Morality and the Welfare Reform Bill; the Liberal Democrats and the Nuremberg Defence

Letters to the Editor


Doubtless, the permanently disabled and those dying of cancer will be reassured to learn that “Many Liberal Democrats have been uncomfortable voting with the government, but feel forced to do so if they are to abide by their coalition commitment to bring the deficit under control” (Coalition’s welfare reform plan hit by £1.6 bn Lords defeat, 12 January). Some of us were under the misguided impression that the “only obeying orders” defence, now being used by Liberal Democrat MPs and most Liberal Democrat peers, was ruled out at the Nuremberg trials.

Even if, like Clegg and his crew, one were to assume that Keynes was wrong and Herbert Hoover and Heinrich Brüning were right to pursue deflationary austerity policies in the middle of a world depression, one might suggest Trident could be cut and spending on the Olympics and the jubilee reduced or cancelled rather than making the most vulnerable in society pay for the bankers’ crisis.

Dr Tobias Abse
Goldsmiths, University of London

(Dr. Tobias Abse is a professor at Goldsmiths College of the University of London. An expert on fascism, Abse has written extensively on the rise of the Fascist Right in Italy prior to World War II – BT)


Thank you for introducing both morality and sanity into the media coverage of the welfare reform bill (Editorial, 6 January).

Unlike the shrill red-tops and overbalanced BBC, you at least recognise the massive social policy reverse represented by the punitive plan to put an annual cap of £26,000 on any family’s total social security benefits. This would break the link between a family’s needs, determined primarily by the number of children it has, and entitlement. It is an affront to decency, let alone social justice, because it purposely penalises those in greatest need. It would put the clock back to 1975, when the hated wage stop was finally abolished. Under this rule the benefits of unemployed people were capped at the level of their normal earnings, which echoed the Poor Law principle of “less eligibility”. Its current reincarnation should not be a matter of party politics but a moral issue, plain and simple, which unites all fair-minded people in horror at what is being contemplated.

Alan Walker,  University of Sheffield

2 thoughts on “Morality and the Welfare Reform Bill; the Liberal Democrats and the Nuremberg Defence

  1. After Atos says:

    There were a lot of Lib Dems abstaining on the votes against the Welfare Reform Bill and the 3 wins. If they had not abstained and voted for with the govt or against with the opposition it would make all the difference in history. There are a lot showing their discomfort and struggle with conscience and party whip by walking the middle way of abstaining. Go to the debate in the Parliament website. It will say who votes for and against and who abstained. Focus on all with your response and write too all, maybe as an individual maybe as a group of voices. But focus each appeal to whether it is a yes voter, a no voter or an abstainer. Pontius Pilot washed his hands and said it was for others to decide and out of his hands although his was the power on the decision and certificate of death. Do not let them get away with abstaining. Go and be active by finding who voted which way and aim and target them. No surrender or there will be no tomorrow.

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