Labour has ‘deserted the working class’ says union chief


  By Angela Haggerty
RMT general secretary Bob Crow has accused Labour of deserting the working class and called for a new political party rooted in the trade unions after Ed Miliband promised Labour would cap benefits spending if elected to office.
The union leader’s attack followed a speech by Mr Miliband on Thursday in which the Labour leader revealed his party’s benefits policy would include plans for a three-year cap on structural benefits spending – covering things such as housing benefit – beginning in 2015-16.

Speaking to the BBC’s This Week programme, Mr Crow criticised Labour plans to cut fuel and child benefits for higher earners, arguing the move worked against the principles of the welfare system and risked creating a means-tested benefits culture.

“I believe that people pay in to a tax and National Insurance system and at the end of it they take the benefits they’ve paid in for,” he told the programme.  Mr Crow’s comments follow a similar atack last October where he accused Labour of abandoning its traditional voters.

“Millions of workers have had their pay frozen for years now and have seen their real standards of living decrease by 16 per cent while boardroom pay has gone through the roof,” he said.  “You would have thought that the Labour Party might do something to side with those taking a battering and against those dealing it out but you would be wrong.

“Labour and the government are now positioned like Tweedledum and Tweedledee; whichever one you vote for you end up with the same kick in the teeth for the very people that make this country tick and that is a disgrace.”

In this latest attack, Mr Crow slammed Labour for adopting coalition policies – the idea of a cap was suggested by Chancellor George Osborne in March’s budget and Mr Miliband said reversing a cut in child benefit for wealthier families was not the party’s “biggest priority to overturn” – and said change was needed.

“Who are those nurses, teachers and public service staff going to vote for now that Labour has made it clear they have abandoned them?” he said.  “The case for a political party rooted in the trade unions and with a clear socialist agenda is now overwhelming as Ed Miliband and Ed Balls signal their desertion of the working class and their adoption of a pro-business, pro-EU and pro-austerity programme.”

This week, under the banner of ‘One Nation’, Mr Miliband admitted the previous Labour government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had “made mistakes” on welfare spending and failed to tackle the root causes of higher welfare costs.

“I am making a very important argument here – address the underlying causes of rising social security spending: worklessness, housing benefit and the failure to build homes, getting disabled people back into work or working again,” said the Labour leader, who went on to say the coalition government’s policy of cutting individual benefits would not cut the welfare bill in the long term.

Miliband outlined plans to review contribution-based unemployment benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance, give council’s more power to negotiate rents with landlords in a bid to reduce housing benefit costs and a drive to get more disabled people into employment.

Although accepting some financial liability on welfare spending, Ed Miliband would not be drawn on accusations that Labour overspending throughout the previous government had caused Britain’s economic troubles, but accepted that the previous administration had failed to properly regulate banks before the financial crash. 

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Labour had “flip flopped” to support coalition policies after spending three years vilifying them, while Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps described the speech as “completely empty”.