SHADOW DWP Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has outlined his plans for reform of the Department of Work and Pensions. His main priority appears to be to ‘encourage’ the long term sick and disabled back into employment.  As The Canary notes, “This narrative – that too many people are not working due to sickness, disability or old age – is exactly the same one that the Tory government is using.” 

In his speech to the Centre for Social Justice, Ashworth claims, “Being out of work is bad for health and the longer someone is out of work for reasons of sickness, the more difficult it becomes for them to return to a job.”

The claim that ‘being out of work is bad for health’ appears to be based on a Government briefing paper from 2011. The ‘conclusion’ that being out of work is bad for health was based on a question about how individuals’ health had changed between two interviews six months apart.

In 1844 Karl Marx wrote that for most workers their labour appeared as something alien to them, as an external being controlling them. As he noted, “As soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labour is shunned like the plague.” 

Obviously nobody would expect a member of the Labour Party, particularly on the front bench, to have the slightest clue about Marx or what it feels like to do a job with absolutely no meaning. But the idea that forcing people into low-paid, boring work is good for their health has been promoted since the time of New Labour, although inspired by Thatcher.

This emphasis on reducing the bill for benefits by having people look for work that does not exist is an old rhetorical trick. In his speech Ashworth makes the connection in the following way: “Today over a million people are out of work despite wanting a job. Yet employers are struggling to fill over a million vacancies.”

What he fails to say is whether those million vacancies are in the same areas as those seeking work, whether they match their skills, or how much they might pay. The promise here is of a low pay economy where people can move seamlessly from benefits to work and “with the help of employment support will be able to return to the benefits they were on without the need for another lengthy assessment process”.

Tony Blair said in 2002, “Government has a responsibility to provide real opportunities for individuals… But individuals also have a responsibility to grasp those opportunities.” What he meant was that whatever opportunities we provide for you should be met with your gratitude. But if you aren’t grateful enough  for the carrots we toss your way, we have a big stick instead.

We agree with our friends at The Canary: “A Labour government with an agenda of wanting more chronically ill, sick and disabled people in work – when the Tories have already wrung that sponge dry, leaving thousands dead – is perverse in the extreme.”

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3 thought on “Labour: ‘Work is good for you’”
  1. These are the same people that support Ukrainian Nazis in their – futile -attempt to destroy Russia (a very similar attempt was made by Hitler, initially supported & financed by the so-called west). In how far are today’s neocons/neoliberals different from the Nazis they egg on and support? Divide and rule. Hybrid war, Propaganda, think tanks, Edward Bernays, Joseph Göbels, a two-party system, where neither is an alternative.
    Post-capitalist war for power, resources and the grassroots people (I dislike “common” people, “masses” etc).
    A “government” of overpaid puppets handled by our and their masters, the “golden billions” (thousands of centi-billionairs).
    There is no need for working more than 25 hrs a week, if there was some degree of fairness. Look at Russia and the amount of holidays workers have there.
    Our broken school system, where children do not learn what is good for life (yoga, qigong, reiki, meditation, art, healthy cooking & eating, independent thinking, etc pp) but rather have crammed largely useless facts into them to be memorised for exams.
    A brainwashed, broken, atomised society, where the mindslaves do not understand that they are, in fact, enslaved and divided; where even those cruel, misanthropic, pocket-lining politicians are brainwashed by their own ideology.
    The bourgeois “democracy” – the rule of the superwealthy – is LETHAL for the working people. It cannot be destroyed from within.
    Just like the world is moving towards multipolarity (e.g. BRICS countries in opposition to the Western Golden Billions), also locally every country needs true multipolarity, freedom of information, education, opinion and choice. OSTRACISM and transparency to control politicians, taxing the superwealthy and their corporations, down with western globalism-imperialism-militarism, 51% of government seats to the workers etc etc etc

  2. Of course Ashworth (as a member of the Tory B team) is manipulating peoples perceptions of the elderly, sick and disabled as unworthy poor who will become valuable (and healthy again) once they return to the nirvana of the workplace!

    Unfortunately, by the time people claim disability benefits it is from a lifetime of employment, they’re disabled (or worn out) usually as a direct result of work. I wonder how many winters on a building site or maintaining a motorway, Jonathon Ashworth would manage??

  3. Funnily enough I have just been looking at the stats on ill health and unemployment and in the last year PIP claims and awards have doubled in all categories. You need to deal with the reasons for that rather than dragoonung peoe back into work.The group most affected by ill health are males between 50 and 65. It seems probable that this is linked to a rabaged NHS andprimary health care service

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