Tom Harris MP: ‘When did “Labour” stop meaning “work” and start to mean “benefits”?’
His motives have been judged, his understanding questioned, his character impugned and his integrity trashed. One may therefore conclude that he must be doing something right. It is not on a matter which is overtly religious, for it concerns carnal matters such as sex, marriage, babies, children and temporal matters like welfare dependency. Yet these are undoubtedly issues of fundamental importance to people of all faiths, though Mr Harris is quick to reject any hint of John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ crusade. Yet he confesses: ‘I remember scoffing when John Major said we should understand a bit less and condemn a bit more, but he was right.’
Tom Harris observes: ‘Politicians are not expected to talk about moral absolutes. Raising questions about other people’s choices, after all, could offend someone and nothing is less acceptable these days than causing someone offence.’
Cranmer is of the opinion that since the Church of England has ceased talking about moral absolutes, it is imperative that politicians do so. Even if, as a consequence, they are despised, ridiculed, misrepresented and harassed, even by those who profess to be Christian.
Why should any Christian fear being associated with such manifest common sense positions as discouraging under-age sex, encouraging abstinence, promoting marriage, or exhorting the virtues of honest work over the devastation of perpetual welfare? Like the eminent Frank Field, Tom Harris speaks with clarity and common sense on Labour’s catastrophic welfare dependency culture. He has dared to mention the unmentionable: he has had the audacity to challenge Marxist-Socialist orthodoxy. He has simply said that the welfare state should be a safeguard against poverty, not a way of life.
And so he has become a voice crying in the wilderness.
He has been judged to be ‘self-righteous’, severely criticised by ‘some on the Left’, accused of ‘insulting women’, ‘attacking the powerless’ (young single mothers), derided for saying Iain Duncan Smith ‘has a lot to offer’, misrepresented as condemning teenagers, and pilloried for receiving praise from Peter Hitchens who calls him a ‘hero for the working class’ for daring to say:
‘Teenage girls shouldn’t be having underage sex. Why? Because it’s wrong. Teenage girls shouldn’t choose to have babies as an alternative to getting an education and a career. Why? Because it’s wrong. Parents shouldn’t teach their children that a lifetime on benefits is attractive or even acceptable. Why? Because it’s wrong.’
Mr Hitchens is right to highlight Tom Harris’ astute observation: ‘The most vociferous critics of the dependency culture and of deliberate worklessness have always been those who live in the same communities, those who resent paying their taxes to help other people waste their lives.’
And so, to the despair and disgust of his Labour colleagues, The Mail on Sunday has welcomed Tom Harris ‘to the ranks of the wild-eyed extremists’.
But this is not a party political issue of left or right: it is about education, society, civilisation and the quest for the common good. Tom Harris criticises the deterioration in standards and of attitudes – as all Christians might – because we have reached the perverse point of universal acceptance of indolence and laziness: a state in which able-bodied people are encouraged to live off benefits for years, if not for life, and drug addicts and drunkards are content to be subsidised by the taxpayer in order to protect them from the harsh and cruel realities of life in Brown’s Britain.
The Welfare State can only function with the patient consent of the people; with the compassionate understanding that some of their compatriots are less fortunate and worthy of charitable donations to alleviate their plight. But the abused taxpayer is fast approaching the threshold of tolerance, for it is no longer acceptable to very many millions of hard-working individuals and struggling families that they should be taxed so highly in order that others may lie in bed until midday and abuse the benefits system because they cannot be bothered to seek gainful employment. This is their ‘choice’, and it is not beyond criticism or judgment.
Tom Harris says he has ‘been taken aback’ by the number of people who have told him how ‘relieved’ they are that he has ‘come out and said what to most people has been blindingly obvious for years’. But he also observes those who are ‘uneasy at a Labour politician making judgments about other people’s choices’. He says: ‘Common sense dictates that, in general, children benefit from having the love of a mother and a father.’ And this, he is assured, is ‘adopting the rhetoric of the Right-wing’.
But Mr Harris has confronted his Labour critics head on, asking: ‘What kind of society have we created when the above paragraph will inevitably be seen by some as offensive, narrow-minded and intolerable? As for the accusation of giving comfort to the “Right-wing”, when did it become “Left-wing” to tolerate such a colossal waste of lives? Why is it “Left-wing” to allow millions of people to remain on benefits instead of working? When did “Labour” stop meaning “work” and start to mean “benefits”?
He might as well have said ‘Labour isn’t working’.
Tom Harris has learnt that Labour do not want the facts: they do not want to confront the chronic social problems caused by teenage pregnancy; they do not want to hear of radical solutions first proposed by Frank Field as far back as 1997 when he was appointed to ‘think the unthinkable’; and they do not want to hear the wisdom of Iain Duncan Smith or the insights of the Centre for Social Justice.
Labour do not want Tom Harris.
The Conservative Party should talk to him. Rather like Frank Field, he is a man with whom they could do business.
*Cranmer is intrigued by this ‘born-again’ epithet. It appears to be almost universally used in a derogatory sense - implying some sort of charismatic Protestant fundamentalism - but Scripture is clear that all Christians are by definition ‘born again’, or else they shall not see the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). Does The Times talk of 'Allah-submitting Muslims'? Waheguru-worshipping Sikhs? Such tautologies are not deemed necessary...