Will Jon Cruddas have the courage to deal with Labour’s Liam Byrne problem?


by Sunny Hundal    
10:21 am - March 21st 2013

      Share on Tumblr

In what was billed as one of his greatest speeches, Jon Cruddas said this a few years ago:

Yet even now there are many who refuse to face up to what has happened; people who feel that the result wasn’t so bad. That not much needs to change; we wait for the coalition to implode and sweep back into office. The politics of safety first, one more heave and business as usual.

It is a route map into the wilderness. This New Orthodoxy appears willing to camp out on the right flank of the coalition- witness the hits on the vulnerable.

An ex minister wrote last week of how we needed to ‘crack down on the welfare underclass’. Others argue for us to become the ‘anti immigration party’. A new kiss up, kick down politics that blames the victim.

There lies political death for labour.

No language, no warmth no kindness; no generosity, vitality nor optimism. No compassion. If you seek to outflank the coalition from the right, you will turn Labour into a byword for intolerance. But worse, you will fly in the face of what the public well knows – about who needs to pick up the tab for the crisis.

There’s something absurd – there’s no other word – about coming out of the crash and picking not on Bob Diamond, or Fred The Shred, or Philip Green, but people on welfare and struggling migrants.

Well Mr Cruddas, you are leading the Labour policy review now, and that Liam Byrne problem is staring you in the face.

I’ve had countless tweets over the last few days from Labour party members disgusted (and livid) at Liam Byrne’s stance this Tuesday in enabling IDS to pass his Workfare sanctions through. Byrne’s excuse that he only did it to protect the DWP’s right to sanction job-seekers is absolute rubbish – the court case and the Bill only related to a specific programme not the DWP’s overall powers.

Mark Ferguson writes today that many Labour MPs (outside the usual suspects) were also furious at Liam Byrne’s stance and rebelled against the front-bench line.

This is significant but not enough. The broader issue for the Labour leadership is to decide whether they want to go back to New Labour’s old triangulating ways or forge a new path on welfare. As Emma Burnell says, it a failed strategy that has never worked.

In other words it is a question and a challenge for Jon Cruddas: will he take on Liam Byrne’s failed policies of the past, or let him continue and take Labour into the ditch… again. The hope of many Labour party members (and lives of many others) depend on it.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Liam Byrne should be gently encouraged to join the Conservatives; his ideological home. This flirtation of his with Labour has been a bad marriage from the start, and would surely be welcomed by all sides.

Liam Byrne resembles Tony Bliar. Sent to infiltrate the Labour Party to move it away from it’s ideological foundations, or trash it completely. If the Labour Party do not do something about that despicable prick Liam Byrne, they’ll kiss goodbye to those 5 million lost voters, if they haven’t done so already.I fear it’s too late, the opposition’s silence, or vacuous comments about the issue, confirm to many of us what we already knew. Next labour=New Labour.

Liam Byrne should just leave a note on his desk saying ‘Sorry, there’s no credibility left’ and s*d off to the Tories or the FibDems.

4. Ladywebslinger

This is not the first recent article in recent days to lump this problem all into Liam Byrne’s lap. I assume if the whips were suggesting Labour MPs abstain, then this is the position of all the higher echelons of the party? Like many others I was utterly livid and disgusted at the position. I have voted Green for a few years and was seriously considering a return to the Labour party. Not anymore.

We did get this badly wrong, but it’s hard to see how the leader can dump a shadow minister for a policy he himself evidently signed off on. And it’s not as if the party has such an abundance of talent that it can cast off one of our more able MPs.

Liam Byrne did a perfectly good job of setting out Labour policy in the workfare debate.

Sunny, you use the phrase “Liam Byrne’s stance”. Do you imagine Ed Miliband and the rest of the Shadow Cabinet knew nothing about it? It is not Liam Byrne’s stance, it is the Labour Party’s stance. You’re entitled to disagree but turning your disagreement into a personal attack on one guy is unfair.

As Ladywebslinger, Jimmy and hobson all make clear, the idea that this is just Liam Byrne is frankly, laughable. Liam Byrne is now in command of the Labour whips then, because they were running around telling Labour MPs how to vote.

