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Fact: Labour did not ‘write people off’ to a lifetime on benefits


9:01 am - October 15th 2010

by Richard Exell    


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On Monday, The Sun ran a story about “Benefit Ghettoes”, about areas where a lot of people live on Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and “other benefits, including one parent, disabled and carer handouts.” Running alongside was an opinion piece from employment minister Chris Grayling, who concentrated on two million people “on the sick”:

Some of those people will be genuinely too sick to work. But equally many will have been put there by a government who thought it was easier just to write people off to a lifetime on benefits then, when the economy picked up, fill the jobs with workers from abroad who were only too keen to pick up the slack.

Yesterday’s figures for out of work benefits give us a chance to check how accurate that picture is. They only go back to 1999, but they do give us a handy picture of what has been happening during the recession and before.

This first chart looks at what happened to Out of Work Benefits generally – all the income maintenance benefits for working age people, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and benefits for disabled people, lone parents and carers. (I really dislike using that sneering, ugly word “handouts”.)

Surprise, surprise, there was a big increase once the recession began, but before that the trend was clearly downwards.

If you concentrate on Incapacity Benefits, you get a slightly different picture, as the last government first brought down the rate of increase and then reduced the numbers:

Again, there was an increase when the recession hit, but, by the start of this year, the numbers were coming down again. Despite the recession, the number on incapacity benefits was lower than it had been ten years previously.

When we come to benefits for lone parents, the picture is even more remarkable, with the numbers continuing to fall, despite the recession:

The last government did not abandon people to a life on benefits that the rest of us have to pay for. A succession of Welfare Reform Acts, each focused on welfare-to-work as the answer to poverty and massive investment in employment programmes (much higher, its now clear, than we can expect over the next few years) were succeeding in bringing down the numbers.

I disagreed with a lot of what the last government did – I thought the new Work Capability Assessment would stop thousands of people who were genuinely unable to work from getting benefits and I disagreed with the way the government tightened up Incapacity Benefit in 1999.

But even I wouldn’t accuse them of not being bothered about whether or not people were left “on the sick”.

In fact, Mr Grayling’s accusation is particularly unfair. It was the Thatcher and Major governments (which I imagine Mr Grayling admires), which had an explicit policy of moving people off the claimant count and on to disability benefits – between 1980/1 and 1998/9 real-terms spending on Invalidity Benefit grew by 5.5 per cent a year; between 1977 and 1995 the numbers receiving Invalidity Benefit grew from 505,000 to 1.77 million.

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About the author
Richard is an regular contributor. He is the TUC’s Senior Policy Officer covering social security, tax credits and labour market issues.
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Reader comments


Utter bollox. Firstly the article talked about welfare ghettos – not the general nation picture you talked about here.

Secondly – Labour did nothing to stop whole families like this one living a great life on benefits:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1318028/As-families-face-benefits-cuts-Kelly-Marshall-spent-4-500-BOOB-JOB.html

@1

This statistical analysis doesn’t explain this one-sided anecdotal evidence! Maybe science has it wrong??

Alternatively, stop believing every stupid fucking thing you read in the pissing Mail.

“Secondly – Labour did nothing to stop whole families like this one living a great life on benefits:”

Crap. This is the difference between the politics of spite (‘hey, someone’s getting something for nothing’) and the politics of getting the economy sorted out. I vote we concentrate on the latter, and it’s evident that blaming benefit claimants for the state of the country is a handy argument without much basis in fact. Now why would the Tories want to do that, I wonder?

@1

Posting a link to that paper on LC?! Are you being serious?

I’m surprised your computer didn’t start to smoke like the Swastika on the side of the box containing the Ark of the Covenant in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”!

Is it possible that Chris Grayling has a rare disorder of the visual cortex which causes him to see graphs back-to-front? He seemed to have the same trouble recognising that crime under Labour fell by 40% rather than rising by 40%. Maybe we should put *him* on Incapacity Benefit.

*sigh*

I despair. How are we supposed to tackle any real issues ever if we let anecdotes trump evidence on everything from crime to welfare?

Posting a link to that paper on LC?! Are you being serious?

What? Every other story on LC is a link to the Daily Mail.

