Coffee House

What would Frank Field do for Labour?

19 August 2013

The latest tranche of advice for Ed Miliband contains pleas for the Labour leader to think the unthinkable and hire Frank Field as his welfare adviser to how that Labour was ‘serious’ about reforming the welfare system. This would represent quite a change of direction for the party, and would be what commentators like to call a ‘bold move’, partly because Field is known to be quite difficult to work with, while also offering an expert understanding of benefits and poverty. I interviewed Field for Coffee House in May, and it’s worth revisiting some of his remarks now for an indication of what a Labour welfare policy would look like if he were in charge:

1. Labour needs to apologise for its equalities agenda

Field believes that ‘the equalities agenda the Labour party pushes’ has caused its vote to collapse among working class women, and that it should ‘apologise for what we’ve done for that group up to now’.

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2. Labour would have to reverse over much of its old work on tax credits

Field wasn’t particularly complimentary about tax credits, or their architect, Gordon Brown. He called the former Prime Minister ‘that fool’, and said tax credits were a ‘lunacy’ because they make life harder for people who are in work. He said:

‘What happened was this terrible tax credit subsidy – I think it was in 2008 – Gordon Brown, who never really understood anything, let alone the economy, changed the rules on how your child tax credits and child benefit were treated. Up to that point, the monies you got for child benefit, and tax credits, were deducted from your social security payments so the bigger your child benefit, and child tax credits when you were in work, the bigger the incentive to work.

‘But that fool, without by or leave, changed the rules… So this huge incentive to people with three or four children about working was lost. Lots of them to their credit have not responded to the lunacy of Gordon, and continued to work. But once you’re out of work and you realise you still get this…’

3. Labour should gradually raise the minimum wage to living wage levels.

Miliband has so far made noises about incentivising firms to pay the living wage using tax breaks. But he has stopped short of anything mandatory. Field thought that the party needed to take more risks, and one of those should be standing firm on pay. He argued that there was a great fuss around the introduction of the minimum wage that he said had been proven to be unfounded, and that Labour should take heart from that and raise pay to a living wage level.

Field also supports refusing to accept new migrants from Bulgaria and Romania and for Labour to support an EU referendum. In May, he told me that Labour would be ‘mad not to’ take up his ideas on early intervention in troubled families’ lives. But the party would certainly have to be bold to bring him back to the frontbench.

You can read the full interview here.

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Show comments
  • AlanGiles

    Field is a sanctimonious hypocrite, not entirely unscathed from the expenses scandal. High time he retired, or was removed by his Birkenhead constituents who voted Labour and got a closet Tory

  • swatnan

    Lets face it, some people are not cut out to be Ministers or Shadow Ministers, and Frank field is one of them; they talk a lot but are incapable of getting anything done.
    Diane Abbot is another.

    • AlanGiles

      The key to Frank Field is his self-loathing, because he can’t face what he is, he has to find somebody “worse” than him.

      • swatnan

        I wouldn’t know about Frank’s, ‘self loathing’; I’d just put it down to lack of responsibility.

        • AlanGiles

          A pious, deeply religious crusty old batchlor in his 70s,who has never found personal happiness in his life, so he has to transfer his misery to others. He himself feels a victim of his circumstances, therefore, he tries to bully other victims.
          He reminds you of those prisoners who attack fellow inmates because he wants to feel his “crimes” are lesser than those of others.
          He is a hypocrite in that he consorts and cooperates with a vicious coalition government, which is one of the most right-wing this country has ever seen.
          His shame is in doing it his party’s shame is that they turn a blind eye and don’t deselect him

  • In2minds

    Gordon Brown a fool? But he saved the world from financial ruin right?

  • CortUK

    There are two Labour politicians of whom the Conservatives are scared:

    Frank Field
    Alistair Darling

    You may disagree, but it is true. Ed is too dumb to give them jobs.

  • CortUK

    The reason the dangers of the minimum wage were not realised is because the Labour government opened the borders and permitted a huge black economy of foreign workers who are employed on illegal wages. Then there is the industry in small employers employing foreign nationals, paying them minimum wage, but then subtracting housing costs before the money is handed over. The employer of course also being the workers’ BTL landlord and making a tidy capital gain – as well as getting cheap labour.

    The pub/restaurant down the road from me is run entirely by Eastern Europeans under a British landlord, and they all live in a tiny house how owns 50 yards away. Judging by their appearance, I don’t think they see £6.19 an hour.

