UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

How to Balls up big style

There has been a fundamental principle guiding the left's commitment to universal benefit that everybody contributes and everybody should benefit. Many years ago as a young activist, I recall a visit by Rodney Bickerstaffe, as then general secretary of UNISON, who came to the Manchester branch and as part of the visit he met with some older people in the Lord Mayor's parlour.

Aside from a funny misjudgement on the political make-up of the audience (which laughingly for Manchester included a few blue rinses WI volunteers where Rodney’s Thatcher jokes spectacularly missed their target) Rodney was asked a direct question around his campaigning in defence of universal benefits which could in the end go to millionaires like Denis Thatcher. Rodney quickly silenced this line of attack by simply stating yes – if the continuance of universal benefits meant that Margaret and Denis received the same as an elderly couple living in a council house in Manchester so be it. But the system should make sure that the older couple in Manchester were well provided for.

Universal benefits mean you contribute in and you can take out and with a fair taxation system those most able to contribute more do so. That is why Ed Balls speech yesterday is so cataclysmic. Mr Calamity in pandering to the Daily Mail has undermined decades of principled arguments that have supported universal benefits. And even more calamitous was his commitment to stick with Tory austerity that in one breath he says is not working and yet in another he says that a future democratically elected government would be tied to. No it would not. This is a weak and dangerous man working to a weak and failed ideology under a weak and failing party leadership. Clearly the debris was not cleared out post the Blair Brown era. We are now reaping the consequences.

Anna Rose