Labour’s David Ellesmere has a predictable rant against Tory Government policy in his Ipswich Star column this week, but is he alienating floating voters and risking his campaign to win back Ipswich, now one of Labour’s top target seats?
His target is the Tory “Welfare Uprating Bill” that went through second reading in the House of Commons last week, meaning that working age benefit increases will be limited to 1%, rather than inflation as has happened in previous years.
The Government’s argument is that, at a time of national austerity when public sector wage increases are being limited to one percent it is unfair that those on benefits should receive increases of more than that. Labour counters that many of those in receipt of benefit are in work and that the majority of the savings are coming from those who are receiving tax credits.
Mr Ellesmere references David Miliband’s intervention in the debate, when the former Foreign Secretary called the bill “rancid”. Given that Mr Miliband’s intervention has been widely interpreted as a bid for Ed Balls’ job as Shadow Chancellor, it is somewhat a surprise to see such a friendly reception from Ipswich’s Labour leader.
Cllr Ellesmere says that the bill is “nasty” and “mean minded”. He claims that it represents a real terms cut in income, since inflation is higher than the rise in benefits. He claims that this shows that the “nasty party” are back. He also repeats the line that the Government are giving a £3 billion tax cut to millionaires, confident that if he repeats this lie often enough people will believe it – just like the lie he continues to repeat about Mr Gummer’s views on his ambitious council house building programme.
Cllr Ellesmere’s column is a little confused, because whilst he is eagerly attacking the Government for slowing the speed at which in work benefits like tax credits are growing, he then suggests that the best way to get people off benefits is to get them into work. He should be absolutely right about this, but because Labour spent thirteen years subsidising big business through wage subsidies like tax credits it is only those on very high salaries who would come off benefits. Indeed Labour are also against moves to stop millionaires receiving child benefit, although significantly Ed Miliband refused to say that cut would be reversed by any future Labour Government.
The Tories deliberately set a trap for Labour over the benefits uprating bill. A clear majority of voters believe that benefits are too high and that cuts to benefits should be made to help balance budgets, but also to remove a perception that there are people living a cushy life on benefits. The Tories calculation is that they can win the next election if they can make Labour look as though they haven’t yet learned the lessons of the recession; that spend spend spend is an illiterate economic strategy.
Labour believe that the Tories are wrong, and that once the cuts start to hit people that are what the Tories described as strivers, people will start to turn against them. Who is right or wrong with this calculation will probably determine whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband form the next Government in just over two years time.
Cllr Ellesmere also hits another problem in his analysis. The Welfare Uprating Bill was debated in the House of Commons last Tuesday, yet tomorrow night the council’s executive committee, which he chairs, will vote to raise council house rents by double the rate of inflation, taking hundreds of pounds off many of the most vulnerable in our town to ensure that the Housing Revenue Account still has enough money in it to pay for his political ambition to build more than 120 new council houses. Whilst the Tory bill will slow the rate at which benefits are growing, Cllr Ellesmere is taking a lot more out of the pockets of many of the same people.
He also supports the Labour Party’s new policy, the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee. Labour like anything that is compulsory these days, it seems, but there is a real problem here. The jobs, some 410 he claims that would be created by Government diktat in Ipswich, are minimum wage. They would be topped up by working age benefits. Yet Labour are supposed to support the Living Wage, a much higher rate. Surely there is a certain amount of hypocrisy there?
The other point worth making to Cllr Ellesmere is this: you claim that “millions of people, already struggling on the bread line, will see their incomes reduced.” Well this is just rubbish. You know, Cllr Ellesmere, that people on benefits will still get more money after April than they get at the moment. A real terms cut means that the spending power of the money they receive will be less, but in cash terms they will still receive more money. Nobody’s income will be reduced by this bill. Since we are charitable sorts here at Ipswich Spy, we won’t accuse you of lying, or of being stupid, we will instead suggest that you got carried away in writing your column. Maybe you’d like to alter the wording of the article you carry on the Labour Party website, and ask the Star to print a small correction next Monday!
Filed under: Campaign Activity, Government, Ipswich Borough Council, Public Sector Cuts Tagged: | Council House rents, David Cameron, David Ellesmere, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Ipswich Labour, Labour, Welfare Cuts, Welfare reform