I see people who read this blog hate facts. Here are some more:

Labour’s boom bypassed 2 million people who remained on benefits – whilst jobs where taken by hardworking immigrants:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/5029313/browns-legacy-of-inequality-poverty-and-joblessness.thtml

Labour’s legacy includes “welfare ghettos”- where between 58% and 84% of their population are on benefits.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6359323/spectator-exclusive-britains-welfare-ghettos.thtml

Wake up and smell the coffee boys. Socialism is barbaric – it only ever ensures that the poor get poorer.

P.S. Look – Labour made the whole of Wales more benefit dependent that the rest of the country:

http://billyblofeld.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/the-workshy-league-table/

……….Nice work boys.

6

Well, it’s one thing to post a link so we can have a good laugh at whichever fervid, right wing nuttery it is spouting; it’s quite another posting it straight faced (as in post # 1 above) on an avowedly left of centre site in an attempt to bolster the assertion!

8 – True enough. Expecting people here to be convinced by a Mail story really is a triumph of hope over expectation. Orwell only went so far as to say “just because something’s in the Telegraph doesn’t mean it’s not true.” I think he realised that this probably doesn’t hold for the Mail.

If you think that anything New Labour did since 1997 was “socialism”, that coffee you think you are smelling is ersatz.

Having lived in a “welfare ghetto”, I can confirm that it is indeed a ghetto, and there are many more like them.

They’re called former pit villages, and former pit towns, and former centres of industry.

Wonder why they’re called that…

10

…somehow I don’t think it’s coffee he’s on; but I might like to try some… purely in the name of research of course 😉

“Labour made the whole of Wales more benefit dependent that the rest of the country:”

Your post on this comment is just laughable. All you’ve done is calculate incapicity benefit per head and compared regions, concluding wales is more disabled than london.

Now have a think why that might be the case?

What kind of industry has historically dominated the welsh economy?

What kind of industry has historically dominated London?

Now who decimated the industry that dominated wales? Labour or the Tories?

Now perhaps to further give a clue, perhaps you could calculate incapacity benefit spending further down to a local authority level in Wales. And what do you know, the areas with highest incapcity benefit are the Valleys, and the ones with lowest are Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan.. Now I can’t think why this might be the case, perhaps pot noodle moved their mining operations to cardiff?

Here’s some further homework for you to explain these figures – go and look at the age profile of each local authority in wales, and low and behold – you’ll find that the areas with high incapacity benefit also happen to be the ones with a greater proportion of older people. Now I’m no doctor, but I’d imagine one’s health deteriorates with age.

So the collective answer is “Coalmines innit. It woz that Thatcher wot done it”.

…….so after 13 years of a glorious Labour government……. nothing was done to right those supposed wrongs? Quality. Remind me – what is the point of Labour?

14 – the ghettos are still there, and some have even gotten worse. Others have gotten better (Sheffield is a lot nicer than it was, for instance).

The overall trend is improvement, and while we’d all like the improvement to have been more pronounced – not least myself – the worst charge that can be brought is ‘not doing an awesome job’, rather than ‘creating ghettos of welfare claimants across the country’.

Spot the difference?

Now who decimated the industry that dominated wales? Labour or the Tories?

Wilson and Callaghan closed more coal mines than Thatcher ever did. Fact, as people here like to say.

You do realise that the graphs you put up prove exactly the opposite of what you are arguing.

The incapacity benefit graph shows that the number of people on IB was more or less unchanged between 1999 and 2009. Maybe 30,000 people feel off the statistics though I’d imagine far more than 30K on IB died during this period.

The Conservatives created this underclass by their brutality in closing down key sectors of the economy in the 1980s and crucially not pouring in funds, as Germany did in its former heavy industry heartlands, to regenerate these areas.

Major pockets of deprivation and unemployment in places like Glasgow, Newcastle and across the North West and Wales were left completely untouched by the so called boom years of the noughties.

Labour left these people parked on benefits during their period in office when what they should of done was pour in funding to regenerate these areas and attack entrenched inequality.

But they were unwilling to tax the wealthy and their city first policy maintained a crippling high exchange rate which further decimated manufacturing and sucked jobs out of these areas.

Labour failed these people. It might help if some in the party actually accepted this.

“…….so after 13 years of a glorious Labour government……. nothing was done to right those supposed wrongs”

To some extent yes, largely because Labour were following the economic paradigm of the previous government and orientating the economy around what the south east wanted.

On the other hand there have been succeses in Wales – things look better than they were 13 years ago in the Valleys – largely due to the devolved administration implementing regeneration schemes such as the creation of low carbon industries in the heads of the valleys.