Fact is that Labour is bloody authoritarian when it comes to benefit claimants. Always has been really – except for a brief period of sympathy during the reign of the great witch circa 1979 – 1989. But even then, the emphasis was always on the idea of getting everybody off the dole back into dignified factory jobs. Lefties marching down the street chanting about the “right to work”. Scared the shit out of me they did. Thatch pretty much left everyone on benefits alone – it was, famously, a price worth paying.

My problem was that I left school when the witch got in, spent the whole of the tory years on the dole, learned how to enjoy myself without much money, learned the value of libraries etc. and then Labour got in and decided that I had to become a proud worker. Fuck that for a game of soldiers. I mean there’s 6 million people in this shit hole of a country who don’t have work, there’s probably about a million jobs – it’d be mean of me to take one of those jobs if somebody else wanted it more that me wouldn’t it? I’d be robbing them of their dignity and their right to work and all that.

Honestly, the prospect of work scares me so much that in 1997 I even considered running a local flyposting campaign using the slogan “VOTE CONSERVATIVE. ONLY THE TORIES CAN KEEP YOU UNEMPLOYED”. Couldn’t bring myself to do it though. Then came Blair, beacon to the world, a war, another war, yet another war, anti-terrorist laws, job interviews, serious attempts to get everybody to work for bugger all, and I half wished I had run my campaign. I say “half-wished”. I still couldn’t bring myself to vote for the fuckers, it would break my granny’s heart see.

So now I won’t vote for any of the fuckers. Ever again. Never. No way. They’re evil. All of them.

“So now I won’t vote for any of the fuckers. Ever again. Never. No way. They’re evil. All of them”

Thats actually the attitude that gaurentees they won’t listen.

The conversation usually goes like this:

“what shall we say about welfare?”
“well most welfare claimants don’t vote, and most daily mail readers do. So what we say needs to appeal to them rather than the non-voters”
“What? even if we are nice to people on welfare?”
“yes, they probably wouldn’t even notice it was us anyway”

9. Chrissy Hunter

Thoroughly discussing and disheartening of Labour when they should be taking the moral high ground on this. I will renew my lapsed Geeen party membership I’m afraid.

@ 8 Planeshift.

Sorry, wrong!

Tried that, all you get is a load of lies. The fact is that they’ve already decided what they want to do, it’s called an ideology.

Then they implement it. Doesn’t matter what they say, if they say they’ll help you, they’re actually trying to find a way to fuck you over. Look at party manifestos. Do they actually implement what they say in these? No.

And you, if you really believe that those tossers actually listen to a word you say, then you’re a mug. On the other hand, maybe you don’t believe that at all. Maybe you’re in one of the shabby friendship organisations known as “political parties”.

The Greens have proved, once again, that they are the only ‘serious’ opposition to the Tories. They have my vote, and I sooo wish that the unions would get behind the Greens and withdraw their funding from the party, who will no doubt just f*** the unions over, again, if they are elected in 2015.

Ed Moribund is too gutless to risk upsetting The Daily Mail and the New Labour tumour that remains but Byrne is one of those people who is utterly loathsome in his own right. He was heckled at the bedroom tax protest in Birmingham last weekend and there’s some footage of him dissembling like mad when questioned about his stance in allowing this dire legislation to be passed. Of course, if he was merely carrying out the orders of the high command he could have resigned on principle. Principles, remember those, they’re what politicians had before politics became a branch of showbusiness for those too talentless, stupid and ugly to get jobs in the real thing

13. Shatterface

Byrne’s rapidly becoming the whipping boy for the Labour Party bloghounds. He’s a dick but no worse than his colleagues.

Oh, and this:

Byrne’s excuse that he only did it to protect the DWP’s right to sanction job-seekers is absolute rubbish – the court case and the Bill only related to a specific programme not the DWP’s overall powers.

Why should the DWP have the power to sanction people? Shouldn’t benefits be based on need? So a father or a mother or a partner fails to prove they’ve been looking for work – and the whole family is made destitute.

