Today Corbyn released his 10 pledges and in none of the 10 is there any mention of ‘welfare’ and even its is widest sense to include social security, working and child tax credits, child benefit and pensions. It is not mentioned at all and Corbyn has missed a major trick in the omission of ‘welfare.’
Before I continue rest assured this is not an Owen Jones treacherous polemic, his analysis is still massively skewed and false and mostly self-serving, and I have never been a flag waving supporter of Corbyn; rather I support the policy direction of where he says he wants to go.
In very simple terms how can the omission of anything to do with this wider ‘welfare’ possibly appeal to those who receive it, among whom is the pensioner and a huge percentage of recent Labour supporters who have a disability or who are otherwise ‘workless’ in the pejorative and nasty political language of the Tories – the old, the sick, those disabled and those in need of support.
Again in very simple terms Corbyn says he wants a better society for ALL yet in omitting any mention of those on ‘welfare’ his 10 pledges are not inclusive and do not apply to ALL – they simply cannot do so!
Even considering that these 10 pledges are that, pledges and the skeletal framework on which to hang considered policy, it is difficult to see where ‘welfare’ could be hung on these 10 pledges.
So the real question is has Corbyn alienated all those on ‘welfare’ who are perhaps his largest cohort of potential voters?
The 10 pledges are presented in extremely vague form on social media thus:
Nobody could object to the above 10 very vague statements and they are so vague as to be meaningless. But its horses for courses and these assertions could easily be the assertions of any political party and even of the far right.
So let’s go a bit deeper and see what is said on the Corbyn website and we find these 10 pledges presented with some more detail and a 2 minute video of Corbyn announcing them (which is also vague too.)
The web page above with these 10 pledges then sees some more detail if you click or hover over any one of them:
As you can see above the vague tab of “Secure homes for all” reveals a little bit more detail on that issue yet none of these 10 tabs contain any mention whatsoever of the wider ‘welfare’ term. Does it then follow that ‘welfare’ which I remind does include the state pension is at best priority number 11?
It would seem so and it is a very curious and thoroughly incompetent omission and particularly when in 3 short months time the reduced overall benefit cap of the Tories will inevitably and undoubtedly see half a million more homeless CHILDREN in the UK. That policy alone is dynamite for all opposition parties and other Tory ‘welfare’ policies – the LHA maxima cap and the SAR – will also see every domestic violence refuge close and the vast majority of sheltered housing close – two of THE most politically sensitive groups in electoral terms and yet Corbyn has ‘welfare’ not in his top 10!!!
That said I do like very much what he says about a “secure home for all” and let’s look at that:
The first element is to build one million new homes in 5 years – the exact same as the current Tory pledge so I see no reason to comment upon this aggregated number.
Yet the second element is half of that 1 million will be 500,000 new council houses to which I will return shortly.
The third element is rent controls and secure (presumably meaning more secure tenancies and not Secure Tenancies) tenancies for private tenants which are both very laudable aims I wholeheartedly support yet are incredibly complicated and would be extremely difficult to achieve, especially the more secure tenure.
But to return to half a million new council houses (YES YES YES!) and note well Corbyn again says council housing not social housing which would include HA housing, he once again repeats COUNCIL houses. I commented on this earlier this week after listening carefully to Corbyn’s speech in Liverpool which I emphasised it was new council not new social (council and HA) housing that Corbyn said and meant and in that speech he gave out far more detail on this area along the Keynesian lines we had for decades in the post war council housebuilding boom.
The ONLY way for the country to escape what it refers to as the ‘housing crisis’ which means the supply shortage only and we have many housing crises, is to embark upon a massive council housebuilding programme.
This can and will pay for its initial funding that will either have to come through government or by allowing local councils to borrow (far less important PSBR considerations after Brexit, increase in localism and regional devolution as direction of travel?) and will see an increased tax take and less social security spend not only in construction but also in the supply chain – the words of Corbyn at Liverpool this Monday.
Far more importantly, it will mean that your children and/or grandchildren will be able to have somewhere to live and somewhere secure to live while they save up for a mortgage deposit far more quickly if they are so inclined. Where they will be able to have a secure stable base to start a family and where their rent levels are genuinely affordable which means the take up of employment can mean a low paid job because they are not spending 50%+ of their net income on rent but closer to and below 30% of it … and a host of other major social and economic advantages that the council house model and low rent levels brings – which regrettably are all the major benefits and advantages that the incredibly stupid social rented sector has failed to mention for the past 35 years if not more!
