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War on poverty not on the poor

This article is over 23 years, 7 months old
Issue 1718

What we think

War on poverty not on the poor

NEW Labour has matched the Tories’ ridiculous authoritarian proposal to fine cannabis users. It announced plans to bash the homeless. The Rough Sleepers Unit, an unelected government quango, is to spend 240,000 of taxpayers’ money to instruct people not to give money to those who are forced to beg on the streets.

The campaign will be carried out by the Leith advertising agency, which has just won a 10 million contract to promote Carling Beer. Is this what New Labour meant when it promised to “target the poor”? Neither the Tories nor New Labour have a clue about the reality of most people’s lives.

How many homeless people could get somewhere to live with the 240,000 the government is spending on its crackdown on people forced to beg? Why doesn’t Blair use the money stashed in the government’s “war chest” to tackle homelessness by building, repairing and renovating homes for people who need them?

This is just the latest of New Labour’s authoritarian measures. At the recent Labour conference Blair spoke of a “zero tolerance of yob culture”. Now the government is set to extend its draconian curfew laws. Curfews can now be slammed not just on children under 11, but on teenagers up to the age of 15, who could be confined in their homes between 9pm and 6am. Any teenager, whether they are going to a youth club, sports training, music lessons, visiting friends, doing a part time job or just playing outside, could be picked up by the police.

The government will also give police and local authorities the power to designate whole streets or estates to come under the curfew. You can bet your life they won’t be targeting the playing fields of Eton or the streets of leafy suburbs, but working class areas and estates.

It precisely because of Tory and now New Labour governments’ failures to provide decent jobs, leisure and educational facilities that people have been forced to beg, steal or try to escape through using drugs. Instead of waging a war on the poor, the government should be waging a war on the poverty which is the root cause of both crime and drug addiction.

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