14. Shatterface

Lefties marching down the street chanting about the “right to work”. Scared the shit out of me they did

Stop helping.

15. Cheesy Monkey

That Labour acted to preserve the sanctioning system shows that they haven’t looked very closely at it, if at all. Sanctioning is either broken or deliberately set out to be as unfair as possible. I’ve been unemployed since the end of January, but I haven’t received any JSA for nearly six weeks.

Why?

Because I committed the serious sin of getting a’developmental meeting’ date wrong.

I turned up at the allotted time on a Thursday, when it should have been a Tuesday. That simple mistake gets you a four week sanction, i.e., no benefits paid. I appealed, but was waived away with a “rules are rules” excuse. Now, I could have forced this all the way to tribunal, but in the current climate, what was the likelihood of success? Jobless=scumbag. Besides, it distracts one from, you know, looking for work.

I don’t qualify for any other benefits as I have the temerity to live with my fiancé who in turn has the outrageous cheek to earn a gold-plated fortune of £22,000 per annum. Who has her own debts to pay off. Still, I managed to get one day of work during this sanction period, which brought in just over the same amount of two-weeks JSA. But as thhe pay day for this job happened to be the day the sanction ended… my JSA has been stopped for a further week.

That’s not all: signing on today, I discover that the DWP, in all of its magnanimous consideration has zeroed my claim level – the per-week amount of JSA I am apparently entitled to. I telephoned Basildon Benefit Centre (as they deal with making such decisions) and was told they’ll “look into it” and get back to me no later than half past four. It’s five o’clock now.

One major problem with this broken system is that your local JobCentre now has no authority to determine your claim or what – if any – sanction you should get for a perceived transgression – it’s all determined by a separate office that has no interaction with the claimant… but plenty of pressure from the DWP. How many people when sanctioned for a period of time decided not to sign on anyway? Remember – if an unemployed person doesn’t sign on, he or she is not counted as unemployed. Now, how accurate are those jobless figures?

One more thing – this is my Contributions-based Job Seekers Allowance that is being withheld: in other words, my own fucking money. The DWP is perpetrating a massive scam at the expense of the jobless, and Labour is holding their hand, hoping to appear electable to the floating voter bigots. Same as it ever was.

My problem was that I left school when the witch got in, spent the whole of the tory years on the dole, learned how to enjoy myself without much money, learned the value of libraries etc. and then Labour got in and decided that I had to become a proud worker. Fuck that for a game of soldiers. I mean there’s 6 million people in this shit hole of a country who don’t have work, there’s probably about a million jobs – it’d be mean of me to take one of those jobs if somebody else wanted it more that me wouldn’t it? I’d be robbing them of their dignity and their right to work and all that.

Strangely, this Terry Eagleton piece was brought to my attention recently which contained this passage which you might find interesting:-

Marx’s goal is leisure, not labor. The best reason for being a socialist, apart from annoying people you happen to dislike, is that you detest having to work. Marx thought that capitalism had developed the forces of production to the point at which, under different social relations, they could be used to emancipate the majority of men and women from the most degrading forms of labor. What did he think we would do then? Whatever we wanted. If, like the great Irish socialist Oscar Wilde, we chose simply to lie around all day in loose crimson garments, sipping absinthe and reading the odd page of Homer to each other, then so be it. The point, however, was that this kind of free activity had to be available to all. We would no longer tolerate a situation in which the minority had leisure because the majority had labor.

Just a shame that nowadays we get the dilemma between working for money then having no time to enjoy it, or having plenty of time but having no money to enjoy it with.

@16 Cylux

Thanks for that. We were told that “silicon chips” were going to make work redundant back in the 70s. Someone with a lot to lose decided that masses of leisured folk educating themselves would be intolerable, it seems.

It’s really useful to be reminded that jobs aren’t everything. In fact there are many better things in life than selling your labour. Now that is something for us to aim for!

18. gastro george

“And it’s not as if the party has such an abundance of talent that it can cast off one of our more able MPs.”

