The Labour leadership is getting its U-turns in early.
Labour is not going to wait two years to the next election before it backs off from commitments to poor and working class people.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has announced that Labour would accept the Tories’ spending limits for at least the first year of any Labour government.
He talked of “iron discipline” and “big and painful choices” for “a tough deficit reduction plan”.
All this sounds dismally familiar to millions struggling to survive under the Tories’ austerity attacks.
One of the cuts they would make is to pensioners’ winter fuel allowance for elderly people on higher incomes.
We are told that the imposition of austerity is the only way to get the country out of crisis. So it might seem sensible to stop wealthy people receiving a benefit.
But this move is an attack on the fundamental principle of universal benefits on which the welfare state was established.
It’s a principle that Balls was proudly declaring his support for as recently as January, saying “Universal benefits are an important bedrock of our society.”
Universal benefits reach more people who are entitled to receive help than any means tested benefits and they cost less to administrate.
Many people balk at filling out complicated forms and so get put off claiming money they should receive. Or they feel shame in asking for support.
Yet benefits should be seen as something that everyone can receive because we all pay into the system at different times.
There should be no feeling of shame in accepting them.
Cutting an allowance from some pensioners undermines the basis of the welfare state.
The people who most rely on the welfare state are the poorest in society.
Balls is trying to prove to the ruling class that Labour is fit to govern. Ed Miliband is set to follow up with a speech of his own this week.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did the same five months before the 1997 election when they committed to sticking to Tory spending targets.
They all want the bosses to see Labour as a safe pair of hands to look after the economy. This means vowing to hammer the poor.
Yet Labour would win more votes among its working class supporters if it promised to defy the Tories’ austerity plans.
We can’t wait for the next election or rely on Labour to stop austerity.
We will only stop it by fighting back through mass strikes and around campaigns such as the bedroom tax.
Labour should be supporting resistance to the Tories’ assault, not promising to continue it.
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