Anger after Reeves tells benefit claimants: ‘Labour is not for you’


Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves has caused outrage among disabled activists after declaring in an interview that Labour was “not the party of people on benefits”.

In an interview in the Guardian, Reeves said: “We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, [as]the party to represent those who are out of work.”

She added: “Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people.”

Bob Ellard, a member of the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) steering group, said on Twitter that he had resigned his membership of the party as a result of Reeves’ comments, “as it is clear that non-working disabled people are not wanted within @UKLabour”.

In a blog on its website, DPAC said the remarks were a “huge disappointment” for those who had expected Labour to “take a principled stand against what the coalition is doing to unemployed and disabled people who cannot work, lone parents, carers and pensioners who rely on benefits”.

DPAC also pointed out that Reeves’ comments appeared to suggest – incorrectly – that it was not possible to be both working and claiming benefits such as personal independence payment.

It added: “Is the assumption that claiming benefits only happens to others, slightly apart from the rest of the human race, and who don’t deserve to be represented although they are already the most politically marginalised and unrepresented group?”

Pat Onions, founder of Pat’s Petition, said: “Rachel Reeves is the shadow minister for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

“If she doesn’t want to represent people on welfare then she needs to find another job.

“Sick and disabled people are trying to defend themselves against [Conservative DWP ministers] Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey.

“If Rachel Reeves doesn’t want to speak for them then she needs to get out of the way and let someone who does want to speak for them step up.”

Disabled activist and blogger Steven Sumpter, who tweets at @latentexistence, said on Twitter that it was not possible to “ask for a clearer statement of how Labour aren’t going to help”.

Reeves has so far failed to say whether she stands by her comments.

But the Guardian journalist who wrote the article, Amelia Gentleman, said on Twitter that Reeves had gone on to say in the interview that the welfare state “was always supposed to be there to protect people in times of need, whether that was because they lost their job, or they became disabled, or they had a child who is disabled, to help with the cost of childcare, to help you when you are no longer earning because you are retired.”

And she said Reeves had added: “I want to ensure that the welfare state is there for my children and their children in the future.”

Fellow shadow ministers also scrambled to defend Reeves on Twitter.

Kate Green, the shadow minister for disabled people, tweeted that Reeves believed that “Labour represents everyone whether in work or out of work. That means a strong safety net.”

And the shadow care and support minister Liz Kendall tweeted: “@RachelReevesMP is right to say @UKLabour has always fought for work for those that can & security for those who can’t #manynotfew.”


  • User Ratings (9 Votes)
  • I’m not seeing any recognition that work is entirely artificial, introduced solely so that formerly self-sufficient folk could be exploited. Perhaps a party calling itself Labour has already accepted this artificial state of affairs, making it in many regards pointless anyway.

  • John Thornton

    I think there is a non sequitur between Rachel Reeves comments about the Labour Party – and whom [she claims] it represents – and the remit of UK’s Welfare State. Forget the mealy-mouthed excuses. Nothing less than an unreserved apology will be acceptable. And why haven’t senior Labour Party members come out and condemned her comments?

  • bookmanwales

    Apologists in the Labour Party keep making excuses for this woman, what she says is not what she means apparently.
    When she said Labour “will be tougher on welfare than the Tories” she didn’t mean that either. Somehow the words she says get muddled by all those reading them. As a former Blair Babe she obviously still has the New Labour Tory ideology at heart.
    These sad people who cannot defend the unemployed / sick or disabled are ensuring a complete Tory victory at the election. Millions of these sidelined people WILL NOT VOTE as they are sick to death of being used as the scapegoats for a group of bankers and politicians who screwed the economy and are living the life of Riley on the proceeds.