Labour’s Workfare Shame – A New Low For the Party That Pretends to Care About the Poor

clegg-cameron-milibandIn a sad, but unsurprising move, Labour yesterday abandoned any support for the poorest by allowing Iain Duncan Smith’s retrospective workfare legislation to pass into law virtually unimpeded.

The nasty little bill rushed through Parliament by IDS means that money illegally taken from claimants who were wrongly sanctioned will now not be paid back. This shocking move, which has even appalled right wing think tanks*, means there is no longer any real point in taking the government to court as they can simply backdate changes to the law – seemingly with cross party support – to avoid any consequences resulting from their crimes.

The Labour Leadership could have stalled the timing of this bill until it had proper scrutiny. They could at the very least have voted against it. But instead they chose mass apathy, with just 44 Labour MPs defying Liam Byrne and voting with their consciences.

In a squirming piece on the Labour List website, Byrne claims that benefit sanctions were ruled illegal simply because Iain Duncan Smith bungled the legislation when he introduced workfare. The truth is that this is only half the story as Byrne himself well knows.

The judgement which ruled many workfare schemes, and the benefit sanctions which resulted from them illegal, was about much more than poorly drafted laws. The Appeal Court judgement also slammed the information given to claimants as inadequate, warning it was “unclear and opaque” with one judge stating “the answer to my mind is plainly that there could be no question of sanctions being validly imposed if no proper notice of the sanction consequences was given.”

Simply put, claimants were not given the correct information about what would happen if they didn’t attend workfare. And many lost vital benefits as a result, plunging them into immediate poverty and in some cases probably facing homelessness.

Many claimants have learning disabilities or difficulties with literacy. Some do not speak English as a first language. When Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) was introduced, the Social Security Advisory Committee, who scrutinise welfare laws warned (PDF):

“Evidence from the Department’s Equality Impact Assessment and DWP research shows that ethnic minority claimants and those with a learning difficulty tend to be disproportionately sanctioned for not actively seeking employment. This, alongside other societal factors, could lead to these groups being disproportionately referred to this scheme and, as a consequence, at even greater risk of sanction.”

These are the people Labour yesterday enabled the Tory Government to steal money from. The most marginalised and poorest claimants, who despite the difficulties they face are now expected to second guess what information from the DWP really means or face losing money they are entitled to. If any other group in the country were treated so disgracefully there would be an outrage. But when the government steals money from those with virtually nothing, who face countless other difficulties in their lives, the Labour Party stands back and does nothing.

Despite their crocodile tears over the bedroom tax, Liam Byrne has sent a clear message to those with least. They will all too happily exploit the suffering of the poor if they think there might be a few votes in it. But when it suits them Labour will turn a blind eye when the Government robs those with least of what little they have.

There is no real difference at all between Labour and the Tory Party on social security reforms. Labour introduced workfare, Atos, and their own bedroom tax for private tenants after all. And as for the Lib Dems fake commitment to civil liberties, they have just allowed a bill to be passed that would make most tin pot dictators blush.

For those who have never trusted Labour, or any other shiny faced class traitor with a cheap suit and a manifesto, their utter contempt for those with least will be of no surprise. Even those dwindling few who thought Labour offered even a glimmer of hope will have had those hopes dashed. The Labour front bench, alongside the bulk of the party, are every bit as committed to banker imposed austerity and the resulting war on the poor as the toffs in the cabinet. And as for any change of heart on civil liberties since Blair’s totalitarian tendencies, well yesterday showed that even that is a sham.

As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare an online blockade of poverty pimps A4e has been called today (20th March).  Join in at:

*As pointed out by @revstu on twitter, the original version of this post on the Civitas website has ‘been disappeared’.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

63 responses to “Labour’s Workfare Shame – A New Low For the Party That Pretends to Care About the Poor

  1. With this sort of track record I wonder how long it will be before IDS realises the benefits of retrospective legislation in other areas. Just think if he could make protests against WCA, ATOS and DWP illegal from 2 years ago! What a happy bunny he would be.