The words “talent” and “Liam Byrne” should not be mentioned in the same sentence … except when the words “lack of” are also used.

So a Tory said the welfare underclass, and the Tories want to crack down on benefit cheats and Byrne and labours view was to abstain as, A, they had a point, and B, we couldn’t agree with it enough to vote against, as for Cruddascomment that he disagreed with the view that some said 2010 wasn’t so bad, I missed the bit Cruddas said that as he realises 2010 was bad, did that mean Cruddas feels we should go back to swinging to the left and have an 83 style manifesto, Sunny you may feel Cruddas was right to say 2010 was bad, but seeing as you didn’t even vote Labour in 2010 who are you to say that Cruddas should call for Byrne to go, as you’ve never supported labour enough to tell anyone who should decide labours policy,

1Helen alternatively you join SWP, if you want Byrne to join the Tories do you want him to take the millions of votes that Blair brought into the party with him,

21. Shatterface

If, like the great Irish socialist Oscar Wilde, we chose simply to lie around all day in loose crimson garments, sipping absinthe and reading the odd page of Homer to each other, then so be it. The point, however, was that this kind of free activity had to be available to all. We would no longer tolerate a situation in which the minority had leisure because the majority had labor.

Wilde was an anarchist, not a Marxist: The Soul of Man Under Socialism was inspired by Wilde’s reading of Kropotkin. (He wouldn’t have taken Eagleton very seriously either.)

Marx promissed us ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ Since most people’s abilities far outweigh their needs – not wants – that’s not much of a bargain. A slave gets their needs (food, shelter) met as reward for their best efforts.

Helen

You may not have noticed, but up here in Scotland we saw a while ago that all of the Labour Party have joined the Conservatives.

It’s probably the single biggest reason for voting ‘Yes’ in the coming Referendum.

Labour are the great betrayers of British Politics.

@21 I can’t help but wonder which need was fulfilled by horse whipping and raping slaves, tbh.

24. Planeshift

And so john Reid turns off his PC and, feeling smug, leaves the house for the pub. As he walks down the road he is swallowed up by a vortex. The vortex transports him back in time to March 1997, and he lands in the middle of a labour party meeting of party strategists where they are going through the first draft of the manifesto.

John apologises for disturbing the peace and explains what has happened. The labour party explain that the year is 1997 and John major is still in government, but the tories are as unpopular as ever. John replies that 16 years on things are pretty similar, with an unpopular tory government, but that after 13 years of labour rule, they are in a good position to regain power.

Ever one to spot an opportunity, Peter Mandleson hands him a copy of the draft manifesto asking him whether, as somebody living in 2013, he has any thoughts on what they can improve upon. Jokingly suggesting that perhaps they can pinpoint the reasons for the alleged success about to strike them. John carefully reads through it, ponders for a bit and then announces:

“You fecking idiots!. Elections are won by adopting policies tabloids want you to adopt. What the fuck is this? Ban on fox hunting? Windfall tax on energy companies? You think this class war is going to win you an election?”

“they’re pretty popular in the focus groups john…” Mandleson replies.

“…and as for this constitutional nonsnese. Signing up to human rights act? Devolution to Scotland and Wales? Freedom of information act? The public just don’t care about the constitution. What they want is to hear about the good things you’ll be doing over the next 13 years – like locking up the children of refugees in prisons, imprisoning muslims without trial, and removing disability benefits from terminal cancer patients. That’s the shit that wins you elections!”

“Um…john? Is that what we are really going to do if we win?”

@ 24 Planeshift.

That is brilliant. If you don’t already write short stories then you should start.

By agreeing with the Tories and Libdems on cuts nationally and locally, Labour is likely to drive its traditional supporters towards the extreme right, especially when all 3 main parties join the scapegoating bandwagon against unemployed and immigrants. Time they woke up before it is too late.

26 I thought that was a sort story, here’s an idea for another one, we get transported back to June 12 ,1983″ and Tony Benn says we lost as it wasn’t left wing enough,

28. Rexhip Arcan

@ John Reid

If you are a foreign gentleman could you please get a bilingual English speaker fluent in you native tongue to translate your post into a form that I could understand? Or, if you are a child, get a grown up to write out your thoughts in adult language?