But what you call welfare ghetto’s still exist in some parts of the valleys. These are generally the most remote areas like Blaengwynfi,where investment hasn’t happened. but the main reason benefits figures look high here is primarily because the population is older and consists of retired miners. This is because most of the skilled people, i.e young people with qualifications, have left the area and moved to Cardiff (or London) where there are jobs. hence why the valleys have high percentages of people on benefits and cardiff doesn’t.(in fact these demographic changes pretty much account for the Cardiff =win, Valleys = Fail analysis you see in the tabloids.

The people without qualifications have stayed and can’t access jobs – unskilled jobs simply don’t pay enough money to cover the cost of commuting to Cardiff even for those who fancy the lengthy drives or trains where there are some (forget about public transport outside of the main valley towns – where the “benefit ghetto’s exist). Hence you have a combination of older residents with the health problems obtained through working in the mines, and unskilled younger residents unemployed due to lack of jobs and credit (no banks here to lend to budding entreprenuers – who’d probably start up in Cardiff anyway due to better transport links and a wider pool of skilled workers), not to mention the alleged unofficial policy of moving the alcoholics and drug addicts to the remaining local authority housing in these areas.

14

The seeds of the disasterous situation we now find ourselves were sown by Thatcher and her goons, ably assisted over the past 13 years by the crypto-Tories in New Labour.

It is horrifying that so many people fell for the “there is no alternative” gambit, when of course, it wasn’t true then and isn’t any more true now. Thatcherism failed as miserably as Blairism and Brownism did, and now we all have to suffer for it…. but guess what, the ones who will suffer most are those least able to pay, and least responsible for creating the mess in the first place.

I have no time for Labour (New or otherwise), but don’t come in here expecting people not to point and laugh at the concept that the Tories have a clue, let alone the answer!

Well said Galen10 (we don’t always agree) and Planeshift.

Its a message that needs to put out there to counter the ‘scrounger’ client state narrative put out by the Daily Mail and their ilk. The reason why these ‘stories’ make the papers is because they are atypical, if they were not, they would not be news. I assume that Billy Blofeld has an equally strong negative opinion on tax avoidance?

The real ‘story’, one that papers seem not to care about, is about people losing jobs, losing homes, family breakdown and in some cases commiting suicide as a result of all the above. Human tragedy.

I agree there is an issue of intergenerational worklessness and to indulge in the blame game is not really useful. How do you solve it? Thats a very big question but withdrawal of benefits is not the answer and could cause more social problems than it solves. More training and education for kids to break the cycle would be one way and looking at stimulating depressed areas is also a part of this.

Oh dear, Cashcrofts sockpuppets have migrated from Left Foot Forward to LC – ignore Billy, he is a stupid cunt who doesn’t even know which blog he is commenting on let alone what he is saying.

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 21

Good analysis! Socialism keeps the poor poor, apparently (post 7). Whereas under capitalism everything is fair and equal and we can dance around holding hands like happy fucking pixies.

@7

Yeah, what the tories should do is force companies to employ workshy disability claimants from benefit ghettos, instead of hardworking immigrants. That’ll make britain great again.

Get out and don’t come back until you know the difference between a coherent argument and hysterical link-churning.

Stop blaming closed mines. I lived in the Welsh Valleys and left them in 1993. I only remember 1 mine still in operation at that point.

Labour were in power for 13 of the 17 subsequent years. What was Labour doing all that time (apart from the wars)?

Ok Billy

You did ask:

1. Saving the NHS after chronic underinvestment by the tories.
2. Rebuilding the school estate once again after chronic tory underfunding.
3. Taking 500,000 children out of poverty (not enough but a start).
4. Increasing access to HE.

I could go on but you will not doubt say how all this was done by PFI mortgaging our childrens future and about managerialism etc (fair criticisms btw).

@Peter,

No – I’m asking how come Labour allowed welfare ghettos to exist.

I’m also asking how Labour allowed the economic boom to by-pass 2m people who remained on benefits whilst hard working immigrants came and did the “surplus” jobs

@24

Oi! Billy the thicko can’t understand a simple argument because its not on his attack script. I’ll explain it to you slowly:

1. Mining is hard, manual labour with lots of nasty shit in the air.
2. Thatcher closed the coal mines, putting all the miners out of work and closing their pension schemes.
3. Former miners get sick well before state pension age, not having a decent occupational pension to support them earlier in life they are left to claim IB/ESA.

