Alex Massie

Labour’s Housing Benefit U-Turn

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Hats off to Tom Harris for pointing out the obvious: comparing the coalition's canges to housing benefit to Balkan ethnic cleansing or Auschwitz is neither big nor clever. Points too for reminding us that the Labour manifesto this year included this passage:

Our goal is to make responsibility the cornerstone of our welfare state. Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

"ordinary working families"

Of course, Ed Miliband was still in government when he wrote the Labour manifesto and now he's in opposition so all bets are off and all pledges a matter of rhetoric, not real policy. That's fine and is the way the game is played but don't whine that not everyone is persuaded by such blatantly opportunistic maneovering.

As Mr Harris puts it:

And the more important point is that by using such ridiculous, over-the-top language, we lose the argument. I doubt very much if most people who pay for their homes from their own pockets feel that it is particularly evil to limit benefit claimants to the kind of home they could afford if they were actually in a job. Does Labour really want to be in a position where we support the principle that those not in work should have a right to larger, better homes than those in work? Do we intend to march into the next election with that on our banners

No wonder this man isn't in the Shadow Cabinet.

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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