Thank you.

Reggio, just ignore me of you don’t like what I say,normally the hard left ignore the facts, when they can’t answer the allegation that their views are electoral suicide,

“@21 I can’t help but wonder which need was fulfilled by horse whipping and raping slaves, tbh.”
To be fair I think Shatterface was rubbishing Marx and saying if it was that simple slavery would be OK. I may be wrong.
As for Labour getting in next election I doubt it because most the public would like to see the cuts and the ecomomy will improve.
Labour should support initiatives like surestart and get individuals out of the benefits trap through education.

“We did get this badly wrong, but it’s hard to see how the leader can dump a shadow minister for a policy he himself evidently signed off on. And it’s not as if the party has such an abundance of talent that it can cast off one of our more able MPs”
When you say “we”, are you Labour party member or are you taking the piss. Haven’t got you down as a leftie

Far more likely that Cruddas will support Byrne. I didn’t see Cruddas’ name on the list of those who voted against the Tories last week – he must have been one of the white-flag surrender monkeys.

Liam Byrne is a giant of a man, of great heart and courage, whose political genius and intellectual breadth spans the stars and will be revered for all time. Here is a man who sees what must be done and has committed himself to do it. Women wish they were with him and men wish they were him. Where Liam Byrne walks God walks. No greater genius has existed.

34. Planeshift

“I thought that was a sort story, here’s an idea for another one, we get transported back to June 12 ,1983? and Tony Benn says we lost as it wasn’t left wing enough”

Wrong. You lost in 83 because the right wing of the labour party split and set up the SDP. Which in a FPTP electoral system is suicide.

The 1997 election manifesto won you a landslide. It also had numerous policies most blairites would now reject as being too left wing.

“When you say “we”, are you Labour party member or are you taking the piss. ”

If you look at my posts you’ll see I’ve never seen the two as mutually exclusive. I’ve been a party member for 24 years. Unlike most here I am proud of the last Labour government and would like to see another one soon.

27

There is little doubt that the 1980s belonged to the neo-liberals, Thatcher could spin a good story about individual self-interest and the nanny state. By 1997, the electorate were well aware of what that really meant and they voted-in a Labour party which gave them even more neo-liberalism. Those who believe that Labour’s 1983 manifesto was the longest suicide note in history are deluding themselves, it was Blair’s toxic imput which slowly killed off Labour.

36

And presumably it was an electorate crying out for a radical left wing alternative which put Cameron in No. 10 and has the golf club wing of the BNP in third place in the polls.

Spoiler alert: I’ve heard this story before and I know how it ends.

37

Most elections are lost by the existing party in power rather than won by the opposition. The 1980s and 90s are another country which offered a two-party race, that doesn’t exist any more. Moreover, we now have three neo-liberal parties which goes a long way to explain why we currently have a coalition.

38,

Well that would explain Respect’s current run of success.

“Most elections are lost by the existing party in power”

The left certainly managed to shatter that pattern in the 80s

39

I wouldn’t call Respect a neo-liberal party, but it’s success in Bradford West both in the bi-election and council elections should send a clear message to Labour. This seat was Labour since 1974, and like many other constituencies in west and south Yorkshire, the Labour vote is dwindling at a speed of knots. Labour have managed to hold-on to seats because of the old faithfull, how long that will last is questionable. Getting rid of Byrne will have little consequence to the voting in said areas

40

As I have already stated @36, the 1980s belonged to neo-liberalism, that experiment has been shown to fail badly.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Courage | Make everyday Outstanding

    [...] Will Jon Cruddas have the courage to deal with Labour's Liam Byrne … http://liberalconspiracy.org/Yet even now there are many who refuse to face up to what has happened; people who feel that the result wasn't so bad. That not much needs to change; we wait for the coalition to implode and sweep back into office. [...]

  2. Labour’s unity is skin-deep | Black Triangle Campaign

    [...] wrote Sunny Hundal on the Liberal Conspiracy website. [...]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.