Grayling plays the long game

February 27, 2012

Over the weekend, the employment minister Chris Grayling ‘revealed’ to the Telegraph and their right-wing media buddies that the Socialist Workers’ Party was behind the high-profile opposition to the Government’s workfare proposals. Quite frankly, I think the Government subsidising free workers for business is wrong; they should at least be paying the market rate for labour they procure through the scheme, even if that rate is below the minimum wage and requires top-ups to reach even the level of Job Seekers’ Allowance. But that’s by the by. What’s interesting is the choice by Grayling and his motley crew of Red-bashers to paint the SWP as the prime movers behind the anti-workfare campaign. They’re not; plenty of people have played a part, even the relatively mainstream Liberal Conspiracy.

So why focus on the SWP? Simply to frighten the horsey people who read the Telegraph? While there’s some short-term political gain from doing so, one has to look at this tactic in a broader context.

The anti-workfare campaign has been surprisingly successful; pushing the likes of Tesco to take public issue with some unpalatable elements of the scheme, and helping push the much-loathed chair of A4e out of employment. Someone has to take responsibility for that success, and the rewards it attracts in terms of increased support and funding. Labour’s almost invisible response to the issue has been telling, which is hardly surprising given that it stands in a continuum with their policies implemented in Government. Labour have been attracting an increased level of support on the back of anti-coalition feeling, but are still tainted with their Government record. Far better, if you do not wish to see another Labour Government, to see some of that support – particularly the activists support that actually knocks on doors and delivers leaflets – to be diverted to another party.

The coverage of the SWP over the weekend has given them a higher profile than they’ve perhaps had for decades; they’ve been presented as achieving a Big Win over the Evil Tories. This attracts a certain sort of person; the kind of soft Left intellectual who’s still put off by Labour killing lots of foreigners and being in favour of those awful market things. Labour will need those people if it’s to win again, and diverting them away to hilarious fringe groups like the SWP helps those of us who don’t want Labour to win again.

I’m not claiming that this was Grayling’s intent, but it’s always preferable to assume cunning rather than stupidity. It’ll be interesting to see what else gets blamed on far-left extremists, and the extent to which that blame ends up on the front pages of the Daily Mail.