24

You seem strangely fixated with mines. I don’t think anyone is claiming that their closure should be accorded more influence in the general scheme of things than is their due. It’s hardly exceptional to view see the Thatcherite destruction of much of our manufacturing base for essentially ideological reasons as something of an own goal.

What you continue to ignore is the fact that New Labour is about as far from being socialist as I am from being prima ballerina at the Bolshoi, and also that your hostility to “the left” ignores the elephant in the corner called “global recession brought about by the untrammelled free market”.

Presumably you left you critical faculties in the valleys along with any apparent sense of empathy in 1993?

@26

FFS, they were too sick to work in industries that the young fit immigrant labour work in, are you suggesting someone with MS should go picking vegetables?

Billy

Welfare Ghettos as you so lovingly call them exist for a number of complex reasons. Deindustrialisation on a broad scale and a re-balancing of the UK economy from old manual skilled and non-skilled work to a financial service and services economy was part of this. This has led to areas not having any economic activity to support employment (people want jobs but there are not enough to go around and not in their area). This has, in part, led to the problem of intergenerational worklessness. The key word, ‘intergenerational’ this problem is as old as the hills. As areas get left behind (the Darwinian element of capitalism that you seem to so enjoy) there is no industry that comes in to replace that an area was reliant on, shops close, banks close, economic activity nosedives as does employment creation. How long would this take to solve? Certainly more than 13 years and almost definitely with an alternative method of capitalism or indeed proper socialism that would spread the proceeds of Growth around more easily.

I am sure you are no doubt cock a hoop about the benefit cap proposed by the Coalition and the Housing Benefit changes but this will eventually lead to more welfare ghettoes and more intergenerational worklessness. Look at the doughnut city that is Paris. If communities are mixed, they are by nature more aspirational.

Oh, your immigrants comment is a canard/straw man.

Stop blaming coal mines.

The same pattern of benefit dependency was allowed to occur all over the country.

Anyone care to explain why Labour left 2m people on benefits whilst immigrants came in and back filled the available jobs?

It’s a tricky situation to resolve indeed. Years of depivation and lack of investment have left plenty of areas needing some form of action. So Billy, any solutions? (I suspect I know the answer)

(BTW, Billy: are you using “2m people on benefits” to mean a) people in receipt of JSA b) people in receipt of IB c) people looking after their children or d) a mixture of all of the above? Because any answer to your question rests on your definition.)

Billy

I wasn’t blaming the coal mines please re-read my answer .

As for immigrants back filling jobs thats a myth peddled by the right. Where were these immigrants from? If they are from the EU, there is freedom of movement across the EU for labour. (Although I am sure you would have us out of the EU too, have strong opinions on “elf and safety” as your pal Littlejohn calls it, in fact do you share the same gated community in Florida). In the last two years there has been net migration from the UK and a lot of people that came here from Central and Eastern Europe have returned as their economies have picked up.

“how come Labour allowed welfare ghettos to exist”

They didn’t. they poured resources into re-training, changing benefit rules, regeneration schemes, improved transport etc. And they had some succeses up until 2007. Look at the graphs above. Then the recession happened.

As you left the valleys in 93, you yourself should know exactly the reason why ghettos remain – people with the ability to do so left.

You’ll also probably not be aware of the improvements made – the steelworks regeneration in ebbw vale, the heads of the valleys regeneration scheme (focusing on the creation of numerous clean energy industries and training centres in the area – something which will transform the area over the next 20 years), the re-opening of several valley train lines, the expansion of adult workplace learning, each making small and incremental improvements. Then the recession hits and some of the gains have reversed. But there is a future for them now. Precisely because we had people in charge (in Wales not westminster) who understood the problems and didn’t adopt daily mail attitudes. Even the welsh conservatives tend to be sane here.

Yeah, what the tories should do is force companies to employ workshy disability claimants from benefit ghettos, instead of hardworking immigrants. That’ll make britain great again.

Well to a certain degree yes. There are hundreds of thousands who have been on IB for years and years. Keeping them parked on benefits does them and us no favours. They are much more likely to suffer from health problems, drink and drug abuse, mental illness and depression. Their kids grow up in pretty toxic conditions and a cycle of deprivation and hopelessness perpetuates itself. It’s a hugely difficult problem to deal with because these people have lost their confidence and skill sets whilst being unemployed for so long.

Its also not helped by forcing them to compete with the cream of Eastern European youth for the meagre number of poor quality service sector jobs available.

