Friday, 18 February 2011

Welfare Reforms: Labour must work with Tories.

The coalition government have announced their intention to reform welfare and the plans have been met with the expected derision and scathing criticism from most in the Labour Party. As the official opposition, Labour may feel that they have a duty to, well, oppose. It's not always the case though. On this particular issue, it is most definitely not what is needed.

That is not to say that the reforms should go unchallenged, there are no doubt several issues of concern, but this does not mean that reform on the whole should be so heartily opposed. Those who have paid attention to this issue over the last few years will know that Iain Duncan Smith has poured his heart into coming up with strategies to reduce the burden of welfare whilst making life better for those that genuinely need it. He approached the issue without prejudice. In fact, he almost went the opposite way and tried his best to see things in a completely different perspective. Yes, the end results are not devoid of ideology, but the man deserves credit for at least approaching his task in the right way.

This is where Labour need to step up and pay heed. The objectives of the governments welfare reforms are almost unquestionably endorsed by all; lessen the burden on the state, put an end to generation after generation living a life on benefits, improve quality of life for those that require state help. How this is achieved is key. Those that put enormous effort into providing ideas and proposing solutions should not be derided, should not be attacked and should not be opposed by default.

Labour have an golden opportunity now to work with the Conservatives and IDS in particular to bring about genuine and radical welfare reforms that really do meet the universally agreed objectives. It is unlikely they will face another Tory with the same amount of understanding on this issue as Iain Duncan Smith. By attacking him, by rubbishing his proposals, they push him further back into the safety net of his party where he will modify his proposals to suit. It would be the very worst thing Labour could do. The reforms will get through one way or another. It would be better for Labour if they actually had a say in what those reforms were.

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