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Workfare and the Labour Party: 'A less than stellar party'
Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow
Like many people I was astounded by the Parliamentary Labour Party abstention on the emergency legislation enacted to undo the legal victory won by Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson against forced workfare, known as The Poundland Case.
This legal victory potentially could have opened the door to 230,000 jobseeker's allowance claimants who were owed £130 million for having their benefits pinched through illegal sanctions.
Just the enacting of this emergency legislation proves what we socialists say about the law. Many on the liberal left argue that some of our demands, such as nationalisation are illegal.
But just look at what this rich men's government did. They didn't like the law so... hey presto!.. they change the law, and quickly, with Labour's help.
Out of 257 Labour MPs in Parliament a measly 44 voted against the government. My local MP Stella Creasy abstained. When I found out I wanted to ask her why.
Because of all the stick that she had been getting on twitter she organised two meetings in her offices.
Socialist Party members went along to both. I went to the earlier one where there was also a young single mum who had had her benefit stopped.
She had taken to writing about her experiences called "adventures in workfare" on her blog.
Our discussion with Stella was like wrestling in treacle.
She believed that she had won a 'great victory' in her abstention because she had exposed a culture of targets down at Walthamstow job centre and revealed that Iain Duncan Smith [work and pensions secretary and MP for neighbouring constituency Chingford] had denied to Parliament that claimants were being unfairly driven off benefits.
She argued that Labour now has a strengthened appeal process due to the parliamentary inquiry on sanctions which would be organised soon, sometime, hopefully.
We told her the culture of "terror and targets" was a Labour idea, that she could go into any public sector workplace and witness the effects of this policy. She didn't need to abstain on this vote to expose that.
She told us that it was 'fantastic and stupendous' that Labour had traded silence for a strengthened appeal process for claimants along with a Parliamentary inquiry.
Through all that treacle I managed to see that the main reason Labour abstained is because they agree with sanctioning the unemployed.
She warned me: "I don't want you to go out of here Nancy and say that I support Tory sanctions because I don't".
I wonder if all those robbed of their benefits in the past or in the future will be able to discriminate between Tory or Labour sanctions.
What did Stella Creasy's and the Labour Party silence mean? It gives a green light to the bosses to continue unabated their onslaught on the right to a day's pay for a day's work.
To all of us and those watching it strengthens the need to build the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to stand up for workers.
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