I am biased as to the importance of housing and unashamedly so. When you have the security and stability and sanctuary of your HOME which is genuinely affordable then the rest of the problems you face can be dealt with. If your work is a pain in the arse then sit in your armchair and forget about it; if you are up to your eyes in debt and haven’t got the proverbial pot to piss in then you still do have a roof over your head that’s affordable. If you have health issues that mean you can’t work or can’t do other things you still have your HOME, your sanctuary, your space – and your kids despite being 35 have their own place too and are not under your feet and still at home which they will be until we solve the ‘housing crisis’ of supply and with the right sort of housing which means council housing.
The private developer, which includes housing associations, will only build what suits their immediate bottom line, housing that makes them the most in income and for instance of the just over 40,000 new HA developments last year only 5454 were for social rent – a miserly 13% of new build. Councils can build and are likely to build what best suits their local area and for the needs of their local populace rather than say 1 bed luxury dockland penthouses or 4 to 5 bed family homes on gated communities that housing associations build.
Giving power back to local authorities to develop and build new housing is not some dinosaur lefty notion from a bygone age, it is what local populations needs and what local communities need and is largely apolitical. Yet that means Corbyn intends to either fund councils to build or allow them to borrow to build – and both of these mean that every local authority area has a better mix of housing supply than it has now and it has had for the last 35 years AND perhaps most importantly of all it is a long term solution for the greater good of every local authority area.
As I mentioned above I’m just a little bit biased as to what a massive council house building programme can and will achieve. The numbers are also important too. The housing associations have built just over 23,000 new properties of all kinds per year over the last 50 years and the 5454 social housing units that HAs claimed for this last year is 5% of the council housing total that Corbyn rightly wants of 100,000 per year.
Councils were building 143,000 per year on average from 1964 to 1980 when Thatcher’s Right to Buy all put an end to councils as housing developers. That also shows that Corbyn’s 100,000 council houses per year want is very achievable.
Unless HA’s find some magic way to increase their capacity by 2000% from 5000 to 100,000 per year then they cannot build the required number of social rent homes – they would also need a huge change of purpose and ethos back to a social one rather than the hell bent privateer road they are increasingly travelling on now.
HA’s who comprise almost two-thirds of the misnomer ‘social housing’ won’t like me saying the above yet the facts are the facts and HA’s even if they had a Damascean conversion (back?) to a social purpose simply do not have the capacity to be of any significant consequence in terms of building genuinely affordable social housing that the country so desperately needs.
Corbyn has missed a trick with the omission of ‘welfare’ from his 10 pledges and most of the current ‘welfare’ reforms are housing benefit and other housing related reforms that significantly impact on what used to be called the ‘core labour vote’ and above I have barely touched on the many electoral benefits Corbyn and Labour could tap into.
What Corbyn has brought to the political arena is a focus not on policies themselves in the often tortuous nuances of policy and spin and counter spin, but a focus on their impacts. Families losing their homes as a direct result of the bedroom tax and other policies, the increase in poverty these so-called reforms bring and in his view that McDonnell changed the narrative of austerity being an ideological choice not an economic necessity … with devastating consequences and impacts.
That, for me, is what politics should be about, the right and wrong not right and left and is also what the Brexit vote revealed in the public kicking the political hegemony up their backsides by voting to leave. The public is genuinely interested in politics because of the focus on policy impacts which are being realised by the day as their neighbour from two doors down has been evicted or was seen going to a food bank or their children have not had new shoes or new clothes and the one three doors the other way has aged 15 years in the last five because of austerity and did you hear about the quadriplegic who lost his disability benefits by being found fit for work … and so many other realised impacts whether from neighbours or from social media.
As I said above WHEN the numbers of homeless CHILDREN increase from its current outrageous level of 100,000 or so to well over 600,000 with the reducing overall benefit cap which begins in early November 2016, just 3 short months away – and was also Miliband Labour policy in their 2015 General Election manifesto – and Corbyn and his team say nothing about an additional half a million children being evicted, made homeless and having their life chances irreparably damaged, and not even having that in their top ten priorities you begin to see what I mean about an opportunity missed!
How many more women will die because all refuges will close a a direct result of the Tories LHA maxima cap policy Jeremy? – an opportunity missed
How many more older persons will die earlier than they should because all sheltered housing will close as a direct consequence of the Tories LHA maxima cap policy Jeremy? an opportunity missed
How many more homeless will be highly visible and on the streets because all single homeless hostels will close as a result of the LHA maxima cap and SAR cap policies Jeremy? – an opportunity missed
‘Welfare’ not in your top ten pledges anywhere Jeremy Corbyn and that is a huge mistake not just in social and socialist terms but also in electoral terms. The ‘collective hope’ you use as a catchphrase will have its balloon well and truly burst unless you do take the opportunities that the Tory ‘welfare’ policies present to you on a silver platter and its time to grab that opportunity with both hands.