Workfare: Conference de-briefing

Two blogs  this week This one is a report back to the anti-workfare campaign on my attempts to swing the might of the Green Party against Iain Duncan Smith’s evil workfare plans. The second will be a conference post mortem (sorry, report) to my largely Green sympathising Twitter followers.

It goes without saying that the Green Party is totally disgusted with IDS and all his works. Some individual members are already involved in anti-cuts protests. But just as I have had some difficulty in getting across to the anti-workfare campaign the crucial significance of the help IDS has unintentionally given us in Dynamic Benefits (2009)

the Green Party doesn’t yet ‘get’ it. They are still trapped in the mind set whereby everybody must have a job at a living wage. But this plays straight into IDS’s hands. If the focus remains on jobs, then everyone must be compelled to do a job, and as the work disincentive caused by means testing also encourages people to be disabled, they too must be dragooned into competing for jobs that don’t exist.

So my motion was narrowly referred back, on the grounds that not enough people understood it. After all, for most it was the first time they had really heard the arguments. Mind you, I thought the Synopsis was clear enough:

“Using the government’s own background briefing against it in support of the opposition to the misguided welfare reform plans.”

But all is not lost. I did have a chance to talk to Natalie Bennett, GP Leader, who does now understand what I am trying to say, and who will hopefully look at Dynamic Benefits for herself. Natalie pointed out to me that the Living Wage campaign was delivering help now. Fine, but I hope she now sees that that campaign can only be a temporary remedy. It is tied to the jobs mentality that allows workfare to seem to make sense. In the longer term means testing must be removed. Once it is, workfare will be exposed as crazy.

As well as the devastating critique of the effect of means testing on different family situations, there are sanctimonious passages in Dynamic Benefits about how good work is for mental and physical well being and health. Now I actually believe that. But if IDS does, why the Hell is it necessary to invent jobs and then force the disabled as well as the able bodied to struggle for them?

Natalie doesn’t need to mention the Citizens’ Income, but to mention it in principle would make her argument more forceful. All she has to do to support the anti-workfare campaign is quote chunks from the early part of Dynamic Benefits, and point out how woefully short the government plans fall short of even that report’s tepid recommendations. She will probably regard mentioning the CI at all as a high risk strategy. It probably is, but it opens the door to the vision some of us Green Party founders had 40 years ago, when drudgery was less necessary that it used to be, and unemployment could have been consigned to history even then. As I said, I actually believe that work is good for you. But if work is voluntary, the rate for the job can be determined by market forces. No one has to work, but the jobs that machines cannot do will get done because people do actually want to be useful.

Over to Natalie.

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