Red Alert

UK Labour rethinking welfare state

Posted by on January 3rd, 2012

Liam Byrne is having a look at some sacred cows in an article in today’s Guardian :-

Labour is calling for a radical rethink of the welfare state, arguing that the benefits system has betrayed its founding principles and “skewed social behaviour”.

In a significant redrawing of Labour’s position on welfare, the shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, on Tuesday argues that the ballooning of the system has provided support that is unearned, and mislaid the original ideal of providing help to those that contribute.

Heralding a series of speeches over the next few months designed to mark out new territory for Labour, Byrne claims the party must recast the welfare state to meet the original intentions of its founder, William Beveridge.

72 Responses to “UK Labour rethinking welfare state”

  1. Quoth the Raven says:

    SPC – Unless you think higher returns to capital in the west is a moral bad in and of itself I’m struggling to see what your concern is. We should expect higher returns to capital in the west as a result of globalisation (but only fleetingly). Conversely, we would expect lower returns to capital in developing nations (and rising wages). We might expect this to increase inequality in the west. Although the evidence that this is happening is conflicting and contradictory. For instance, individual income inequality in the US has been flat for almost two decades. However, any change in inequality that may occur in the west is far outweighed by the truly colossal decrease in inequality globally as hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people are lifted out of poverty.

    Global poverty has been halved since 1990. No UN development programme, no humanitarian campaign, no “war on poverty” is remotely capable of achieving what trade liberalization and globalization have. In the face of those once impoverished millions your moral indignation at capitalism would strike most as presumptuous.

  2. John W says:

    The neo-con arguments go nowhere but further down the tubes.

    The picture is much changed when a perspective is real in terms of where humanity and the accumulated legacy of the power brokers is heading us.

    Put aside the cornucopian illusion.

    Economists quoted do not take into account many more important things than the money they are wedded to.

    Ballooning population which should be our first priority to attend. We just don’t need more people as long term growing number will degrade long term human prospects for future generation. Talk of growth is a mantra of ignorance. Overshoot happened some time ago.

    Diminishing natural resources on which we have based the recent growth from 2 billion to 7 billion in a lifetime of over exploitation of the world we live in.

    The human condition is not a feature in modern economic fundamentals.

    Earth’s damaged biosphere which will not be ignored no matter what misinformation is promulgated by the business world and their paid lackies.

    Social cohesion is needed for intelligent planing of change and adaption of the old ways of exploiting and destruction.

    That requires curbing of the rampant gamblers who are often referred to as the 1%, a term which has come to mean a lot more than its literal statistical interpretation.

    No all are able to empathise with a cross section of society and that lack of capacity may be related to their upbringing and life experiences, or more fundamentally an inbuilt inability which is a part of their fabric.

    The cost of welfare is much less than the costs of reducing such. Motivation and opportunity as well as fairness need to be fostered.

    Everyone need a stake in society

  3. hellonearthis says:

    Good point KRT, “Cactus Kate would not be a highly paid lawyer, if she had been born in a third world country, because her family would not have been able to afford her education.” Especially since she is a girl child.

  4. Tracey says:

    It’s interesting to note how many posts are made to “welfare” threads compared to other threads. Everyone (on all sides) is an expert on welfare and what’s wrong, less focus on step by step how to change accompanied by examples of consequences – this is where looking at other societies can be useful.

  5. Tracey says:

    “More typical leftist nonsense here. Not even from Labour voters but those left of. I’ve never suggested half the twaddle assumed here. I bet from people who’ve never left the suburb they live in let alone travelled to other countries to see how well off nZ is. ”

    See below for translaton

    More typical leftist nonsense = people who don’t agree with my rightness again

    Not even from Labour voters but those left of = I think I know how everyone here votes

    I’ve never suggested half the twaddle assumed here. I bet from people who’ve never left the suburb they live in let alone travelled to other countries to see how well off nZ is = people who can’t afford to travel need to listen to people like me because my opinion is much more valuable OR I can belittle an opinion by telling myself and others that those disagreeing with me are provincial, almost hicks, so their opinion doesn’t matter OR not living on top of a Dump as both your source of food shelter and income removes your right to disagree with me, even though I have never lived atop one either OR Just agree with me and cut everything short