I am not suggesting market based solutions or cutting welfare to people parked on IB but something needs to be done to help these people get their jobs and their self-respect back. What I would propose is for huge quantities of resources to be targetted at these people. This would involve counselling/psychological help, skills training but also public investment to create of hundreds of thousands of decently paid sustainable jobs in their communities.

@Mr S.Pill

A solution is complicated – and requires an integrated approach.

This is the best solution I’ve seen:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plan-Twelve-Months-Renew-Britain/dp/0955979900

And they had some succeses up until 2007. Look at the graphs above. Then the recession happened.

That’s not what the graphs say though is it? The IB graph shows no change between ’99 and 2009.

@Mr S.Pill

2m on benefits is from pie chart here. Only people on benefits for more than 7 years based on DWP data.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/5029313/browns-legacy-of-inequality-poverty-and-joblessness.thtml

40. Flowerpower

@ 36

What I would propose is for huge quantities of resources to be targeted at these people. This would involve counselling/psychological help, skills training but also public investment to create of hundreds of thousands of decently paid sustainable jobs in their communities.

Yep, that might work. Alternatively, you could just tell them the benefits party is over. Might be cheaper/quicker.

Lol Billy

Daniel Hannan

Please! You are truly a stand up comedian.

I assume the next book you link too will be Hayek, Maggies autobiography or Keith Josephs book.

Ah Flowerpower

You could also tell the tax avoiding scum bags like Green et al to pay up or piss off.

Ignoring the passionate arguments about welfare ghettos, can anyone explain to me how the case that Labour did not write people off to a lifetime on benefits is made by the charts above.

They show the number of people on certain benefits (prior to the recession – so in a period of growth) fell. They do not say how long people had been on those benefits, whether any measures had been taken to help those people, where those people were grouped etc. Without further information (Don?) we can’t say whether the number of long-term benefit recipients has altered in relation to the overall figure – it could even have gone up. Remember, the question is not the number on benefits, but the number of those on them who have been on benefits longterm. And the article claims to discuss these, using statistics that have not been specifically related to them.

Yep, that might work. Alternatively, you could just tell them the benefits party is over. Might be cheaper/quicker.

Well withdrawal of benefits would have a number of rather unfortunate consequences such as hugely increasing crime, violence and the strain on the NHS.

You would then move from parking the underclass on benefits to locking huge swathes of them up as they do in the US.

I imagine that prospect might appeal to you but I don’t think you would like the price tag.

@Peter Ward

I take it you have read the book and can tell me what is wrong with their plan then?

@Billy

I know enough about the author and the think tank not to bother reading the book.

@Peter Ward

Fantastic. Blinkers.

Hah! I like how Billy Blofield links to the Spectator which whines about how the last Labour government did little about inequality and poverty.

I don’t expect the Spectator to give a fig about poverty or inequality. And frankly – they don’t. They’re blatantly supporting policies of this government that will exacerbate inequality and poverty, while singing the praises of a Thatcher government that got us into this mess.

I know enough about the author and the think tank not to bother reading the book.

Ah yes, because you can always dismiss an argument because you don’t like the person who made it. Far easier than debating.

If you want to come across as a serious person, I would suggest that you at least engage with the ideas you sneeringly disdain. Or does the fact that Mr Hannan thinks in a different way to you offend you that much that you cannot bring yourself to show where his arguments are wrong?

Oh, and it might be smart to look at the book cover at least before you right it off, or you’ll look stupid. After all, the book has authors (plural), so might that not require you to reconsider your view.

And as for the think tank comment, what bloody think tank? It’s privately published, not a think tank puff piece. To the best of my knowledge neither of Messrs Hannan or Carswell is affiliated to a think tank.

Sunny,

They’re blatantly supporting policies of this government that will exacerbate inequality and poverty, while singing the praises of a Thatcher government that got us into this mess.

Yes, the current mess is the fault of the government of a prime minister who left office twenty years ag… Hold on, are you saying that a generation later we are still in a mess because of Mrs Thatcher. It must have been the case that the governments since were split, unable to command a majority and led by weak people with no vision (OK – we can agree that sums up 1992-7…).

Pure idiocy – the underlying problem may be due to Mrs Thatcher’s blatantly political move of pushing people onto IB to ease unemployment figures (as with most things in her third term, a terrible decision) but are you saying that government since then could not have undone this?

