Wednesday, 18 January 2012

UK Labour Critiques Welfare

Intriguing Developments

When conservative political parties turn mushy and move to the centre to make themselves more electable, left wing parties sometimes force themselves to face up to reality.  Ironically this can mean they adopt traditionally right wing ideas.

Something like this may be happening in the UK right now.  Labour, out-mushed by the Conservative-Liberal coalition, is starting to rethink social welfare.  The idea that the state should fund life-style benefit dependency in perpetuity is coming under Labour critique.  Leading the charge is the shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne.  The Guardian reckons that Byrne is leading a significant redrawing of Labour's position on welfare.

Three things are in Byrne's sights:

the spiralling housing benefit budget, benefits for long-term unemployment, and the lack of proper incentives to reward responsible long-term savers as three key flaws in the current welfare state.
He is looking at term limits for unemployment benefits.   He wants to return to the original welfare state concept which was help for those temporarily out of work.

How much traction it will have within UK Labour is not clear.  Probably not much.  Attempting to return to the original principles of welfare is not going to cut it.  Those principles went the way of the dodo decades ago.  Now, welfarism is underpinned by an ideology of human rights.  If the UK were to have a thorough debate over that fatally flawed idea we would be more positive about the prospects of change. 

But, it's a start.  We shall see. Eventually the UK welfare state will run out of other people's money.  Then a more serious conversation will begin.  Probably not in our lifetime.

No comments: