Let's focus on poverty, not poor people

At the Conservative Party Conference,  the focus was on what to do about poor people, rather than how to tackle 21st century poverty in Britain. The Torys, and in particular Iain Duncan Smith, are neglecting the Working Poor: families who are working hard, aren't taking benefits even though they may need to, but are nevertheless struggling because their earnings aren't keeping up with the cost of living.

Instead of ensuring that welfare works, and that people can enjoy the dignity of empowering themselves through employment, we see cuts on benefit expenditure. Poor people are paying the price for the economic strife the country seems to still be in. George Osborne's cut of £3 billion to stop benefits being more worthwhile than work points out two glaring things. The first is that earnings growth for middle class families is still far behind the top line growth for business the Conservatives have been celebrating. They're focusing on the wrong things. The second is, rather than re evaluate the system to make sure employment works (with a living wage and a job guarantee), the decision is to further isolate and suffocate the aspirations of a section of society. Hardly the aspirational party that they claim to be. 

Then we come to IDS. After his speech, I am convinced my political opponent really sees the election as some sort of medieval contest between David 'Lionheart' Cameron and Ed 'Saladin' Milliband. At one point in his speech, he even used the Edmund Burke line 'evil is when good men do nothing' when referring to getting out the Tory vote, implying the other parties or the democratic process is evil. After much bluster, his two major commitments were a smartcard and the proper roll out of Universal Credit. Given the abysmal implementation of Universal Credit, I won't hold my breath for smartcards. And even if I did, I grew up under Norman Tebbit dividing society by race. I won't stand by while his successor divides society with the stigma of a food-stamp style system.

Both of these men have shown something deeply telling in their policies. They are tackling the poor as though they are the root cause of their own misfortune. What neither man has done, is to fundamentally understand that people in Britain are working, are above the poverty line, but are nevertheless struggling each month. They are relying on overdrafts. They are making greater sacrifices greater than families in Britain should have to. These families have never considered themselves poor and cannot suffer to social stigma that such a title brings, which is much worse now thanks to the 'shirkers' and 'workers' labels these two men have worked so hard to conjure up.

I was shocked to discover in my constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green (a leafy, quiet suburban outer London), 43% of residents earned less than the living wage. In IDS' own stomping ground, almost half the people are finding work on its own is not enough. That is the legacy of this government's approach on welfare - focusing on the symptom rather than the cause all the while ignoring the silent killer that is crippling the nation. I'm here to fight that along with Rachel Reeves.  I hope you join us.ation. 

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