It’s hardly surprising that Eddie Izzard, Alan Partridge and now even Russell Brand all want us to vote Labour. They are the people the modern Labour Party represents after all. Millionaires who feel a bit guilty about poverty and stuff but don’t want to change things too much. At least not so much that it might make an impact on their own cosseted lives.
Russell Brand will never face a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, the latest mass workfare scheme that Labour plan to introduce. He will not have his income capped and be socially cleansed from his fashionable address like the families who will fall victim to Labour’s planned regional Benefit Caps. He had his time dicking about on benefits when he was young, unlike the 18-21 year olds who will face their benefits being removed completely if Labour win power this week.
It is this last policy that tells us everything about the direction of any future Labour government and the so-called help they plan to inflict on the poorest. Labour are planning to do just what Margaret Thatcher did to 16/17 year olds and implement a mass YTS style scheme for everybody under 21. In return for the pittance of benefits young people will face full-time compulsory training. Last time Labour did something like this, Tony Blair’s New Deal, this training quickly became workfare. The truth is that’s all they can afford to do. Real training, which leads to qualifications, costs a lot of money. It’s far cheaper to pay private sector sharks like A4e to bully young people into unpaid work placements.
If the Tories had announced in 2010 that they were going to end benefits completely for those under 21 there would have been outrage amongst the mainstream left. The Guardian and The Mirror would have run scathing headlines and ordered us to sign a petition. Trade union leader Len McClusky would have given a speech. Russell Brand would have made a youtube video. And that by the way is as angry as the middle classes get about anything which doesn’t affect them directly.
Labour’s mass workfare plans go way beyond anything the Tory Party have pledged and yet they have still been met with hordes of gushing celebrities and newspaper columnists demanding that we vote for them. Anything to keep the Tories out – who don’t really seem to know what they will do in the unlikely event they actually win this election except that they will carry on being bastards And they are bastards. Horrible fucking arseholes in fact. It is understandable that so many people would like to see the smug smirks wiped off their faces if they lose power this week. But life will not change for the poor if that happens.
Sometimes having an enemy that is open in their intentions is better than a fake friend who will stab you in the back. There is no doubt that a bunch of shambolic toffs embarking on reckless austerity policies has brought the questions of class and inequality back into UK politics in a way not seen in two decades. The resistance to these policies has been well targeted and quietly ferocious – and it has not come from celebrities or Labour Party stooges.
That resistance is why there were less people on workfare schemes in the latest month’s figures than there were in the last period of the Labour Government. It is why the number of people found ‘fit for work’ at sickness benefit assessments has plummeted from 60% in May 2010 to an all time low of 24% in the latest figures available. It is why Atos, the company carrying out these tests, abandoned their contract as their name became a dirty word associated with cruelty and incompetance. Benefit claimants and disabled people themselves did this, whilst the official opposition stood slack-jawed on the sidelines.
The danger of a Labour Government is that these inept traitors will be silent no longer. It will be all of them, from the Labour Party to the Daily Mail, against us. The regional benefit cap will be a tough choice, but necessary, we will be told by the people who once said they were on our side. The reformed work capability assessment and further tests for disability benefits will be a beacon of compassion, getting help to those who need it most and killing off the scroungers. Compulsory jobs that pay less then the minimum wage will become exciting opportunities. And benefit sanctions will be fair and only aimed at really lazy chavs who refuse to get a job.
That is what a vote for Labour means. Consent for the bastards to carry on as usual. Popular permission to escalate the attacks on social security. For Russell Brand – who called himself a revolutionary five minutes ago – to endorse this is both treason and boringly predictable. It is astonishing and even quite funny that as soon as a rich person publicly denounces capitalism then the leader of a main political party dashes round their house and steers them gently back onto the path of neo-liberalism. But it is a tragedy as well, at least for those who may have felt inspired by Brand’s crude radicalism. His message, before Ed’s intervention, was essentially along the right lines. They are all fucking wankers and only in it for themselves. That includes Russell Brand as well it turns out. Never trust a hippy, especially a rich one.
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