Emma Lewell-Buck just can’t help it. In today’s Shields Gazette she decried the emptiness of David Cameron’s tough words on the Calais migrants issue, without any suggestion of what she or Labour would do to resolve the problem.
Presumably no one has told her yet.
What irked me most was that the article showed a complete lack of empathy; not just in her own words, but in the visitor comments below the article. The people in Calais are hoping for a better life; a job, opportunity, a chance for freedom, or a haven from persecution, violence or death.
So I commented:
It says everything about the pathetic state of Labour that the South Shields MP jumps on the anti immigrant bandwagon to keep the Labour leadership happy and at the same time attempt to appeal to BNP and UKIP voters. It is reassuring though that people like Emma Lewell-Buck and most of the commenters below are in the minority (particularly the charming den ‘final solution’ patton) and that most British people are actually decent, empathetic human beings.
To put it in perspective, we have a population of over 60 million, but there are around 3,000 migrants in Calais. We are also one of the wealthiest countries in the world so not only can we afford to support these people in difficulty, we should. Sadly Emma Lewell-Buck is part of a political-economic system which prefers to maintain the status quo which makes the poor poorer and the rich richer, and rather use these people in trouble as an opportunity for cheap political point scoring rather than actually improving lives.
Maybe we can’t help everyone. But we should try, and for an MP, it should embody the reason they went for the job in the first place: to help people.
Anything else is a betrayal to Labour voters, and what were once Labour principles.
This image is a snapshot of an alphabetical list from Hansard, of MPs who voted against the Tory Welfare Bill last night.
You’ll note that South Tyneside’s two Labour MPs, Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck are missing. That’s right, along with most other Labour Party MPs they failed to vote against a bill that the Tories will use to further hobble the welfare state and make the lives of people on low incomes in South Tyneside worse.
You would think MPs were there to vote in the interests of their constituents, but not these two. They voted for party before principle.
After the vote SNP MP Peter Wishart asked the speaker of the house if Labour could be moved to the back benches as they no longer represent an opposition to the Tories. He’s got a point; in the last year or so Labour has consistently voted in support of Tory economic policy.
If I was a Labour Party member in South Tyneside, today I would be asking myself some very serious questions. Is Labour fit for purpose? Does it still represent my values? Why did I waste my time canvassing for two losers who can’t vote to protect fundamental Labour principles?
Three weeks after voting in support of the Coalition government’s ‘annual welfare cap’, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck rails at the government’s poor performance in administering the Personal Independence Payment, or PIP for short. Our MP raised in Parliament the plight of constituent Sue Martin, who has myalgic encephalomyelitis and has been waiting since July last year to find out if she qualifies for support through PIP to help with her illness. In most scenarios, I would say job well done to our MP.
Sadly, Ms Martin is not alone in struggling with PIP and Disability Living Allowance claims, and will likely be joined in future by many other people struck by debilitating illness, frustrated with an inhumane bureaucratic system and a capped welfare budget pot. This capped welfare budget will mean that different departments within the welfare system will compete with each other for a share of the budget. If one welfare function is over budget, then funds can be taken from one department to top up the other department’s failing budget. It doesn’t sound so bad, until you realise that people’s lives will depend on the political whims of ministers courting media attention and the competing interests of internal party political warfare.
Despite Emma Lewell-Buck’s plea over over PIP and her criticism of the government for ‘letting people down’, she voted for the very bill that could make life worse for people like Sue Martin, and other people who are unfortunate enough to need the safety net of the welfare system.
“I’m going to be a different sort of MP“, she said. When she was campaigning to replace David Miliband as South Shields’ MP, she played on the fact that she was local born and bred, with a deep Tyneside family history, and a social worker who knew the needs of and the difficulties facing the people of South Shields.