  • David B

    Ed cannot think beyond what he’s told to think by his union paymasters

  • John Steadman

    Frank Field. A gem.

  • sarahsmith232

    Labour do anything to leave their welfare-dependent client-state wondering ‘so what the **** am I supposed to be voting Labour for then? out of control immigration?’ yes, and then back in the real world, this isn’t going to happen.

  • Span Ows

    “What would Frank Field do for Labour?

    Think the unthinkable?

    • greggf

      That’s what he did for TB, but clearly the unthinkable was unacceptable!

  • stanedeid

    Westminster continues its self-obsession.
    Thankfully we in Scotland will soon be free from Westminster’s toxic bubble.

    • Normandee

      If you do “escape” our bubble, you will find yourself in Salmonds “National Socialism” bubble. suggest you examine his views on immigrants and beggars, and what is already happening in Scotland with the ones you already have.

      • Shazza

        Yup, and don’t think you can go to England and claim ‘asylum’.

    • Russell

      And so say many millions of English taxpayers.

      • stanedeid

        Bitter together,better apart.

    • Normandee

      See “The Commentator” site reference beggars

    • Shazza

      Trust me, we in England hope so too.

    • CortUK

      Bless. You’ve got more chance of Mel Gibson coming back. Sorry, did I say Mel Gibson? I meant William Wallace.

      I was in Lerwick last year. You should hear what they were saying about those distant, out-of-touch, self-obsessed political elite morons in Edinburgh, after stealing all their Brent crude……

  • Ulysses Returns

    I would much rather see the admirable Mr Field cross the floor with the equally excellent Kate Hoey. The idea that labtard could or would reverse its destructive welfare policies is laughable – its union paymasters and its bought and paid for (with our money) client state would never allow it.

    • Russell

      UKIP would be a more suitable choice for both Field and Hoey, where they would be most welcome. The only two labour MP’s that have any credibility with voters for the Conservative party or UKIP (and I am sure even the Labour party).

      • Emulous

        You are wrong about Field.
        He is a pedantic deadwood with no capacity to listen.
        He is ideal for the Labour Front Bench.

        • greggf

          He listened to complaints about foreigners getting priority on social housing and h/benefit in London, and I believe IDS included for some of his findings….

    • HookesLaw

      Sadly they won’t.

    • Shazza

      Spot on!

    • sunnydayrider

      Spot on young man.

  • Normandee

    Apart from the minimum wage which will alone destroy any future growth, he makes more sense than anything from labour in the recent years. BUT and it’s a big but, all of that sense is undermined by preposterous suggestions of making the tax on companies bigger, that tax being the minimum wage.

    • Pootles

      There is another way of looking at this – the living wage (not the minimum wage, Normandee), combined with an end to mass immigration, plus some real attempt to equip those stuck on benefits long term to return to work (Field’s ‘early intervention agenda’, shared with people like IDS and Graham Allen) would tackle the mass unemployment and underemployment that afflicts large swathes of society. That would, in turn, greatly reduce both the housing benefit and personal benefits bill – those two elements of ‘welfare’ are, in fact, a huge subsidy that is paid by the taxpayer to private business and private landlords and represent a tax on all taxpayers, individual and corporate.
      On Field himself, it might be noted that he is one of the very few MPs of any party who has increased his majority every election he has stood in, regardless of the national trends. He is, furthermore, a decent boke with a long-standing interest in tackling poverty.

      • Normandee

        OK lets address mass immigration, and I suggest consider real work done on removal of illegals, lets then do something to alter the benefits culture created by Labour dumbing down education, and making it easier to be out of work than in. Then when all the benefits you suggest have been created, when hopefully we are in a better position we can look at if a “living wage” tax is needed. I agree with you that Frank Field is a decent bloke, and I share his concern over poverty, I am concerned as to how we tackle it, and not to hamper our efforts by more taxes.

        • Pootles

          OK, I’ll go with that, broadly. The fact that so many (and we are talking 100,000s) are much better off not working, and that one can work oneself half to death on the average wage and still see others having more by not working, is appalling.

    • Tom M

      Quite agree.
      “The more ambitious a minimum wage law is, the larger the number of workers it attempts to cover and the more it attempts to raise their wage the more certain are its harmful effects to exceed any good effects”.

      Henry Hazlett economist.

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