Government adviser: "cut unemployment by locking people up"
Meet Lawrence Mead, the new adviser to the Tory/Lib Dem government:
"For difficult cases, such as fathers who do not work and fail to make child support payments or ex-prisoners on parole, the sanction for not working would be jail...
The key intellectual insight for Mead when he began his assault on the American welfare state was that what changed behaviour was not economic incentives but tough government talking. "It was authoritative statements from people in authority that mattered. We should not [incentivise people] to work. We hope [they will]. We say it because you are supposed to do it, we expect you to do it...
Such sentiments have a whiff of 1930s Germany, something the Twittersphere buzzed with when welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "Work makes you free" – the same words hung over the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp. "I have faced this accusation," says Mead. "Hitler was non-democratic, whereas work requirements claim a popular mandate."
Government should cut unemployment by locking the poor up, and the problem with forced labour schemes of the past was that they didn't have a popular mandate, says government adviser.
And the Lib Dem supporters read this (for it was in the Guardian), and they were confused that this far right wing drivel had not been condemned by Lib Dem MPs or by civil liberties campaigners. After all, they remembered their leader saying, just two months ago, that "civil liberties and individual freedoms are part of the DNA of the Lib Dems" and condemning Labour for its authoritarianism and for locking so many people up.
So they went back to the barn, and read the statement of Liberal Democrat principles. And it turned out they had misremembered. For the statement of Liberal Democrat principles had been changed, and now read - "civil liberties and individual freedoms are part of the DNA of the Lib Dems, except for those who do not work".
And the rest of us looked from Tory to Lib Dem, and from this Coalition government back to Maggie Thatcher's government, and found it increasingly hard to tell the difference.