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Nick De Bois: Don't let Labour stifle debate on welfare reform

Nick de Bois is the Member of Parliament for Enfield North. Follow Nick on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-04-06 at 04.41.16Ian Martin argues that Labour have completely lost the plot on Philpott. He is of course right to suggest that their position puts then firmly on the wrong side of the argument and interestingly suggests that on this particular matter, and welfare reform in general the public are ahead of the politicians. I agree, although Iain Duncan Smith and the Chancellor are fast catching up with the public who understand that more change is needed to turn welfare into support, not a lifestyle choice as it is for some.

Yet I sense a clumsy attempt by Labour to deal with welfare reform as they dealt with immigration in the run up to the 2001 and 2005 elections. Namely to silence debate by making it politically incorrect to talk about a group in society who shamelessly abandon self-respect, duty of care, personal responsibility and a work ethic whilst taking hard earned taxpayers money.

Let me be clear: this is still a minority, as most people are decent who want to get on but may be trapped in a welfare system and the difficulties of the present employment market. Yet Labour, and Ed Balls in particular, want to try and merge the two together and make temporary political gain from it - by launching a full frontal assault on George Osborne's comments - whilst trying to suppress discussion about a group of people left behind by successive governments with significant and worrying results.

As with immigration in the early years of the Blair Government, to express concern was politically incorrect and, more than often, would end up with the suggestion that you were racist. Not only did my political opponents at the time do this, but so did the shameless Independent Newspaper which subsequently "apologised". George Osborne has done us all a favour by raising the issue of the tax payer supporting a lifestyle similar to that of Philpott. Don't let Labour stifle that debate, rather let's seize the moment to contrast a hopelessly out-of-touch opposition with a reforming Conservative agenda.


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