Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Will the Welfare Reform Bill accelerate the break up of the UK?
Over the last few weeks we have seen the first both significant and also effective Westminster focused opposition to the coalition’s plans to drastically cut benefits for the disabled. Not, as you might have expected, with assistance from the official “Opposition” but instead from Cross-Bencher Peers and Bishops in the House of Lords.
I have been sent a copy of an email sent to all Members of the House of Lords by the Black Triangle Group, a “Scottish based disabled advocacy and Campaign group”. The email is lobbying to try to ensure that Peers stand firm in their resistance.
I quote some extracts below which make interesting reading:-
"… We suggest that Britain today is both in a state of constitutional crisis and that there exists a democratic deficit that is the genesis of a crisis of democratic legitimacy.
When our present government came to power in May 2010, it did so on a mere 23% share of the popular vote.
A coalition government was formed on the basis of agreements made between the elites of both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties without the democratic mandate of our people.
It is a Government that is now intent on forcing upon our population extreme right-wing policies, legislation and cuts to services in the fields of welfare, health and social care and justice.
They are policies and actions for which the electorate have not voted for and which did not appear in any party political manifesto. The Welfare Reform Bill did not form part of the Coalition Agreement and runs directly counter to the expressed wishes of rank and file Liberal Democrats members who voted to pass motions to ensure that many of the amendments for which you voted are Liberal Democrat party policy.
All those Liberal Democrats who have voted with the Government have done so in direct contravention of their own party’s policies, formulated, debated and passed at an autumn conference held under the slogan “In Government, on your side”! ...
...Furthermore, speaking here for the Black Triangle as a Scottish-based disabled advocacy and campaign group; we say that it would be salutary for everyone to sit up and take full note of the nearly unanimous and united opposition of the people of Scotland, from every sector and strata of our society up to and including our Scottish Government, to these despicable ‘reforms’ that the Westminster government is seeking to impose upon us.
These ‘reforms’ have zero mandate here in Scotland.
We are a nation which has returned just one Tory MP and where those who voted Liberal Democrat feel deeply betrayed by a party that is seen to have sold-out its founding principles for which they voted for a chance to be ‘in government’.
At the time of writing, the SNP Scottish Government is working with Scottish Labour are to do all they can to mitigate the evil impact of this bill on our sick and/or disabled people by urgently drafting our own legislation in all the areas the bill touches upon that are within our competence, under the existing devolved constitutional settlement.
The SNP and First Minister Alex Salmond have made public statements that welfare should be an area under home control and that were this the case there is absolutely no way that Scotland would ever countenance such draconian legislation which is anathema to Scottish values of social solidarity, social inclusion and equality which have been expressed as a very rich thread running through the course of our history and culture.
We warn that it would be very foolish to suggest that the passing of this bill in its current form, without your amendments, will (not) make a vote for Scotland’s full succession from the United Kingdom an even more likely prospect.
We must also point out that, under conditions in which Scotland regains her full autonomy and the democratic deficit north of the border is effectively cancelled out, the corresponding democratic deficit south of the border will continue to grow in like measure as the likelihood of a party offering a progressive alternative to the current regime at Westminster diminishes.
Without the Scottish contingent of Labour MP’s at Westminster, there is little chance of the Labour party ever forming a majority administration again. The entire future of progressive politics of any kind in England is therefore at stake.
Labour support in Scotland is haemorrhaging and now stands at its lowest point ever in our history.
The parliamentary party’s continuing failure to provide a genuine opposition or Left alternative to the dominant ConDem narrative and ideology of the cuts and austerity which is killing our country’s economy is the root cause of this.
Similarly, the Labour front bench’s failure to take a principled stand in opposing cuts to the welfare benefits of sick and/or disabled people sooner and their acquiescence (and outright collaboration) with the narrative and consensus of the right surrounding welfare reform, keeping “one eye on the focus groups and the other on the Daily Mail” has cost it dearly here.