After safely winning the South Shields seat, Emma Lewell-Buck pluckily threw down the gauntlet to David Cameron, saying that he might need a lifeboat “after sailing HMS Coalition straight into the rocks, aided by his captain, George Osborne, and his cabin boy, Nick Clegg”. Well, our South Shields MP has joined the crew of the not-so-good ship HMS Coalition. Today, she voted with the Labour whip in support of the Coalition’s Charter for Budget Responsibility, otherwise known as the ‘annual welfare cap’, a cap on the overall level of spending in the welfare budget, excepting pensions and some jobseekers benefits.
It’s a nasty piece of legislation, another broadside in the Coalition’s dirty media war against those in receipt of benefits, and it seems, a war in which Labour wants to see some frontline action. Unfortunately, Labour chose not to fight against the Coalition, but instead chose the easy target in a hunt for the middle England vote – against those in our society who are most in need, the poor and the unwell. If Labour MPs wanted to distance themselves from the values of the creators of the NHS and the welfare state, they couldn’t have picked a more treacherous flag to run up their mast.
So is ensign Lewell-Buck a ‘different sort of MP’ for South Shields? What better benchmark could we find than the late Tony Benn, whom she claimed for her was “an inspiring figure… because of his absolute dedication to his principles and his belief in the rights of working people.” I find it difficult to believe that Tony Benn would ever vote for such a divisive policy, which in this time of savage austerity further victimises the poorest and most unfortunate in society, whilst the rich get richer. If Lewell-Buck is a ‘different sort of MP’, it’s one that’s hugely different from Tony Benn, but remarkably similar to South Shields’ previous parliamentary disappointments, David Clark and David Miliband.
South Shields could as well have voted a Tory in, for all the difference it would have made.
So what? It was going to happen. The UKIP claims of “giving Labour a bloody nose” were bloody stupid, typical Farage shouty bravado in the vain hope that someone will believe him.
Despite the pitiful 40 per cent by election turnout, Labour pretty much kept their share of the vote and held on to their percentage majority. They managed this with actually very little campaigning. Such is the nature of the confidence in South Shields’ electorate.
UKIP got what they wanted: second place. They put a lot of money into their campaign and bussed in supporters from outside the town, supporters who to their credit worked very hard, no matter how silly I think their politics are. The result gives Farage a chance to claim that UKIP are now the second party in Britain. Such a claim would be more than optimistic: UKIP are yet to get themselves in parliament. In South Shields, they’re merely the new Tories on the block, and will likely see their vote drop at the General Election in 2015.
What should be remembered is that this was a by election, where sometimes the electorate throw the dice on a protest vote, but it looks like the only ones protesting were Tory and Lib Dem voters.
The way I see it, the top three parties in the vote are all tied to a neo-liberal economic model which values money over people.
It’s been a while since South Shields voted a left wing party into parliament. I find that saddening.
Jumping on the South Shields by-election bandwagon, UKIP have set up shop, in a shop, on King Street. It’s tastefully decked out in posters and a couple of baloons. Classy. The shop was formerly a branch of Bay Biscuit Co, a now defunct Newcastle retailer specialising in broken and bargain biscuits.
Let’s ignore that UKIP’s position on climate change ignores the science. Let’s ignore that UKIP’s position on equal marriage is as libertarian as the Pope’s. Let’s ignore that UKIP representatives have a bad habit of failing to keep their promises.
The real question which voters should ponder in their analysis of the by-election candidate should be: if UKIP were a biscuit, what biscuit would it be?
Not Hobnobs, clearly that’s for the Tories, a party run by toffs. Jammie Dodgers is more of Lib Dem biscuit, given their dodging tough decisions, their commitments and their principles. Drifter seems designed for Labour, the party continually drifting from it’s original purpose.
No doubt a UKIP representative would consider a biscuit like a Breakaway, reflecting their desire to tear the UK from Europe. Maybe Party Rings in a nod to South Tyneside UKIP councillor David Pott’s love for Bunga Bunga parties. Or perhaps McVitie’s Gold bars for UKIP’s nonsensical attachment to the gold standard. I think maybe Jacob’s Odditities would be the most appropriate. Or Jacob’s Crackers.
Or something with nuts in.