Sunday, March 24, 2013

Liam Byrne Labour liability

On Tuesday 19th March 2013 the Labour party made a catastrophic error of judgement. Instead of opposing Iain Duncan Smith's disgraceful retroactive lawmaking exercise, the Labour leader Ed Miliband, at the behest of the shadow DWP minister Liam Byrne, allowed the Jobseekers (BtW) Bill to sail through parliament in just one day as "emergency legislation". For some unfathomable reason the Labour leader allowed the swift passage of this legislation through a virtually empty chamber and actually whipped Labour MPs into not voting against the Tory led government's efforts to retroactively bury their mistakes.

You may remember Liam Byrne as the guy who left that idiotic note for David Laws, which instead of offering some friendly advice for his successor (as was the longstanding convention) simply stated "Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left". This was perfect ammunition for the Tory party and helped to reinforce the facile Tory mantra of "Labour wrecked the economy". Anyone would have thought that after an idiotic PR disaster like that, Byrne would have been relegated to the back benches with the rest of the right-wing Blairites. In fact he wasn't, under Ed Miliband he has actually been promoted to a more important position, that of Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions.

Byrne has repeatedly talked tough on unemployment, using the right-wing tactic of blaming the unemployed for their own situation, rather than looking to the actual economic causes of mass unemployment. Instead of criticising Iain Duncan Smith's absurd incompetence, he backs him up with "scrounger" rhetoric. Instead of highlighting the fact that youth unemployment and long-term unemployment have risen dramatically since 2010, he assists the Tories by shifting the blame from the government to unemployed individuals. Instead of criticising the abject failure of Iain Duncan Smith's fraud riddled Work Programme, he openly supports it.

On March 11 2013 Laim Byrne told the House of Commons that he agreed with Iain Duncan Smith's use of financial sanctions to coerce people onto his economically illiterate and failing workfare schemes:
"Both he [Iain Duncan Smith] and I believe that sanctions are vital to give back-to-work programmes their bite."
Gone are day of the Labour party working for social justice. Instead, with ministers like Liam Byrne, they seem to be trying to out-Tory the Tories as a desperate attempt to appease the right-wing press. This tactic is doomed to failure because for every right-wing reactionary they manage to convince with their posturing, they will drive away several times as many core Labour voters.

What is the point of an opposition party that don't actually oppose and even collude with the government in covering up their own blundering incompetence with retroactive legislation?

I believe that Byrne's statements and his influence upon Labour policy have been an absolute disaster. When Labour should have been lambasting Iain Duncan Smith for his incompetence, Liam Byrne put a consoling arm around his shoulder and allowed him to save his political career by retroactively rewriting his botched and unlawful regulations.

With long-term and youth unemployment soaring, the Work Programme failing, the government found to be acting unlawfully by the courts and Iain Duncan Smith offering nothing but cognitively illiterate and brazenly inaccurate bluster in defence of his flawed schemes, unemployment is clearly one of the areas on which Labour should be nailing the Tory led administration to the wall. Instead, Laim Byrne and Ed Miliband have colluded with the government to help them to retroactively bury their incompetent and unlawful blundering and in doing so, saved Iain Duncan Smith's career.

The best available option is for Ed Miliband is to sack Liam Byrne before he can do any more damage to the Labour party and replace him with a Labour MP with a social conscience.

Some of the prime candidates for the Shadow Work and Pensions brief should be John McDonnell (who led the Labour opposition against the Tory retroactive laws), Michael Meacher (who has repeatedly demonstrated his social conscience) and Ian Mearns (who put his social conscience above his own political self-interest by resigning from the Labour front bench in order to vote against the Tory retrospective legislation).

Liam Byrne is an outright liability to Labour and myself and many thousands of others would not even consider voting Labour as long as this red-tied Tory has a seat in the Labour cabinet.

If you feel as strongly as I do that this guy is an absolute liability to the Labour party, why not write to Ed Miliband ( milibande@parliament.uk ) and tell him that you won't even consider voting Labour until Liam Byrne is relegated to the back benches?

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