Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the Labour party has joined a number of the leadership candidates in what is fast becoming a competition to see who can most blatantly encourage hatred of claimants. Harman complained that Labour was seen as supporting “people on benefits” but not those who “work hard.”
Last week, in Labour leadership hopefuls queue to kick claimants - even in speech to tax avoidance auditors we reported that a number of Labour leadership candidates, including Andy Burnham and Caroline Flint had sought to distance themselves from any appearance of support for people on benefits.
Burnham talked about some people believing Labour wants ‘to be soft on people who want something for nothing’, whilst Flint said Labour ought to start attacking benefits scroungers as much as bankers and should give people choosing to live off benefits a “kick up the backside”.
The attempts to denigrate people claiming benefits appear to based on the idea that Labour lost the election because it wasn’t tough enough on claimants.
Now, in an interview in today’s Independent, Harriet Harman has joined in the attacks. The paper explained that:
“Ms Harman believes a common problem all over Britain was that voters felt the party “doesn’t talk about me”. Labour was seen as supporting “people on benefits” but not those who “work hard.” She said: “It doesn’t matter how many leaflets you deliver if the message is not right.””
This suggests that Harman has yet to understand that a huge proportion of people on benefits are actually employed and working extremely hard – they are just very badly paid.
It also suggests that when Harman thinks about voters she actually doesn’t include people on benefits, including sick and disabled claimants unable to work. Instead, it seems Harman thinks that the message the party sends to voters should only be aimed at people in well paid work, a traditional Tory target
Harman also argued that many Labour supporters were glad that Labour didn’t win the election. It’s a claim that would astonish those sick and disabled Labour voters now waiting in terror to discover if they will be victims of the Conservatives £12 billion in benefits cuts.
Harman is not even in the running for the Labour leadership, she will step down when a leader is chosen. Yet even she feels it is advantageous to attack benefits claimants and entirely ignore their fears.
At this rate, by the time Labour elects its new leader, it will have alienated so many of its former supporters that they will be leading their party straight into electoral oblivion.