    I’m always intrigued when people suggest that we should set the bar of “aspiration” (about which they usually have so much to say) so low as to suggest our goal is reached by virtue of the lack of Dump tenants. rarely are those speaking such words from low income jobs or ever been requiring a benefit.

    let’s remove everyone from a benefit who is a “bludger”, would appreciate some definitions, because we need to them to filter, that will reduce our welfare bill by whatever amount relates tot he number determined by the filter, then more jobs will be available. have I got the argument right?

  6. SJW says:


    The comments you are making are supported in this following article under the heading “A Crisis That Need Not Have Happened.”

    I quote the start of it here:

    “Yet, of course, during periods of boom no-one (let alone the financial institutions and their supporting ideologues and politicians largely believed to be responsible for the bulk of the problems) would want to hear of caution and even thoughts of the kind of regulation that many are now advocating. To suggest anything would be anti-capitalism or socialism or some other label that could effectively shut up even the most prominent of economists raising concerns.”

  7. SJW says:

    Cactus Kate ,

    I do not accept your comparing of third world/developing countries with developed ones.

    Each type is at a different point of development. Growth is not hard to achieve when a country is developing. The problems developed countries are facing are the requirement of continual growth and the more pressing problem of the growing gap between the wealthiest and poorest in each country.

    It would be useful if people promoting austerity and free market ideologies investigated the effects of these approaches on ‘the gap’ and the effects that a disparity in income within a country creates before they complain about people supporting ‘left’ policies. It may be that people with left wing views are promoting more progressive beliefs than those holding right wing views. Right wing views appear to lack understanding of the subject.

  8. SJW says:

    Cactus Kate,

    I also do not consider it accurate to refer to NZ as ‘the top 1%’ on two counts

    1. It is factually incorrect; we are not, as a country in the top 1%

    2. The top 1% “philosophy” is about individual wealth and the influence that individuals in this category are having on the greater good. I consider that referring to a country-a group of individuals- to be a faulty understanding of both the definition and of the ideas surrounding the need to define this group. If all individuals in the country met the levels of wealth required to be in the 1% such a statement would me more correct, yet it would still omit real understanding of the ideas surrounding the defining of the top 1%.

    Such ideas are, as I understand it, to raise awareness that those with the most influence on a country’s political approach are in this group—our leaders, individuals and corporations (legally viewed as individuals) These individuals continue to lobby for and/or apply political approaches which cater solely to their self interest, in doing so, is leading to larger and larger numbers of people into greater poverty and distressing circumstances.

    I suggest you read a few modern articles on what ‘the top 1%’ means and why this group have become such a topical subject if you wish to develop a better understanding of why people are expressing criticism of right wing approaches and also to discontinue from getting your facts wrong.

    I also suggest to you that exaggeration to make your viewpoint appear more credible is not an effective way of getting people to ‘come around’ to your way of thinking. I guess that is what you have to resort to when you hold ideologies that are faulty.

    As others in this blog discussion have mentioned regardless of wealth’s presence in a country, it is the distribution of it, which is the source of problems for developed countries.

  9. John W says:


    I take from what you have said that you have made an assumption that reason is a determinant in political argument. Good for you and I agree that it should be always.

    Your words and sentiments may well fall on deaf ears attached to a right wing head containing little ability to look at what is good for community and populations generally.

  10. SJW says:

    John W,

    Lol excellent you have spotted my weakness so very quickly (belief in reason as a determinant in political argument) I acknowledge the approach I take is somewhat irrational due to the point you so succinctly make, however will continue to plug away…you never know…someone’s views might eventually soften….or better yet politicians might be reading these blogs and something one of us writes might actually encourage them to do something that actually helps our society.

    Yeah, yeah, I know pigs may also fly.

