Labour has zero ambition for progressive change or counter disastrous and callous Tory policies - Angus Robertson
Quite unbelievably, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has gone back on Labour’s pledge to ‘scrap punitive sanctions, two child limit and benefit cap’. The cap is a heartless austerity policy that prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for any third or subsequent child born after April 2017, including children that have been born from rape. More than 400,000 more children live in poverty than when the Tories came to power. Labour has shown itself to be unserious about changing this.
The two-child cap has been described previously by Labour MPs as ‘obscene and inhumane’ and ‘heinous’. Many will remember the impassioned speech former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale gave when austerity-mad George Osborne introduced the policy originally.
Following the interview, Labour MSP Monica Lennon tweeted "this is the wrong position and it's down to us as Labour members to change it" in response to Starmer's support for the Tory two-child cap.
Poverty experts estimate that scrapping the two-child cap would lift 15,000 children out of policy. Peter Kelly, Director of Poverty Alliance, has said the two-child cap is the "worst of the welfare 'reforms' of the last 13 years" and that "any politician that claims to care about poverty, about increasing food banks use, about the well-being of kids needs to commit to scrap this terrible policy". Chris Birt, Associate Director for Scotland for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation tweeted: "The two-child cap is a stigmatising attack on families struggling to get by. It actively causes child poverty. Who is even defending it now? Hard to believe that the politics of “hungry children are fine with us” loses against “they’ve modestly upped spending”.
But this shocking move is only the latest in Labour’s run to the right. Challenged on whether he would end the Tory housing benefit freeze, Starmer said: "I'm not committing to that here". Challenged on his decision to delay investment in renewable energy, Starmer obfuscated, saying "the funding isn't the sole issue".
We have also seen that Labour won’t commit to devolving powers that we desperately need to tackle the issue of drug abuse and deaths in Scotland. Legalisation has been central to reducing drug abuse and deaths in 30 countries. The faux ‘hard man’ stance from Starmer is a cynical attempt to appeal to Tory voters and will only hold back progress on this central issue.
And let’s not forget one of Labour’s cardinal crimes: their support for Brexit. If the state of the government’s finances is any part of the reason for Starmer’s conservatism, the correct—and obvious—thing to do would be to acknowledge the unyielding damage that Brexit is causing and commit to finding our way back to Europe.
Underpinning Starmer’s right-wing stances is the fear that, in spite of the shocking impact of successive Tory prime ministers since 2010, he still fears losing. He fears that the raft of voters they lost in 2019 won’t come back to Labour unless his party mirrors the Tories they voted for instead. In doing so, Starmer has shown he lacks the courage and commitment to Labour ideals of the past.
At the next election, voting SNP is against the callous treatment of the most vulnerable in society. Labour can’t say the same.