It’s pointless to link to books on Amazon, I could – for example – counter Billy with The Spirit Level (or similar); but I don’t expect him to immediately order it, read it, come back here and debate it.
A succint summary of it would suffice. And Watchman – Hannan’s views on pretty much anything ever are widely known enough to be (ahem) “written off” before reading them. Unless he’s undergone a conversion of Damascene proportions I am not particularly interested in anything he has to say.

Thanks @ Mr S Pill

50 Watchman

“Hold on, are you saying that a generation later we are still in a mess because of Mrs Thatcher.”

Errrmmm.. well, yes actually. If you can’t see the continuities between the worst excesses visited upon us by that mad old trout, the Thatcherism-Lite of New Labour, and the current mess we are in, then you really haven’t been paying attention.

“that government since then could not have undone this?”

Well imagine labour comes into power in 97. It states “the unemployment stats are a load of bollocks because people have been shifted onto IB. We’re going to examine each case and move people back onto the employment register.

Daily Mail headline 2 months later “Labour doubles unemployment”

@Watchman

What Mr S Pill said.

I have not had time to read the book and to be frank would not pay for the privilege. I frequently read things I do not agree with and deconstruct arguments. Read my posts on this very thread in relation to intergenerational worklessness in response to Mr Blofeld.

@50

Hold on, are you saying that a generation later we are still in a mess because of Mrs Thatcher

I wonder if any disgruntled folk in ’30s Russia were told “Hang on, are you saying that a generation later we are still in a mess because of Lenin”?

It isn’t called the Thatcherite revolution for nothing, y’know…

S.Pill,

If you want to write things off before you check them feel free. As you might guess from my repeated presence round here, I think that to be a bad idea. I can’t comment on The Spirit Level, as I have not read it, but then again I have not read The Plan either, so I can’t comment on the arguments in that. Like you, I pick up a fair bit of knowledge and insight around the place, so could form an impression of The Spirit Level’s message, but I’d rather check that before I make judgements.

But if you simply assume the interpretation in your head of what someone says is going to be right, don’t be surprised if you are outflanked by the actual argument. You are heading down what I increasingly see as the ‘sally-route’, where all actions are seen in terms of your beliefs, and you become irrelevant to discussions, mouthing the sound bites of years ago rather than forming a coherent response to the present day.

P.S.

I am struggling to think how The Plan and The Spirit Level contradict each other – maybe I should read them to find out 😉

watchman @ 50 – erm, if you read properly I was talking about rising inequality.

Let’s not look at rubbish pieces put out by the Spectator that are dressed up ‘evidence’, yes? Fraser Nelson couldn’t tell evidence if it hit him in the face – he’s as ideologically driven as Daniel Hannan MEP – who was recently espousing how great Iceland and Ireland were thanks to deregulation. Hannan should stick to Euroscepticism rather than subjects that make him look like a prat.

As for inequality – I’ll happily show evidence here next week that the Thatcher government was grossly inequal. I don’t need Spectator articles to give me a whole bunch of guff saying otherwise unless they have the hard facts,

@56,

Indeed, but there is a perfectly good argument that things were not exactly ideal before Lenin either – he inherited a shedload of problems.

And a revolution is all very well, but that doesn’t mean the next government can’t be revolutionary as well – it is not Mrs Thatcher’s fault that later governments failed to act on her mistakes.

@55,

I have no doubt you engage (I even agree with much of what you say). I just thought your comment strikingly ignorant in its dismissal of an entire political viewpoint.

Sunny,

Sorry – read you as referring to the original subject. I’m happy to agree the Thatcher government was no beacon of equality – but historical comment like that does not excuse the fact that Labour did very little to improve equality either. I am blaming every government for the situation myself, not one or the other. To be fair though, equality has improved dramatically over the last 100 years, so governments of all stripes should be given praise for that – it is now a matter of outliers, not majorities.

And I see no problem with citing the Spectator as evidence – for arguments put forward in the Spectator. Of course it is ideologically driven, but then again so are you and I in our writings. Ideologically-driven is not a bad thing, although it should be an open thing – it is impossible to have a non-ideological piece of writing as the simple action of chosing words is an ideological decision. Would this site exist if you were not commendably ideologically driven?

I agree that Labour didn’t significantly make mass unemployment and benefit-dependency worse (as with so much, they merely held the line, so to speak), but to give them credit for back-to-work programmes and the new deal etc is really just nonsense.

