Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad?


7:55 pm - April 12th 2010

by Don Paskini    


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Labour’s new policy on the jobs guarantee in their manifesto is worth looking at, as it symbolises many of the strengths and weaknesses of their overall approach:

No young person in Britain should be long-term unemployed: those out of work for six months or more will be guaranteed employment or training through the £1 billion Future Jobs Fund, with mandatory participation after ten months. The fund will support 200,000 jobs. All those who are long-term unemployed for two years will be guaranteed a job placement, which they will be required to take up or have their benefits cut

There is a sensible, left wing idea here, building on what has already worked well. This is the idea that at times when unemployment is rising, the government should make funding available to create new jobs. Offering every unemployed person the opportunity of a job, which helps to build their skills, do something useful, and increase their confidence, is a valuable investment which is better than just paying benefits and sending people on training courses.

But this good idea is melded together with a daft right-wing idea, which is to make it compulsory. A moment’s thought would reveal the key problem with this – who is going to employ these people who are being required to take up a job? There are plenty of people who want to see unemployed people forced to take a job, but none of these people would actually be prepared to employ them in their own organisation.

At present, people send their CVs to employers who have signed up to the Future Jobs Fund, and then the employers choose who to employ. So for all the tough talk, it will be easy enough for someone who doesn’t want a job to turn up to the interview and make sure that they do badly enough that they don’t get offered the job.

But, inevitably, there will be a few people who get forced into unsuitable employment by the threat of being made homeless and destitute. It won’t affect the people who know how to play the system, but will punish some vulnerable people for whom work is not the right option at this time.

This is hardly the first time we’ve seen this curious mixture. There is a stereotype of soft-hearted lefties and hard-headed right-wingers, but this is the opposite – a mix of thoughtful and effective social democracy, and wildly utopian and unachievable right-wing authoritarianism.

On balance, the good in the jobs guarantee policy outweighs the bad. But this kind of unrealistic right-wing drivel doesn’t actually impress the angry people who are furious at the idea of anyone getting help without being punished for it, and undermines the effectiveness of the positive parts of the policy. It would be better just to put forward ideas which help people, trust that they will make the most of new opportunities, and which actually work.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Elections2010 ,Labour party

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Reader comments


Another good analysis, Don, and you have so put your finger on the essence of the Labour problem – a reasonable idea made to look like a threat. I presume the second part is in there to keep middle England – wherever that is – on side.

2. Silent Hunter

I think you mean – A threat made to look like a reasonable idea – dear!

LOL – you’re right!

When I read this article this morning, I was prepared to reconsider my intended vote.

http://news.scotsman.com/news/Labour-Poverty-trap-will-be.6218810.jp

Sadly, I cannot find it in the published document.

5. Shatterface

Late signers also loose a week’s benefit now, not just a day’s – and two week’s for a second ‘offense’.

If you are looking for a career I’d suggest becoming a loan shark – business is going to boom.

Its hard right workfare in left wing clothing. The regulations will allow those providing the placements to contract the labour out for a profit. Those unlucky victims will be neither unemployed nor in work but will actually be doing a job for less than the minimum wage. Those providing the work placements will be required to sign a form stating that this is in addition to their regular workforce, so lots of rigourous enforcement there. The slaves will have no rights to complain or withdraw their labour, even failing to be at a place at the time when they are ordered or failing to answer questions will result in suspension of benefits for up to sixth months at the discretion of the private contractor, not Jobcentre staff. Gordon Brown has such oracular powers that he has decided this scheme will work before the trials are conducted. In New York workfare was a disaster costing 30,000 low paid staff their meagre jobs as greedy employers lapped up the free labour. Welcome to slavery

If this proposal gets implemented be prepared to see a lot more youths hot tailing down the road with your laptop or DVD player under their arm.

I can only hope that some of them are the property of NuLab ministers.

a mix of thoughtful and effective social democracy, and wildly utopian and unachievable right-wing authoritarianism

There you have put your finger on the essence of New Labour: do something practical in the hope of getting support from those it will help, and lie to the Daily Mail readers in the faint hope some of them get fooled into supporting you.

There is pretty much zero likelihood of anything but a few token cases having their benefits docked: it is just something the system is juts not set up to possibly do. But, in the imaginary world where those tactics carried on working for another electoral cycle, there would no doubt be court cases and headlines and all that symbolic rah-rah.

Call it theatrical micro-authoritarianism.

Cameron has of course picked up the same trick in reverse, which is why you see various front-benchers taling up environmental and civil liberties policies they have no intention of enacting. Bullshit is cheap, budget commitments are expensive.

9. Shatterface

‘There is pretty much zero likelihood of anything but a few token cases having their benefits docked: it is just something the system is juts not set up to possibly do.’

The civil service is target driven, not service driven, so they’ll penalise as many people as possible.

The civil service is target driven, not service driven, so they’ll penalise as many people as possible.

That’s certainly one risk with the whole spin, that the people tasked with implementing the policies get confused and actually take them seriously.

11. Planeshift

“Late signers also loose a week’s benefit now, not just a day’s – and two week’s for a second ‘offense’. ”

Slightly off topic, but I once lost a weeks benefits around 7 years ago for late signing. The reason I was late was because I had an interview for a job, and hadn’t informed them first. Apparently you are supposed to arrange interviews for time periods you aren’t due to sign.

My Girlfriend’s sister also got threatened with losing her benefits recently because she had been doing voluntary work in a charity shop. She’s been unemployed since christmas and figured that voluntary work would look better on her CV than staying at home.

Somebody really needs to start documenting these stupid and illogical rules and interpretations of rules.

“The civil service is target driven, not service driven, so they’ll penalise as many people as possible.”

Absolutely true. Most of the staff there take pride in making people destitute and actiong like jobsworths, and then the PCS wonder why nobody supports them when they strike.

12. Charlieman

Don Paskini: “There are plenty of people who want to see unemployed people forced to take a job, but none of these people would actually be prepared to employ them in their own organisation.”

This observation is backed up by what happens with the criminal justice system and community service orders. Lots of people want the convicted to provide community service, but there are few places for them. It is not an irrational response by community groups; there is a cost in terms of training and supervision for any volunteer. And costs are going to be higher for less voluntary labour.

13. Charlieman

@11 Planeshift: “Most of the staff there take pride in making people destitute and acting like jobsworths…”

I am sad to hear of your experience. My own experience of unemployment and related state services is that staff were as helpful and friendly as I was. The dole office of the 1980s was a grim, hateful place with protection screens between staff and customer. You had to go there with a positive frame of mind because your confidence would otherwise be destroyed by the environment.

Why assume that the staff are intentionally nasty? Civil service clerks aren’t brilliantly paid and endure shit from some customers. They know, as well as you do, that it won’t be easy to find a job and that most of the schemes to help the unemployed are futile. Put yourself in their place for a while; and remember that any of those clerks who are on non-permanent contracts will be on the opposite side of the counter if the Conservatives win in May.

14. dis ill oosun

Just more promises to be broken.

I agree.

So right!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad? http://bit.ly/91dmSj

  2. Don Paskini

    new post @libcon Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad? http://bit.ly/91dmSj

  3. Left Outside

    RT @libcon Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad? http://bit.ly/cxEXMr

  4. sdv_duras

    RT @libcon: Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad? http://bit.ly/91dmSj

  5. Dave Harris

    RT @libcon Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad? http://bit.ly/91dmSj

  6. Derek Bryant

    Sensible Social Democracy + Utopian Authoritarianism RT @libcon Why does Labour mix good ideas with bad? http://bit.ly/91dmSj





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