Needs Britain alternative ?

On 3 June Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls made a speech to his shadow cabinet in which he laid out his intention to fully accept the draconian austerity inaugurated by the Con-Dems.

It is clear that Labour has now given up any pretence of being an opposition, buying wholesale into the logic of a neoliberal austerity which forces ordinary people to pay for the gigantic mistakes of the reckless super-rich.

One of the most perfidious cuts outlined by Balls in his speech is the means-testing of the winter fuel allowance.

But surely the rich should not be given benefits that they ‘don’t need’? This reaction is understandable, but misguided – universal benefits have an extremely important function in society.

When tens of thousands of elderly people die from the cold every winter, society has a responsibility to contribute to their heating costs.

Universality makes sure that the welfare state doesn’t simply become minimal ‘poor relief’.

And at the end of the day, the amount of money saved by means-testing universal benefits is around £100 million – a drop in the ocean compared to the £120 billion which goes avoided, evaded or uncollected in tax in the UK every year.

The response of general public to this most recent in the long line of Labour’s shifts to the right must be clear – the majority of working people have no faith that a Labour government would be able to solve the crisis we are in.

Britain needs a new mass party of working people, based around the trade unions and community groups, which is able to clearly put the case for a  alternative to cuts and crisis.

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