Socialist Worker

New Labour minister attacks unemployed

Issue No. 2032

Work secretary John Hutton

Work secretary John Hutton

Labour’s latest scapegoats are the unemployed. Long-term unemployed people could have their benefits cut – or stopped altogether.

Work secretary John Hutton said he wanted to end what he claims is a “can work but won’t work” culture, adding that society should “expect more” in return for benefits.

“For those who won’t do so, then there should be consequences, including less benefit or no benefit at all,” he said.

In an attempt to play off the poverty of the unemployed against the poverty of migrants, Hutton compared the long-term unemployed with new migrants to Britain.

“If workers from Poland can take advantage of these vacancies in our major cities – why can’t our own people do so as well?” he said.

It is a remarkable that a government which normally misses no opportunity to attack immigrants now finds them useful to attack the unemployed.

Disgracefully, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said of the proposals, “The TUC is pleased to see the government acknowledge that people who’ve been out of work for a long time do need special help to get them back into work.

“But yet again the talk of a crackdown on the workshy implies that all people on benefits have no intention of ever seeking work. We accept that there is a group of individuals who play the system, but the numbers are extremely small.”

The unemployed are not “workshy” or “benefit cheats”. They are victims of the economic policies of the government. The reality is that looking for work is already a condition of receiving the jobseekers’ allowance.

There are thousands of people existing in dire poverty, concentrated in unemployment “hotspots”, many don’t even appear on the official unemployment count.

There are thousands more in low paid jobs, and thousands more on unemployment benefit.

The unions should be standing up for all of them, not echoing the oldest lies about the “undeserving poor”.

In his speech Hutton said, “We need to ask whether we should expect more from some in return for the help we provide.”

Perhaps those unions who bailed out the Labour Party with an extra £500,000 donation at the end of last year should ask themselves the same question.

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Sat 6 Jan 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2032
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