agreement, or at least not too far apart.

However much Cameron may have bridled the Tory right, it looks more and more as if he has flattered to deceive: he can placate those Tories who oppose the coalition by saying that the only really unpaltaeable concession was on AV, which might still fail, whilst at the same time stifle LD pretensions by holding them close, whilst hoping the LD’s self-destruct or get a kicking at the next election.

I’m not convinced the LD’s will in fact be able to exert a moderating influence on Tory policies in relation to “protecting those without work or reliant on public services”, because in the end, the Tories have the whip hand and the LD’s have signally failed to position themselves as an effective co-driver. Just as their Thatcherite forebears did, I predict that the Tories will in the end eschew any possible treatment except the ideologically purest and most radical one which they atavistically believe in, whether it is sensible or not, and irrespective of the wishes and protestations of the LD’s.

Liberal Democrats need to ask themselves whether, come 2015, they will really be able to look back and say that their coalition helped those most in need of that help.

Parliament doesn’t return until tomorrow (18 May). Given this, do you think there has been enough time to reasonably judge how well the LibDems (or indeed any other party) has done since the general election?

“……do you think there has been enough time to reasonably judge how well the LibDems (or indeed any other party) has done since the general election?”

No, obviously it is at least possible that the ConDem’s might surprise those on the centre-left like me who are deeply sceptical of how this coalition will pan out, and much of that will depend on what they actually do and achieve, rather than their plans and early announcements.

It is not unreasonable however to look at how the coalition cabinet has turned out for clues as to the dynamics of the relationship, and how effective the LD’s will be in playing the role many people have given them of ameliorating Tory policies they see as undesireable.

The jury is out granted… but if you ask me, it looks kind of rigged!

Bentendo sums this up for me.

Railing against this sort of thing at this stage seems rather premature.

We presently have a government who have done as yet no harm or good for the normal hard working and sometimes struggling people of Britain.

All they have done so far is allocate some ministerial positions, announce a cut to a small part of international development spending, and announce a couple of anti-democratic moves to help reduce their scrutiny.

So lets criticise what they do badly if and when they do it, not before.

#9 and others

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: the Lib Dems’ amnesty policy was not humane. I expect Labour would’ve insisted they ditch it for all the wrong reasons if they’d reached a coalition deal with the Lib Dems, but a Labour government with humane policies on immigration would not have accepted the Lib Dems’ amnesty policy either. Because it was so heavy on conditionality and relied on the Home Office making decisions about who qualified and who didn’t that it would’ve flushed out perhaps hundreds of thousands of people living here “illegally” for many years who could’ve then been deported. Lib Dems talked about it in the context of increasing immigration controls, too.

#5

John, I understand your concerns, but an end to child detention is still to be welcomed. Your concerns are one reason amongst many why all immigration detention is wrong, but the effects on the children themselves of keeping them in immigration detention centres (which, let’s remember, are generally worse than prisons) outweigh even the results of separation. And separation of families is a feature of the current system too.

I think it is very disappointing to see the general reaction to the LibDems decision to form a government with the Tories. Read here http://bit.ly/91lRwc why I think it was the right move and hopefully in 5 years you will all agree!

I think we need to focus more on why the previous Labour administration abandoned those who couldn’t fend for themselves. They haven’t gone through the process of apologising for some of the worst policies they foisted on us yet. They were in power for thirteen years, and yet more people are living in poverty now than in 1997. The huge level of resources given to fund the likes of the foreign wars and the Private Finance Initiative could have gone to reduce much of the UK’s deep-rooted inequality, and would have been very popular with the public. So I do get miffed when some people on this blog and elsewhere start to accuse the Liberal Democrats of doing exactly the same thing.

David Freud (banker, with wide experience of poverty obviously) has been appointed to the DWP where he will carry on with the psychotic policies that were even too much for Labour before his defection for a peerage from callmedave. He created the disgusting regime which denies benefits to the seriously ill and dying (see the last Private Eye and hundreds of blogs) and shovels money at corporate crooks like £4Emma. Freud is a despicable crackpot and however the Tories dress it up they want workfare which has always has disastrous results for the low paid (see New York). This leaves the Liberals as nothing more than front men for brutal policies, too dim and vain to see they’re being used

This leaves the Liberals as nothing more than front men for brutal policies, too dim and vain to see they’re being used

They want this shite, it’s exactly who they are.

I guarantee that there’ll be more rebels against this raft of deranged spite amongst the Tories than there will amongst the Liberals.

21. Amy Clare

#19

Couldn’t agree more! Also, Work & Pensions is now staffed by Iain Duncan Smith and Philippa Stroud (her of ‘curing gays with Jesus’ fame), two colleagues from the right wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice. One of IDS’s ideas is to do away with Disability Living Allowance.

Great! Or not.

Don’t know why those on the left have such an emotional attachment to restoring the link between retirement pensions and earnings. It will cost an absolute fortune and will only help better off pensioners. Those worse off will merely see the lion’s share of the increase swallowed up by withdrawal of means tested benefits.

As there will no doubt be an agenda to keep overall welfare spending growth to a minimum (or cut?) this means that this increase in payment to the better off will be paid for by cuts to other groups such as the disabled and unemployed.

But of course pensioners are deserving poor and disabled people are being increasingly lumped in as spongers with unemployed people so the policy is nice and tabloid friendly.

There are much more useful places to spend the money.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  2. Sheryl Odlum

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  3. earwicga

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  9. Liberal Conspiracy

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  14. Have Libdems abandoned those most in need of help? « Dnmufc's Blog

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  15. Not much new on unemployment or job creation from coalition | Left Foot Forward

    […] academies’ will differ remains to be seen. Although ‘work pairings’ for young people – a dubious proposal whereby unemployed people would be paid significantly less than the naitonal minimum wage to work […]

  16. Lisa Vickers

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