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06/06/2013 - Benefits cuts: Will Labour be any different?

It doesn't look like Labour has any intention to reverse ConDem cuts. Back in January 2012 shadow chancellor Ed Balls said in a newspaper interview that "we are going to have to keep all these cuts".

Labour condemned the coalition's cuts to child benefit for higher earners and that the move was unfair and unjust.Yet the BBC have reported:

"A future Labour government would not reverse cuts to child benefit made by the coalition, the BBC has learned.

"Labour has criticised the cuts, but its leadership believes it could not afford the £2.3bn needed to reverse them.

"On Thursday, party leader Ed Miliband is due to say he supports capping the amount the next government will spend on welfare benefits."


On child benefit specifically, a senior Labour source told the BBC's Nick Robinson, "we have other priorities".

 

Today in a speech in Newham, Ed Miliband set out welfare policies including the means-testing of child benefits and contributory welfare measures. Exactly what the BBC had predicted.


It seems that Labour has abandoned any idea of universal benefits, first illustrated by their stance on winter fuel payments and now on child benefit. They are now effectively supporting means testing.

 

Labour have failed to understand that universality is a mechanism for maintaining support for the redistributive welfare state as a whole. The next step for the ConDem coalition once they have established the principle of means testing for benefit payments will be to use it to argue against the provision of universal services. Expect advocacy for creeping means testing for services like the NHS, schools, Sure Start centres and public transport (at least for pensioners).

There seems little to choose between Labour, LibDem and the Tories on benefit cuts. Labour are not putting forward argument against the principles that underly ConDem cuts. Even if Labour win the next election the misery for ordinary people will continue.