Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Cameron's absurd behaviour over EU membership (Guardian)

Placing a question mark over Britain's European Union membership and its benefits is economically disastrous, says Peter Mandelson

2. US joins misguided pursuit of austerity (Financial Times)

Governments have pushed themselves into a corner where austerity is the default choice, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

3. The PM should have more respect for Ukip (Daily Telegraph)

It is counterproductive for Cameron to mock voters who don’t want a Miliband government, argues Paul Goodman.

4. The Tories intend going on and on. Labour needs a radical alternative (Independent)

A Tory government at a time of economic crisis is a national tragedy, says Owen Jones. Cameron’s hopes of another term must be destroyed.

5. Tea Party’s moment of maximum leverage (Financial Times)

The question is whether they dive into their own political abyss in unison or in pieces, says Edward Luce.

6. What a relief! The madness of child benefit for all ends today (Daily Telegraph)

It makes no sense for the affluent middle classes to be showered with taxpayers’ cash, says Boris Johnson.

7. There is no soft option for our leaders now (Times) (£)

Cameron and Clegg should tell us that austerity is a necessary evil, writes Tim Montgomerie. Just look at the French ‘alternative’.

8. The Tory crisis that's keeping Balls smirking (Daily Mail)

The Conservatives can’t find a candidate to stand against Ed Balls at the next election, writes Andrew Pierce.

9. Westminster and welfare: the politics of 'them and us' (Guardian)

Over the second half of this parliament, ministers will have a hard time keeping up an increasingly false distinction, says a Guardian editorial.

10. We are wallowing in Labour’s debt so why is Ed blocking cuts? (Sun)

As long as Miliband continues to stay silent on how to cut his government’s debt, he has no right to suggest voters must spend more, writes Trevor Kavanagh.

Getty
Show Hide image

Who is responsible for an austerity violating human rights? Look to New Labour

Labour's record had started to improve under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. 

The UN has made it clear the Government’s austerity programme breaches human rights. This is not because of spending cuts - it is because because those spending cuts target women and disadvantaged groups, particularly disabled people and asylum seekers.

The degree of injustice is staggering. The Coalition Government used a combination of tax increases and benefit cuts to reduce the net income of the poorest tenth of families by 9 per cent. The cuts faced by disabled people are even more extreme. For instance, more than half a million people have lost social care in England (a cut of over 30 per cent). Asylum seekers are now deprived of basic services.

The injustice is also extremely regional, with the deepest cuts falling on Labour heartlands. Today’s austerity comes after decades of decline and neglect by Westminster. Two places that will be most harmed by the next round of cuts are Blackpool (pictured) and Blackburn. These are also places where Labour saw its voters turn to UKIP in 2015, and where the Leave vote was strong.

Unscrupulous leaders don’t confront real problems, instead they offer people scapegoats. Today’s scapegoats are immigrants, asylum seekers, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people. It takes real courage, the kind of courage the late MP Jo Cox showed, not to appease this prejudice, but to challenge it.

The harm caused by austerity is no surprise to Labour MPs. The Centre for Welfare Reform, and many others, have been publishing reports describing the severity and unfairness of the cuts since 2010. Yet, during the Coalition Government, it felt as if Labour’s desire to appear "responsible" led  Labour to distance itself from disadvantaged groups. This austerity-lite strategy was an electoral disaster.

Even more worrying, many of the policies criticised by the UN were created by New Labour or supported by Labour in opposition. The loathed Work Capability Assessment, which is now linked to an increase in suicides, was first developed under New Labour. Only a minority of Labour MPs voted against many of the Government’s so-called "welfare reforms". 

Recently things appeared to improve. For instance, John McDonnell, always an effective ally of disabled people, had begun to take the Government to task for its attacks on the income’s of disabled people. Not only did the media get interested, but even some Tories started to rebel. This is what moral leadership looks like.

Now it looks like Labour is going to lose the plot again. Certainly, to be electable, Labour needs coherent policies, good communication and a degree of self-discipline. But more than this Labour needs to be worth voting for. Without a clear commitment to justice and the courage to speak out on behalf of those most disadvantaged, then Labour is worthless. Its support will disappear, either to the extreme Right or to parties that are prepared to defend human rights.

Dr Simon Duffy is the director of the Centre for Welfare Reform