Friday 16 April 2010

The election and beyond

The new Fabian Review is out on Monday - that's the cover above. The magazine has one eye on the campaign but also one eye on the next parliament: we put together a panel of experts to explain what the next government has to do to call itself progressive. There's a preview over at Left Foot Forward.

On the Fabian website you can also read Telegraph columnist Mary Riddell's interview with Alastair Campbell, where Labour's former spinner-in-chief talks about his relationship with Gordon, playing David Cameron in debate prep, and why he is more uncertain about the result on May 6th than any previous election.


Stuart White said...

I'm very disappointed by the tests in the article (as described at LFF).

Six tests and not a single one of them has anything to do with democratic reform or securing civil liberties....

Sunder Katwala said...

Hi Stuart,

I think the feature containing this set of tests is trying to do one specific thing - and isn't trying to claim that these are the only things that matter to a progressive government, but to choose areas where the parties have set said they agree on similar and shared objectives, outcomes and goals, and then to ask expert voices to suggest a 'benchmark' which they could reasonably be held too - whether the government was Labour, Tory, LibDem or any combination.

Part of the aim is to challenge a sense that commitment is demonstrated by talking about an issue. But we have done that here within issues where there is common ground on principles and objectives; many others are strongly contested.

For example, reform the electoral system may be a high priority for me. But it can't be set in this particular feature as a test which any party can be challenged to meet, since they disagree about this.

Perhaps there would be good ways to frame spreading power and respecting civil liberties in a similar way: the list isn't supposed to be exhaustive and I think it is a good approach which could be extended.

Robert said...

I just like to know who Labours people are, is it the middle class, we need to know, well actaully we do know all ready after brown and Blair....

Thousands will lose benefits as harsher medical approved
Tens of thousands of claimants facing losing their benefit on review, or on being transferred from incapacity benefit, as plans to make the employment and support allowance (ESA) medical much harder to pass are approved by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Yvette Cooper.

The shock plans for ‘simplifying’ the work capability assessment, drawn up by a DWP working group, include docking points from amputees who can lift and carry with their stumps. Claimants with speech problems who can write a sign saying, for example, ‘The office is on fire!’ will score no points for speech and deaf claimants who can read the sign will lose all their points for hearing.

Meanwhile, for ‘health and safety reasons’ all points scored for problems with bending and kneeling are to be abolished and claimants who have difficulty walking can be assessed using imaginary wheelchairs.

Claimants who have difficulty standing for any length of time will, under the plans, also have to show they have equal difficulty sitting, and vice versa, in order to score any points. And no matter how bad their problems with standing and sitting, they will not score enough points to be awarded ESA.

In addition, almost half of the 41 mental health descriptors for which points can be scored are being removed from the new ‘simpler’ test, greatly reducing the chances of being found incapable of work due to such things as poor memory, confusion, depression and anxiety.

There are some improvements to the test under the plans, including exemptions for people likely to be starting chemotherapy and more mental health grounds for being admitted to the support group. But the changes are overwhelmingly about pushing tens of thousands more people onto JSA.

If all this sounds like a sick and rather belated April Fools joke to you, we’re not surprised. But the proposals are genuine and have already been officially agreed by Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. They have not yet been passed into law, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives seem intent on driving as many people as possible off incapacity related benefits, they are likely to be pursued by whichever party wins the election.

We know that many people will find this news deeply upsetting and even frightening and we know that some people will condemn us for publicising the planned changes or for the language that we are using to do so. But we also believe that it’s not too late to stop these ugly plans in their tracks if claimants and the organisations that represent them act now.

With 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants waiting to be assessed using the work capability assessment in the next few years and tens of thousands of people already on ESA and set to be reviewed annually, these changes will be of great concern to many voters – if they find out about them before polling day.