Cruddas attacks “new orthodoxy” on immigration and welfare

In an essay for this week's New Statesman, Jon Cruddas MP attacks the "new orthodoxy" on immigration and welfare recipients" which has emerged since the election.

In an essay for this week’s New Statesman, Jon Cruddas MP attacks the “new orthodoxy” on immigration and welfare recipients” which has emerged since the election.

In a joint article with Jonathan Rutherford, professor of cultural studies at Middlesex University, Cruddas writes:

“Where in these current debates are issues of political economy? Where is the deep analysis of power and structural inequality? Indeed, where are the hope and generosity, the optimism and warmth, the search for a different world? Why are we retreating into a sour, kiss-up, kick-down politics? …

“The whirlwind of globalisation has destroyed working-class communities. In the most deprived areas, a culture of shame and failure has taken root. Children grow up expecting nothing, and so give nothing in return. People fear that their identity and way of life are under threat; in consequence, they fear the stranger. This fear then spreads outwards to the wider population, like ripples across a pond.”

Directly addressing the arguments about immigration and welfare, Cruddas and Rutherford write:

“For many young people without decently paid work and housing, it has become impossible to follow the conventional rites of passage into adulthood – leaving home, getting a job, establishing a family and taking on legal obligations and rights.

“The consequences of this social marketisation were inevitable. Insecurity and a feeling of dispossession turned into hostility to foreigners. Righteous anger at class injustice soured into ethnic hatred. Self-interested individualism eroded the bonds of community and corrupted the ethics of public life. Chronic deprivation spawned self-destructive behaviour, addiction, mental illness, criminality and “conduct disorder”. These are symptoms of incivility, however, not its root causes.

“The media responded by scapegoating recipients of welfare, single mothers and immigrants. Images of “chavs” and “feral” children legitimised the criminalisation and incarceration of the young and the poor. Government welfare reforms identified the poor as responsible for their own unemployment and poverty. As it sought to repair the tensions in its electoral coalition using right-wing populism, Labour lost its moral compass. More of the same is not the post-election solution that Labour needs.”

The article concludes by arguing that the “new covenant between Labour and the people” would be for an ethic of reciprocity, an ethical economy that secures capital and employment in localities, and for liberty.

Left Foot Forward outlined on Monday how a number of Labour leadership candidates were talking tough on immigration. Andy Burnham expanded on his views in yesterday’s Telegraph:

Those roots have made Mr Burnham more critical than his rivals of Labour’s failure to understand worries about immigration. “We were in denial. We were behind the issue all the time, and myths were allowed to develop. There’s still an ambivalence among some in Labour about discussing immigration. I’ve been accused of dog-whistle politics for doing so.

“But it was the biggest doorstep issue in constituencies where Labour lost. People aren’t racist, but they say it has increased tension, stopped them getting access to housing and lowered their wages.”

He denies that he is trying to outflank the Con-Lib Government on the Right. “Some solutions naturally belong to the Left – rebuilding social housing and looking at the minimum wage … I would [also] look at benefits for new arrivals. Repatriating child benefit to the country of origin is [wrong]. The man in the street says it can’t be right to send money back home to a child who isn’t here.”

Mr Burnham also advocates getting much tougher on some British claimants. If people refused to work after receiving personalised help, would he withdraw benefits?

“Ultimately. There would have to be rigour in the system. I’d pull back slightly from a draconian no-benefits [rule], but they’d have to take on board the positive opportunities put to them”

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