Friday, 29 October 2010

Milliband must argue housing benefit policy in the round

Ed Milliband and his team are right to home in on the housing benefit policy Cameron is promoting. Of course he is; it’s terrible that thousands of people are in danger of being moved out to goodness knows where. And if anyone should think that’s scaremongering, note that some London LA are already booking the bed and breakfast accommodation far from their own London Borough.

But the arguments must be put with care and in-the-round.

Labour had tried to address the welfare bill, but with only limited success. We must be prepared with some solutions of our own, lest we be seen as simply attacking for the sake of attacking.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact, either, that the reason rents are so high is because landlords are making them high. A side-effect, if you like, of the free market . . . ‘benefit will pay the rents so let’s see what rents we can get away with.’

In addition, the public have to a huge extent taken on board the idea that people on benefit are scroungers living in large houses most of us couldn’t afford to live in. Milliband and his team must have a strategy to overcome this, to education the pubic to the truth (and not shy away from the fact that some people are milking the system.)

Cameron’s policy has popular support - almost certainly the main reason he won’t budge from it (Tory polling will indicate this.)

For us to win the argument will be hard to do - we don’t own newspapers. But unless this issue is taken on in the round we’re in danger of scoring a home-goal. We have to be smart.

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