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Cheers - AE

Monday, 20 June 2011

Black is white, up is down, Labour is Tory

As if to prove that this political metamorphery (apparently not a word, but I'm sticking with it anyway) of Tories into Labour that I've been ranting about the last couple of days is not unique we have the precedent of the grinning mutation mentioned earlier today, who, according to a lifelong member of the Tory party I knew, was among the best Conservative Prime Ministers he could remember. To be honest I wasn't sure how much he was complimenting Blair and how much he was slagging off Major and whichever tool they had as leader whenever it was we were discussing it, but it seems as if Blair was not a one off. Either that or Frank Field is starting to channel Norman Tebbit.
When Tony Blair won the 1997 election, the total number of benefit claimants of working age stood at 5.7 million. When Gordon Brown went to the country in 2010, the level was the same – even though more than three million jobs had been created under Labour.
The problem was that, of those new jobs, 80 per cent went to immigrant workers. And now, the same disturbing pattern is repeating itself. In fact, it is even more marked: over the first year of the Coalition, 87 per cent of the 400,000 new jobs created were taken by immigrants.
Overwhelmingly, voters reject the idea that the right to welfare should be decided on grounds of need. A vast majority insists that welfare should instead be earned. Voters are deeply uneasy with the direction of policy, begun in the early Sixties, that has seen Britain move away from its insurance-based system, where benefits were awarded only to those who had paid in, to a means-tested system that gives a universal right to benefits to anyone whose income is below a certain level. Especially since, under the guise of tax credits, a third of the country has been sucked into the welfare net.
Voters are equally hostile to the way social housing is allocated. The rules determine that those deemed to be in greatest need shoot to the top of the housing queues. The public fundamentally disagrees. It believes that those who have waited the longest, who have been good, reliable, decent tenants, who have paid their rent on time, whose children haven’t caused trouble, shouldn’t be pipped at the post for the best housing.
Yet even so, the Coalition looks set to continue the post-war policies to which voters are hostile. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Benefit is little more than Gordon Brown’s approach on speed.
The Work Programme, if anything, has had an even easier ride. The Government believes, for two reasons, that its approach is superior to the horrendous number of such schemes Labour introduced and endlessly refined. First, private providers will be free from most bureaucratic restraint; second, they will predominantly be paid by their results, getting their reward from the taxpayers only when they place people in work (and the longer they remain in work, the bigger the reward).
It sounds simple, but again, I doubt whether it will have a huge impact on the numbers of workless claimants, and particularly on the number of those who have never worked.
But what of those lads, barely able to read or write, who tell me they wouldn’t dream of taking a job that doesn’t pay three times the rate they gain on benefits, and who refuse those jobs available on the grounds that such work is fit only for immigrants? This group of recidivist, workless claimants know from past experience that governments leave them alone.
Again, voters have other views. Three quarters of the public – including benefit claimants themselves – believe that those who willingly refuse to seek work should lose all or a very large proportion of their benefits. Yet no government has shown any willingness to reflect voters’ views in the sanctions it imposes.
Frank Field, in case anyone needs reminding, has been a Labour MP for more than thirty years and has served both in cabinets and shadow cabinets. He may have a track record of taking a different line from his own party and of course he was the guy who set out to think the unthinkable on welfare reform, at least until Blair told him that the unthinkable was, er, unthinkable. Still, the point is we have Tories in the Cobbleition being more Labour than Labour and one of the longer serving Labour MPs is being more of a Tory than almost any of them. And for what it's worth he's making more sense too.

What the fuck is going on?

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