I would never be so naive to think that the majority of Tory MPs for one minute would even begin to understand what life is like on the frontline of austerity. But perhaps I estimated some Labour MPs too highly also. After all the very type of job that an MP does gives them a salary of over £60k a year, which to most people would mean a comfortable lifestyle. To people receiving social security an MP is significantly well off.
I have nothing but admiration and respect when I see Labour MPs like Grahame Morris, Ian Mearns and Ian Lavery, week in, week out, meet with constituents , discuss their problems, engage with Labour voters on twitter and never ever take for granted their representation of all people in their constituencies. But for other MPs perhaps a time out of the Westminster bubble would open their eyes to what front line austerity actually is.
I reprimanded Tom Harris MP on twitter when he said in his article on Labour List:"Many on the Left of our party want a different approach to the Work and Pensions brief. They want someone who will hint at increasing, not decreasing the welfare bill, who will defend the right of claimants to turn down paid employment without any hint of sanctions, and who will unequivocally oppose every one of IDS’s reforms."
I cannot speak for MPs or "The Party" but I speak for many Left leaning voters who categorically DO NOT want a new DWP Shadow Minister doing any of the above at all! I told Mr Harris that this is not the case among left leaning voters. We want practical help from the DWP for all unemployed people, to actually find a job that is Full Time in hours and pays a Living Wage so people can support their families and have job security, pay down a mortgage or rent, buy a piece of furniture not on credit.In turn we would also like new affordable social housing built: not on huge estates that can become ghettoes of the future but perhaps a combination of social and private housing with a mixture of tenants both in work and out of work, both able bodied and disabled, both young and old.
I would also point out that the ordinary Labour voter would not want a DWP Secretary to have lists of sanctions at the ready for tiny misdemeanours such as being 5 minutes late for an appointment at the Job Centre. But through my own son's experience who was seasonally unemployed last winter as a young single man, living at home, could you define why you would sanction my son for turning down the following "job".
He was offered a caravan cleaning job, 20 miles away for 6 hours per week on a Saturday. His train fare to the job (which is the only means of getting there on the N Wales coast) was £12 return. I told him to turn down this "job" Mr Harris, as it is not a job at all in my book! Jobseekers like my son are not being given options of Full Time or even good Part Time Jobs in most cases. In my sons case 6 hours per week is not even part time. Yet supposedly you would recommend a DWP Secretary sanction my son for not taking it? Thankfully with no help from the Job Centre he found a full time job, albeit from an agency on a zero hours contract, but options are few on the ground currently.
As to "opposing every one of IDS' reforms" again although many on the Left vehemently loathe the man and his rhetoric, is it right to assume we ordinary people want a DWP Shadow Secretary who would oppose reform of our Social Security System? No! There are many like myself who understand the myriad of benefits under the Social Security system needs a complete overhaul. Universal Credit for example, if it incorporated fair ways of payment to recipients, included even more benefits like Carers Allowance and Council Tax Benefit, had an IT system fit for purpose, and operated by giving dignity and respect to those who need to claim, then by all means go ahead with it! Universal Credit if operated correctly as I have stated would be a relief to people who have to fill in reams of individual forms to claim Housing Benefit, Tax Credits, JSA etc. To have one form would be ideal and welcome to most ordinary people.
So I would say to Tom Harris MP or other Labour MPs who think voters of the Left want increased Social Security Bills, and rights to turn down work etc - We don't at all! We just require a Shadow DWP Secretary who will defend the right to a proper contract of work between employer and employee that does not include zero hours unless asked for, a job whose hours can provide a decent Living Wage and a decent standard of social housing where the Bedroom Tax is consigned to the wastebin, and a social security system that is easy to access in times of need and provides practical caring help to all claimants.
Now that doesn't sound too much to ask either from Liam Byrne or whomever his successor maybe in a reshuffle. Even Tom Harris may agree with me perhaps?