Alex Massie

Labour’s Augustinian Approach to Welfare Reform

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Sometimes you wonder why government ministers ever speak to journalists. Exhibit A: the fool who told Ben Brogan that the coalition's changes to Housing Benefit amount to a modern version of "the Highland Clearances*". Sure enough, Jon Cruddas picks up on this in the New Statesman this week. Reading Cruddas you'd think that capping rent allowances and subsidies will bring about the End of Britain As We Know And Love It. For reals:

This brutal social engineering will have profound effects on families across the country. As many as one million people could be affected by the changes to housing benefit: children will be uprooted from schools and friends; extended patterns of family support and care will be broken; the jobs of the working poor will be threatened by longer journeys and rising travel costs. The communities receiving these migrants - those with the lowest housing costs - will be put under intense pressure just as council budgets are hacked back, job losses stack up and new housebuilding is curtailed. So much for "community cohesion".

Then again, it's not just Labour. I'm not persuaded the government will be all that impressed by Boris Johnson's criticism of "Kosovo-style cleansing". Sometimes colourful phrasing debases politics and this is one such example** of that.


John Rentoul

I suspect Miliband conveyed the wrong message to the country [at PMQs this week], which simply cannot understand why so many billions of taxpayers’ money is poured into such a badly-designed benefit that undermines work incentives, profits landlords and keeps property prices higher than they would otherwise be.

yes, grant us reform and yes spending must be reduced but not, dear lord, yet, not yet at all and not in this or any other fashion.

"Will Labour offer real change?"


(To be fair: this makes Labour little different from either the Democratic or Republican parties in the United States, neither of whom inspire any confidence in these matters.)

*You need not be convinced by every argument Michael Fry makes in his revisionist history of the Highlands to accept that the history of the Clearances was more complicated than the Prebble-led popular view would have you or anyone else believe.

**UPDATE: Paul Waugh makes a good case that Boris's reference to Kosovo was meant ironicallly. Perhaps so.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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