    For those of you more psychopathically inclined, check this out:–they-are-still-occupying-positions-of-power-6282502.html

  11. al1ens says:

    Those on benefits are always bashed during periods of economic downturn.
    It has become a way of venting for those doing it tough with just two or three rental properties to their names and only a bmw in the garage instead of a couple of mercedes.

    Of course their are bludgers on benefits. Why wouldn’t there be? It’s a human trait afterall.
    There are bludgers getting undeserved $1000pw tax cuts. There are property speculators paying 0% tax on profits, and some, who used trusts to avoid paying their fair share of income tax, even got rewarded with a lower top tax rate instead of being forced to face up to their responsibilities as fair minded New Zealanders.

    Yes, the benefit system needs changes, but the sad underlying fact remains that in 2012 NZ, we have huge numbers relying on the state.
    I don’t care if the Uk and NZ Labour parties make efficiency savings changes to the system and/or seek better ways to train and assist people back to employment, but the bottom line should always be people, especially children, before money.

    If it makes all the ‘discontent from Ponsonby’ happier knowing their tax dollars aren’t being missued, pay bills, rents and mortgage payments etc… Directly to landlords, banks and utilities companies. All the info is needed by winz to sign on, so shouldn’t be too hard to setup.
    What’s left, the food money, can go on the plastic card to be used as they are now.

    Of course in reality it’s all fiddling while NZ burns.
    If those that seek to relish punishing the unemployed really wanted to get their own back on the ‘workshy’, rather than gullibly following the governments wait and hope for jobs ‘plan’, force the issue and put pressure on key/english to create real jobs with living wages and really bash the dolies where it hurts.

    Labour = more jobs, less beneficiaries.
    Tories = More unemployed, more bene bashing, more herald stories exposing sickness beneficiaries with sky dishes.

  12. Tracey says:

    SJW – Thanks for the “A Crisis That Need Not Have Happened.” link. Interesting read.

  13. Spud says:

    @Al1ens – Agreed! 😀

  14. SJW says:

    Tracey, Glad you enjoyed it. The poverty section on the same site is good too.

    I thoroughly agree with you Al!ens.

    It bothers me greatly that while politicians are spending time cultivating common prejudice in order to get the votes from masses who have a distaste toward thinking (too busy to?) and whom refuse to drop the idea of ‘leave-them-to-it-they-know-what-they’re-doing’ ( which is becoming increasingly patently incorrect by the day), the real causes of the joblessness [& debt/finance] problems are going by unfocussed on and therefore unaddressed.


  15. SPC says:

    Labour and Tories battle over who will bring better and more responsible capitalism.

    Field number one – executive pay.

  16. John W says:

    We need to talk more openly and frequently about the “cultivating common prejudice” you mentioned as they are extensive, and very pervasive in the common psyche.

    Also increased consciousness of the sanitisation of gross acts against public good would help the public blindness.

    Co-opertives as a good business model get very little discussion yet would help keep local money in local circulation instead of profit being exported through transnationals.

    Defense of structures that are creating continued leeching of prosperity for NZ and particularly the lower 50 % is accomplished mainly by ignoring the problem and appealing to greed for some and fear for the majority.

    Discussion of minute often inconsequential detail helps take attention away from the basic and structural issues.

    In recent years the bottom 50%s lot has dropped by 63%.

    Now that group shares less than 3% of the national wealth.

    Still the right want to batter them further with more “reforms”. It is a world wide trend but welfare is not the fiscal problem.

    Notice that welfare reform is accepted discussion when we know families and kids are getting less each year.

    The mindwash has done well.

    Silence is compliance.

  17. Im always jumpy when welfare reform in on the agenda,because I know who is going to suffer .Its the underdog who has no way of protecting themselves.
    There would be much less so called welfare ( which I call Social Security) if we still had State loan housing , a 40 hour working week for all , and strong unions for all. perhaps even a return to compulsory unionism. Then our Social Security would be confined to mothers on their own ,sicknes/disabled benifits . Labour needs to build more State Houses and State Loans for housing ,it needs to subsidise trade traing and start taxing those obsene payouts and bonus’s to the CEOs and driectors, Then we will see a real, reduction of Social ,payout .

  18. SPC says:

    David Cameron has signalled his intent to give shareholders binding votes on executive pay, as part of measures to deal with excessive salaries … the PM says the market for “top people” is not working and “needs to be sorted out”.

    A recent survey said total earning for directors in FTSE 100 companies rose by 49% in 2010, compared with an average rise in salaries of 3.2%.

    An inquiry concluded in November by the High Pay Commission found that the pay of top executives at a number of FTSE companies had risen by more than 4,000% on average in the last 30 years.

    Set up by pressure group Compass, the commission said the disparity between what top executives and average workers earn has been building for many years.

    Meanwhile, the survey from research firm Incomes Data Services said average income for FTSE 100 directors was now £2.6m, while chief executives had seen pay rise 43% in 2010.

  19. John W says:

    As unemployment prolongs ( with help from the present incumbents ) then it will become plainer that the increasing income generated within the country needs to be distributed or earned differently.

    The need for welfare is a result of other changes in how we operate and the traps of globalisation and consumerism. Foreign capital invested here has aggravated the situation along with “free market” demolition of our local manufacture for domestic consumption.

    You can’t go on just calling for growth as an answer. The growth mantra is an ignorant response for short term interests at best.

    This is a finite world with an overshoot of population and diminishing resources, changing climate and mounting pollution, loss of sea harvest, 1%+ per year loss of arable land, rising sea levels, increasing waste of resources and energy spent on non essential production created by the inefficiency of market consumerism for profit gains concentrated to the wealth of a small group.

    Wastage of precious water, damage to our streams, rivers and their associated wildlife and use of productive land increasing animal protein production dependent heavily on oil, puts us in a vulnerable position.

    There are not politicians talking about steps to plan our future as they generally are driven by business sector influences.

    Slogans are what is offered to the public not planning and informed options.

    The huge issues that lie ahead defy solution with present knowledge but we blindly allow our politicians driven by an irresponsible commercial and the debt based banking sectors drive the agenda.

    Only one voice in parliament has consistently spoken about the folly of short term profit being no substitute for public infrastructure through the years, the rest appear to have been captured by business short term interests.

    We all pay now as our sovereignty diminishes.

    The need for welfare is a symptom of system failure.

    Treat the cause not blame the symptom.

  20. wisewoman says:

    Wisewoman I know the point you are making but I cannot allow that comment through. It is personal and offensive. Clare

  21. wisewoman says:

    Trevor Mallard. I find no comment on why you posted this. Care to tell us what your views are?

  22. Ron says:

    The globalisation discussion is interesting.
    Fact is that no matter how many stats and selected figures you wanna you throw at it, globalisation is an unmitigated failure. Globalism’s promises have not been kept.
    As Ralston Saul says “the shiny new world” of globalistion has failed to emerge. End of poverty? Diminution of the nation state? “International democracy”? GFC? Anyone? You’ve had 40 years – when will we see the pay offs? We won’t.
    Essentially “globalisation” is an invention of merchants cobbling together a bunch of not very good 19th Century ideas and establishing an ideology to help them exploit more of the world to make more money. To make it work they have had to fight a bunch of wars, bully a bunch of governments and exclude a goodly portion of the planet (while teling us that “trickle down” will sort out Africa et al. It’s failed. Ask the sweatshop worker in Sth East Asia. Ask the starving farmer in Somalia. Ask my mate’s old Mum who’s savings went down the tube while the man who said he’d look after them for her continues on his merry way.
    I look at Australia and Canada – two of the countries that have weathered this financial storm the best. Why? Because they have relied on national industries. NOT because their economies were superbly integrated into international financial “markets”. Hah. “Markets”. No such thing of course. Just more merchants. Except these ones trade money instead of actually making and selling something that the world needs.
    Instead of discussing the merits of globalism we should be working on the new model. Because the old one was a dud.