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Can you be sure that the Tories are on your side?

July 31, 2008

The Glasgow East by-election result has taken us into interesting and unpredictable political territory.If the pundits are correct, we may only be weeks away from another change in the leadership of the Labour Party and only months away from a General Election.

So now is the time to start spending regular, column-sized amounts of words, de-bunking two particular and damaging ideas.

The first is the notion that the Conservatives have changed.

And the second is that they are on your side.

Amber Rudd, my Tory counterpart, wrote about the welfare trap in her column last week.

I am always interested, and highly skeptical, when Conservatives start to posture or position themselves as ‘advocates of reform’ in this field.

We must always have a healthy mistrust of Tory radicalism when it comes to welfare, because the truth is that vulnerable people lose out.

Note the casual reference to private companies being incentivised to get people back to work for a year.

Let’s just think… Why would private sector companies be any better than public sector ones given proper amounts of trained staff, and time to spend with jobseekers? No chance that the Tories might want to halve the budget by engaging the private sector?

Amber also failed to mention that the Tories plan a ‘three strikes’ approach for Incapacity Benefit claimants – that means witholding benefits for people who thrice refuse the jobs that they are offered.

Tory plans are based on a theory of ‘you can work or you can’t’, completely misunderstanding the complex nature of some Incapacity Benefit claimants’ circumstances.

As a mental health social worker, I see day in day out the need for a more personalised support programme for people wanting to get back in to work, with built-in trials and tapered benefits, with more responsive systems which can restart benefits should the employment not work out.

These are the kinds of incentives that people will need in order to risk coming off their benefits.

Never mind the need for more jobs for people to try to hold down.

In Hastings and Rye in particular, with the economic situation starting to bite, job creation is a key issue – particularly for our young people.

The Tories also talk big on the problems of Tax Credits, the CSA and the meagre state pension. But they have no policies on how to resolve these problems.

Remember, the Tories made political hay out of the 10p Tax Band issue, but they failed to vote against it in the Budget debate when their vote would have really counted.

And there are Tories failing to deliver wherever you look! They run the County Council, will not deliver the seafront cycle path until 2012 (which I will return to in future) and have failed our young people at secondary school level. They run Hastings Borough Council and cannot give you the correct telephone number for the Town Hall…

These are the same Tories who will try to tell you that they are New, and trustworthy, and ready for Government.

Let me tell you, Cameron’s Tories are Blairites without a social conscience.

This means that they will only ever be on your side if it is politically expedient.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be temporary.

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