Sunday, 20 March 2016

IDS PIP Squeak

Ian Duncan Smith, the quiet man of British politics has been led to squeak out over the Tories continued attacks on the disabled through their changes to PIP, the so called Personal Independence Payments. But, for all the noise and fury his comments and resignation from government has provoked in the weekend media, this is not going to be a case of the mouse that roared. It will just be one minor episode of a larger saga playing out over the coming months, one facet that exposes the fractures within the Tory party that will be torn apart by competing material class interests brought to the surface by the EU Referendum.

A few years ago, Paul Merton on “Have I Got News For You”, used to present IDS as two twins, quipping about Ian and Duncan Smith. In fact, it is appropriate, because listening to his complaints over Tory austerity, unfairness and attacks on the disabled one could be forgiven for thinking that this is not the same person who for the last six years has not only sat in Tory governments, that pursued such policies, but as the Minister in charge of the DWP, was actively engaged in implementing the worst excesses of those policies, and their terrible consequences for sick and disabled people! It is as though this is the “good” twin, speaking out to criticise the actions of the “evil” twin. As Jeremy Corbyn, quite rightly put it, “where has his conscience been on these issues for the last six years?”

In the 1970's, former Labour Chancellor, Denis Healey, promised to introduce measures that would “squeeze the rich until the pips squeaked.” Today that has been reversed by the Tory government, and Chancellor Osborne. Instead, in a desperate bid to shore up their core support, and for his own even narrower political motives, Osborne has arbitrarily handed yet more “helicopter money” to the already comfortable whilst squeezing the already desperate, the disabled, and the sick through his further attack on PIPs. The glaring extent of the arbitrariness and unfairness of Osborne's action was only part of the reason for IDS's resignation, but it is why that Budget has unravelled even faster than his previous omni-shambles budget.

A large part of the reason for IDS's resignation appears to be that for a long time he had been warning that the further cuts being demanded by the Treasury would not work. He was then forced to implement them anyway, and to publicly defend them, only to find that having done so, the government itself found itself under attack, and forced to retreat over the proposals, hanging IDS out to dry in the process. Its hard to see how any politician with any self-respect could not have resigned under such conditions. The fact, that having been put in that position, IDS as a Brexiteer, could then use the situation to slam Cam-borne, is probably just a secondary issue, and not the main consideration, as the Number 10 line, being parroted by people such as Ros Altman, has tried to portray it.

Corbyn's Labour Party should use this weakness to organise with disability rights groups and other welfare campaigners to take this to the streets to oppose the Tories unfair attacks. It should be combined with a campaign across Europe, for a set of common rights and benefits for all workers across the EU, funded from a central EU welfare budget. Of course, socialists do not believe that such social-democratic solutions offer any real alternative to workers themselves collectively ensuring their own social insurance, but, in the meantime, if we are to have social-democratic, welfarist solutions, then we should at least demand that they are provided on a rational, EU wide basis, and that they are provided in a fair and adequate manner. Social democrats like Corbyn and McDonnell, have a perfect opportunity here to unite with other social democrats such as those in Syriza, in Podemos, the Left Bloc in Portugal and so on, to mobilise workers across Europe, and in the meantime to present in the UK, a forward looking alternative for Europe.

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