This is a little emotional, so I apologise for the less than great writing. But I am feeling pretty emotional. This is the email I have just sent to my MP Harriet Harman.
As a fairly new constituent of yours, let me begin by saying I’m proud to live in this area (which I didn’t think I would be). It has a wonderful sense of community, and some lovely local small businesses like Anderson & Co cafe, and Fenton Walsh – you should be very proud of these places. I think you’ve done a lot to regenerate the area, so before I begin the rest of my email I wanted to offer some words of strong praise; it is easy to disregard the good things Labour did in power until you live in an area like Peckham Rye, or Liverpool, where my family all comes from, and remember how it was under Thatcher and Major.
And now on to the reason for my email. After voting Lib Dem in 2010 (I used to live in Simon Hughes’s constituency and found him to be an excellent MP), I have felt increasingly betrayed by their partnership with the Tories, and failure to take responsibility for their own decisions in government, until their support for the Welfare Reform Bill and the Health and Social Care Bill (neither being part of the coalition deal, I don’t think!) became the two final straws for me, and I am resolved to, probably, vote for Ken Livingstone as London mayor. People, as I’m sure you will know, if you engage with any campaigners, are terrified following the cruel changes to the welfare system like time-limiting ESA for anyone in the WRAG group. Coupled with cuts in legal aid for welfare cases, and a sneaky privatisation of the NHS, I really didn’t think I could be any more disgusted by the coalition.
And then, having read about Tesco employing people without a salary this morning, this evening, I read this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/16/disabled-unpaid-work-benefit-cuts
I want you to explain something to me, Ms Harman. I am one of these hard working taxpayers I keep hearing the government speak of with such respect. I earn just enough to pay a chunk of tax, but nowhere near enough for it not to matter to me. I am used as an excuse to cut housing benefits and turn people out of their homes. I am used as an excuse to replace DLA with PIP. I am used as an excuse to chuck rioters from their homes. I am used as an excuse to treat disabled people, mentally ill people, and sick people abysmally by subjecting them to ATOS tests, sometimes in buildings which don’t even have disability access. I am used as an excuse not to spend money on health and education. I am used as an excuse to deny “suspected” criminals their human rights.
And now? My taxes are being used to for corporate welfare!
This article from the Guardian above says that, for example, a cancer patient with more than six months to live could be forced on to such a scheme. My mum died of cancer. The idea that she would have had to spend her last months or years in this way makes me feel sick to my guts.
JSA for a week works out at about £1.50 an hour. We have a minimum wage for a reason. We should be putting this up to a living wage, not undercutting it. That is the way to get the benefits bill down; most benefits (housing for eg) for to people in work, on low incomes, to cover basic living costs. Undercutting wages will make my tax bill go up.
I am not even a “left winger” so to speak. I work in the private sector, and am fairly successful. I work hard. I believe in law and order, and personal responsibility. I pay my taxes, I pay my bills, I even (whisper it) grudgingly admire Tony Blair and at times Thatcher. I voted Lib Dem. I agree with chunks of the Orange Book. The reason I tell you this is to point out that the Labour party need to stop being terrified of looking left-of-the-government, as if that makes them ardent socialists. It doesn’t. The centre has not moved since the election, which the Tories lost because people did not believe they had “changed.” Gordon Brown was very unpopular, and Cameron could not even beat him. The Lib Dems have moved right, the Tories have moved right (or revealed their true policies which sadly surprise some), and common sense and decency is being desperately portrayed by the Tories and their allies in the press as radicalism, anti-business, and so on. But it’s not working. You have to stop being scared of looking left wing. This isn’t about left and right, or pro/anti business. It’s about using taxpayer’s money efficiently, creating jobs, and putting money into the economy instead of into the hoarding hands of corporate companies.
So what I’m saying is this. People like social democratic capitalism. They don’t want these policies.
The other day a woman came to me begging for money, help, anything, in the street, in Camberwell. She was desperate, starving and shaking. Her electricity has been turned off, her heating was stopped. She had a baby, she had a mental illness, she didn’t know where to go or how to get help. There are places, but services are being cut away for these people. People like this lady will never be profitable for a private, competitive, or “modernised” as they like to call it, health service. But some of them have already paid into the system, the system now being cut away when they need it in these difficult times.
Ed Miliband took the time to make a speech about chocolate oranges being sold in WH Smiths. People like chocolate oranges. People aren’t stupid, we’re capable of deciding how much chocolate to eat. What we can’t do is stop these policies that allow Tesco to get free Labour at my expense from becoming law. That’s what you’re there for. If Ed Miliband doesn’t stand up to this disgusting, regressive, corporate welfare that we are seeing then I honestly do not see how the Labour party can stand on any platform in the next election. What will be the point of you? Your record on civil liberties was grim and as for Iraq, I’m sure you know the public’s feelings on that. So Labour should not assume they will automatically get people’s votes, without earning them. The Greens already have one MP. You might want to consider how scared the Tories are of UKIP, who don’t have ANY MPs, and how much they pander.
You have a duty as Her Majesty’s elected opposition sitting in parliament to hold the government to account when they subvert the democratic will of their own people, and when they get it so plainly wrong on every level as this. It will crush jobs (why create a paid job if someone will do it for free?), it will undercut wages, it will inflate the benefits bill, it will keep money out of the economy so people don’t have money to spend in their local shops, we will see them collapse, and the only winner will be Tesco. I don’t remember Tesco, Asda, or RBS being on the ballot in May 2010. But it turns out they might as well have been.
I wish I could say I look forwards to hearing what action you, Mr Miliband, and the Labour party will be taking in parliament to oppose these disgusting work programs. But I don’t expect you to take any. I really hope I am proved wrong, though.