  2. Labour betrayed the country by propping up this banana republic style outrage but this goes deeper than #workfare sanctions this is the rule of law. If they can steal money from their citizens they can enable themselves to do anything they wish. They have just sent €1 million to lend the troops in Cyprus, was this part of the dirty money, the £130 million they stole from the #workfare #martyrs

  3. after this cop out I will never vote Labour again they should hold their heas in shame

  4. Can we finally explode the long held myth that labour cares about the poor they care of nothing but their nasty privileged selves, something their flunkies cant fathom..

  5. “There is no real difference at all between Labour and the Tory Party on social security reforms.”, I beg to differ, kind Sir, the parties wear different coloured rosettes – red for Labour and blue for Tory – so to say there is no difference between the parties is a gross distortion of the truth. Top ‘o the morning to you.

  6. More evidence here to suggest there won’t be a 2015 election, just a broadening of the Coalition to include the Labour Neoliberals.

  7. No doubt the Labour party will be coming out with old slogan, “It’s time for change” at the next election.

    This is how extremists come to power.

  8. I have been sent a leaflet by the housing association that if I want to claim help with the bedroom tax I have to fill in a twelve page form and undergo financial service classes as part of the package or my application will be withdrawn. applications have to be renewed after 6 months.

    • … just like Nazi Germany!

      • There is one small and very important difference though. The National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler DID create REAL JOBS and got Germany out of its depression and that is something Tory and Labour fuckwits will never mange to achieve. That is why Hitler was very popular before 1939!

  9. PS. The people jv, with learning difficulties that you keep pointing out as the ones subjected to workfare, are those that have behavioural problems i.e. refuse to follow orders.

  10. are people on jsa going to get fucked over today ? and is that universal credit thing 100% going to happen ?

    • Universal Credit will not happen. It’s being piloted in four areas in April, for single people, with most of the work done by clerical staff using spreadsheets because the Real Time System and Atlas System aren’t working properly. In fact neither the RTS or Atlas will ever work properly. Eventually Universal Credit will crash and burn or end up mostly as a paper based system much as the things we have now.

  11. labour shame not a bit of it it’s more like TREASON the bastards

  12. I certainly will never vote Labour they do nothing but stand by and allow the Nazis to humiliate the people. There is no voice for the people in the parties. How can this Government over rule the Judgement? They cannot be allowed to get away with this. They should be ashamed of themselves stealing from the poor.

  13. The labour party has been hijacked by middle class leeches, in it to win it, i.e. the public purse for themselves like all of the political class, we could do without the lot of them.

  14. “……has even appalled right wing think tanks, means…….”

    Jonnyvoid. The article referred to has changed, the original can be found here:


    • I wonder whether, as part of a democrtatic society-we could likewise demand a retrospective legal change and prevent all politicians from claiming expenses for their second homes, toilet roll holders and duck houses. And maybe if that was paid back-with a freeze also on their pay till they sort the country out-we could all have less chance of losing anymore cash xx

  15. Pingback: Labour's Workfare Shame - A New Low For the Party That Pretends to Care About the Poor | SteveB's Politics & Economy Scoops |

  16. I am not on Facebook. On the assumption that the day of action against A4greed includes sending some e-mails I have sent Mr. Dutton ( a few pics. Hope it doesn’t fill up his in tray.

  17. Worried Pensioner

    George Osborne: “State pension will be worth £144 a year.” A YEAR?!

    • That presumably means an increase of £144 a year, not that it will only be £144 in total a year. Although with this bunch of Nazis in power, you never know! 😉

  18. what sort of pension is that, the “the Robert Maxwell pension?”

  19. Landless Peasant

    Disgusting useless twats. Fuck you Labour, you won’t be getting my vote.

  20. Why not face it – nobody cares. Well that’s not quite true, a handful and scattering of people do. That is why we are here on this page. But there is no political party who is going to take care of the poor, the disabled and sick. The above mentioned are busy accusing each other of ripping off benefits and getting more than they do. (Heard this myself this morning on the radio. Accusations of greed motivated by envy and jealousy is painful listening when focused not on the rich but on the poorest members of society, in many cases made to one another by those same people). There is no solidarity in the hardest hit groups, no strong political motivation for change, no political party to help. The media are all on side with the government, the nation is divided. Mission accomplished.

    What are we supposed to do next election? Get out the conservatives and put labour back in? For more of the same? There will be no mass demos on the streets or show of outrage. Even if they were to happen, people will be scooped up by the police on horses and water cannon and removed. But that’s hypothetical because people don’t care enough to do that anyway.

    This is how we can expect it to be from now on. When enough people die, and if they are visible enough then you will have the chattering classes noticing the stink at their feet and some support and some care will slowly build up again, and they will receive knighthoods for their efforts. That is many many years away. Until then we are all of us on our own. We had all better find a bit of raft to cling on to before we go under.

    No, there is no such thing as society, because we the people who make up the bones of it, disbanded it. That is what that crazy lady Thatcher always meant and was always wilfully misquoted on – easy to do to a figure of hate, but lazy thinking or manipulation for their own ends. Society does not exist (in and of itself) individuals do. Until and unless those individuals (all of us) group together and build up the tenets of what we recognise as society and are united in empowering all of it’s members, there is no such thing as society. Right now ours has fallen apart, we have no consensus as a society any more.

    • “There is no solidarity in the hardest hit groups, no strong political motivation for change, no political party to help.”

      It’s politics and the political party system that are the root cause of all this misery and you want to create another one!

      A new order is needed. I just wish I knew what that order is and how to bring it about.

      • That ‘new order’ is politics too. And just as up for and as liable to be corrupted as any other form. It’s all politcs, call it whatever name you will. People steal from each other to give to themselves. They either do it from the onset or are corrupted by their own power.

  21. As I’ve stated before , Lab/Lib/Con/UKIP scratch the surface & they’re all the same underneath, greedy, grasping & with utter contempt for those with the least.

  22. Was a D-notice slapped on the reporting of the governments contempt for the rule of law to “protect the national economy”, how long before welfare recipients are exterminated to protect the national economy?

  23. Pingback: Strangely Perfect The End of British Law – They’re All In It Together. | Strangely Perfect

  24. Social Justice & Equality
    It doesn’t matter whether you believe that the particular group of unemployed people that were thrust into destitution for refusing to comply with Iain Duncan Smith’s unlawful mandatory work schemes are deserving of compensation or not. The bigger issue is whether you agree with the principle of retrospectively applied laws and the dangerous precedent that would be set

    Hoping that Another-Angry-Voice will write a Article
    It is about time tenants were told exactly what their rents are funding, and indeed how much community enjoyment is funded off of the backs of tenants. This subsidisation of the community by tenants has been going on for too long, under the carpet, whilst the reverse has been accepted as the common truth.

    These surplusses are excess rents, service charge, and staircasings paid by tenants clearly in excess of the cost of provision of housing and housing management, and of course all those extra community benefit and social services

  25. Why the media blackout on this retrospective bill being passed last night? Could it be that it is so shameful an example of human rights being broken they would rather not advertise it to the world? Much of the London media set is in the money, they don’t like paying taxers (hence all the self employed fiddles) and and and don’t really care about the plebs being wacked. Notice ven the ones who pretend to be sympathetic to to plight of ordinary people never ask the telling question that cuts through nonsesne spewed by politicians.

  26. Katherine Perlo

    The real problem is that the court shrank from ruling against workfare on human rights grounds. Yes, people should have been properly informed, but more importantly, the thing they should have been informed about shouldn’t have existed.
    The separate issue of the rule of law is also important. As the Civitas article points out, the ancient principle that retroactive laws are inadmissible, a principle also endorsed by European human rights law, can be freely trodden on because of various features of the U.K. governmental system. I guess you can summarize the position regarding the rule of law in Britain is that there isn’t any.
    So when people have finally had enough and all hell breaks loose, they won’t be able to complain about lawlessness; they started it.

    • @ Katherine,
      I think it because so many countries, including EU, have such schemes which are in the hands of big business that the court sharnk away from the blindingly obvious conclusion that “work for nothing for companies like Poundland or lose all means of subsistence” is a form of forced labour which is indeed illegal. That IOL rule was introduced in the early 1950’s because the Nazis used “voluntary” labour (based on Weimar precedents) long before the extermination camps started the industrial killing. OK we don’t have the extermination camps but we most indeed do have the forced labour. I know that the USA withdrew from the ILO for a period because it was becomming “too socialist” before rejoining again. Socialism=Communism=Evil in a brainwashed society and all this was a preamble to Clinton introducing Workfare (based on antecendents going back a while) and the rest of the world following, the same way we jumped to the tap of the baton and destroyed Iraq.

  27. The so-called “Labour” Party is, was and always will be an out-and-out capitalist outfit dedicated to preserving the wealth and privileges of their ruling class masters. Why it has taken so long for some of their erstwhile supporters to grasp this, baffles me.

    We live in a plutocracy not a democracy.

  28. As abhorrent as labour are. I think there are more than enough people within their supportive electorate who are completely oblivious to how reprehensible they truly are.

  29. Pingback: Labour's Workfare Shame - A New Low For the Party That Pretends to Care About the Poor | Welfare, Disability, Politics and People's Right's |

  30. Rosemarie Harris

    We can change who we vote for so far all the main parties are awaste of effort no point in voting for ukip their policy’s are again using the unemployed as the “kicking boy”. i have sent a email to labour about the disgusting treatment of unemployed by not even bothering to vote.
    I also sent a email to unite afterall if you are in a union your subs are used to help the labour party,F*** the labour party we need people to stand against these parties and i am sure many would do a better job of it but it needs to be orgainsed now ,go through the union if a member etc. I won’t ever vote labour again ever i need a person’s party to vote for only we can change this.
    I think the unions should give our money to people who want to stand for M.P’s.
    If in unite send your voting slip back and vote for the canidate that is challenging the old order. This is the start.

  31. Owen Jones in the Independent on Labour’s betrayal:
    The heroic, and true Labour MP John McDonnell’s brilliant speech in the Commons yesterday:

    • Has this man forgotten Labours demonisation of welfare recipients, opportunistic hypocrisy a political sop for welfare recipients and the sanctioned to choke on.

  32. Pingback: Leveson, Workfare: Labour’s Double Betrayal | Max Dunbar

  33. Maybe we should set up a left wing party, but at least partly because of our voting system,it would be lucky to get 500 votes.

    • It is time for all of those members of the electorate who can’t stand the utter failures of the Lib/Lab/CON party to get off their knees and say to the Lib/Lab/CON you can’t keep-on denying the British people a chance to have a REAL democracy in this country (ie PR) We should have marches, demonstrations and non-payment of taxes until the Establishment realise that they must give us a electoral reform referendum with at least one if not several PR options on it. The rallying cry of the American Revolution was ‘no taxation without representation’ and we should emulate that at home.

  34. Pingback: Labour’s Workfare Shame – A New Low For the Party That Pretends to Care About the Poor | Black Triangle Campaign

  35. Pingback: The Name May Change, But Disdain for the Poor Remains the Same | DaveD's Blog

  36. Please sign the petition to have this retrospective legislation overturned:

    If anybody thinks that this was a Liam Byrne only issue then read what the Guardian has just reported:
    “Senior members of the shadow cabinet were obliged to follow the instruction to abstain from the Commons vote. Following a briefing from Ed Miliband at Monday’s meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, they had been warned that anyone who stepped out of line would be sacked.

  37. Skint jobseeker Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill
    “The Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes)
    Bill is the latest in what seems to us to have become an undesirably long line of recent fast-track legislation, following as it does the Loans to Ireland Act 2010, the Police (Detention and Bail) Act 2011, the Mental Health (Approval Functions) Act 2012 and the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Act 2012.
    In several of these instances we have reported concerns to the House and, with regret, we are compelled to do so again now.
    The frequency of fast-track legislation is a matter of growing concern
    to us.”
    “New Regulations have already amended the law prospectively,and any retrospective effect of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the Reilly and Wilson case is suspended pending the Government’s application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
    For these reasons, we are unable to agree with the Government’s assessment that it was necessary for the Bill to be fast-tracked.
    We note that the judgment of the Court of Appeal was handed down on 12
    February 2013. The new Regulations referred to in the previous paragraph
    were laid by the Government at 6.15 pm that day and came into force at 6.45 pm that day. Yet it then took the Government four weeks to introduce the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes)
    Bill into Parliament. It is not clear why the Bill should be time tabled to complete its parliamentary passage in three sitting days when the Government allowed themselves four weeks to
    introduce it.”

    Click to access 155.pdf

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