Letter: Work and morals

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Sir: My new Labour Party membership card for 1998 arrived in the post the morning after the vote on single-parent benefit. I ask myself whether I want to remain a member of a Party which can so dramatically reverse its previous opposition to this measure.

The new stance is based on the assumption that there is a major problem of welfare dependency which any sensible government would have to tackle. As a historian I am sceptical of this.

Every time there has been a collapse of the labour market there have been politicians who have claimed that the unemployed are suffering from some moral deficiency rather than from economic circumstances. Yet each time the labour market has subsequently revived "morals" seem to have shifted remarkably quickly as unemployment has fallen.

A policy of welfare to work, in the sense of facilitating the way back to work for those who want it, is quite right. But to treat this as a moral issue, and thereby justify the use of big sticks as well as carrots, is not what a Labour government should be about.

I will not be renewing my membership.


Brunel University

Uxbridge, Middlesex