Labour cannot win by debating welfare on the Tories' terms

The week I saw how low the right will stoop

Share
Related Topics

Where have we come to as a country when it is fair game to hijack the deaths of six little children for political ends?

The names of these kids – Jack, John, Jade, Duwayne, Jesse and Jayden – are barely even mentioned. Their killings at the hands of the monstrous Mick Philpott are simply weapons to be used in a three-year onslaught against the welfare state.

Earlier this week, I cautioned that the lessons to be learnt from this atrocity were few: that Philpott represented only himself, much as Harold Shipman was an isolated monster who said nothing about other doctors. I anticipated that the enemies of the welfare state would attempt to capitalise on this horror; I confess I did not prepare myself for the sheer depravity of what would come next. It began with the Daily Mail front page: “Vile product of welfare UK”. Other pundits followed suit, to be joined by George Osborne and David Cameron himself.

This is what we have learnt. Those who have attempted to capitalise on these six deaths have proved themselves to lack basic decency and humanity. A three-year crusade to demonise unemployed and disabled people has culminated in the attempt to represent this lone monster as emblematic of  the entire welfare state. Driven in part by the political spinner Lynton Crosby, the Tory strategy to win the next election is clear: turn large sections of the country against each other.

But there is light, too. I spent a lot of time in TV studios this week, trying to fight this tide of poison. I pointed out that, given most of the benefits money he received were tax credits – that is in-work benefits – from the women he abused, the case said nothing about “welfare dependency”; that the welfare state is made up of millions of pensioners, parents who receive child benefit, low-paid workers who receive tax credits, disabled people and those thrown out of work. And the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Tragedies like this have to be removed from public debate. And the separate discussion over the welfare state can be turned around. Let’s talk about reducing welfare spending by stopping subsidising landlords and badly paying bosses. The Labour leadership need to take note. Abandon this to the Tories and lose; or take them on, and you can turn this issue around.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence