Friday, November 02, 2007

The return of the nasty party

Hopi Sen analyses the Tory plans on welfare reform in another of his excellent posts.

The Tory proposals are currently at the level of telling people they don’t get any benefits if they turn down a job, any job. But they will be publishing detailed proposals, based on those in Wisconsin in the USA, in January.

The idea of 'tough love', of helping people out of poverty by cutting off their benefits and forcing them to get a job (which is how the Tories will try to portray it) will appeal to a lot of people, and unless challenged, journalists will uncritically repeat the big lie that it will help cut poverty and is based on 'successful' programmes.

It was encouraging to hear Peter Hain recently say that this was a line in the sand, that Labour wouldn't follow the Tories on this. Labour needs to get back into the habit of demolishing Tory proposals, and there is no better place to start than this one. The government also needs to clearly explain what its alternative is - hard to do because it involves lots of little tweaks to the current system rather than one big change, but no less important for that.

What David Cameron is proposing is as extreme as anything Thatcher did, and based on the evidence of where it has been tried, it will have the same results as Thatcherism did - more young people sleeping rough (the return of Cardboard City), more children growing up in poverty, more families breaking up because they can't cope, and all for a system which will end up proving more expensive then the one that it replaces.

The tragedy with Welfare Reform in the USA is that during the good economic times of the mid 1990s, they had a chance to reform the system to get people into good jobs, provide more job training and childcare, but instead they ended up with Newt Gingrich's bill which forced people into work without any support when the economy turned bad.


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