Unemployment (across all benefits) held steady because the economy was growing. As soon as the recession kicked in, unemployment shot back up.

Back to work schemes and work programmes are a joke. They are peripheral nonsense: a solution to a problem (mass unemployment) that cannot be be solved without a fundamental re-think of our economy.

“Wilson and Callaghan closed more coal mines than Thatcher ever did. Fact, as people here like to say.”

Up until the 1980s there was a policy of running down the older coalfields (the bulk of collieries in West Durham closed in the 1960s, for example) and expanding newer ones. There was an arrangement (of sorts) between the government, the NCB and the NUM that encouraged miners from closed pits to commute to newer (and larger) ones with any net job loss replaced with new manufacturing employment, set up with government assistance. There was nothing like this in the 1980s and early 1990s; the Thatcher and Major governments allowed the economies of the coalfields to collapse, taken down with it the strongest and most deep-rooted form of civil society in Britain.
Of course that isn’t to say that things were run perfectly in the 60s and 70s; the process was often cold and bureaucratic (discontent with it is the main reason for the relative success of Plaid Cymru in South Wales in late 60s and early 70s. One of their strongest constituencies in 1970 was actually Aberdare, were they polled 30%; way higher than they’ve managed since) and it could have been run a lot better. But it doesn’t even begin to compare. The key point is not the coal industry, as such, but the communities that were built around it.

Though heavy industrial areas will always have more people claiming for sickness benefits, irrespective of the economic health of the area in question.

By the way, NOMIS (just google it) has more – and better – information on the geographical distribution of benefits than can be found elsewhere. Hey, using it might even prompt informed debate on the issue!

@watchman

Well this is the thing y’see. It’s not a good way of debating to just throw a book (link) at someone and say “read it”. For practical purposes obviously (ie:ordering, waiting, reading, digesting, then going back to the debate) and also from a debating POV. If Billy can sum up Hannan’s main points then I’d happily play along. As it happens I’ve read neither The Plan nor The Spirit Level (yet) – I was using it as an example, and as a different view of society. If you want to split hairs you could say I’m not allowed to do that until I’ve read both, but that again proves why using book links as tools in a debate is daft – unless someone has read absolutely everything ever there is always going to be someone with a different book to throw around.

tl;dr : If you want to use a book in a debate then tell us what its main points are.

As for Thatcher – I think it’s a fairly well established fact that New Labour was – economically, at least – a continuation of Thatcherism. That is why it’s important (from a leftie perspective) for Miliband to get some new ways of thinking, so that the next “revolution” [please note I am not talking about an uprising of workers, clenched fists aloft] does get to grips with the errors of the past. But the point still stands – Mrs T & co screwed this country up and we are still suffering the consequences.

(PS yes Tsarist Russia had its huge problems – but so did ’70s Britain if my parents are right!)

“By the way, NOMIS (just google it) has more – and better – information on the geographical distribution of benefits than can be found elsewhere.”

Seconded. Down to Council Ward level.

S. Pill,

I didn’t think that referencing a book was a good technique, although to be fair to Billy he brought the book up as a possible solution in response to a question, not just a point of argument – I just picked Peter up on his spectacular display of deliberate ignorance – if he had simply said he had not read the book he’d have come across a lot better.

I don’t think either you or me, who between have both failed to read either book (so we’re a well-informed commentariat by newspaper standards) have cited either book as an answer to anything, as opposed to considering what we know of the contents (and as per normal, drawing different conclusions…). So if that is wrong, mea culpa equally.

I’d dispute if New Labour was economically ‘Thatcherite’, in that I’m not sure the Conservatives were after 1988 – instead both parties pursued rather centerist, statist policies of a non-revolutionary type (I’m fully aware most revolutions do not involve workers with fists raised in the air, if only because most workers have better things to do – and are too self conscious to walk round like a bunch of robots). New Labour’s greatest (mis-)achievement was to run out of radical zeal within weeks of being elected, not to continue someone elses radicalism.

So in conclusion, “If you want to use a book in a debate then tell us what its main points are” is correct, but could I add if you want to dismiss a book at least show some awareness of say the number of authors…

68. Chris Baldwin

I think it’s a good general thumb that what right-wingers say about benefits is the opposite of the truth.

63
I was going to leave this thread alone, because more often than not, when the subject of the pit closures emerge, commentators are unable to engage in the debate in any meaningful way, because they fail to understand the far-reaching implications, which isn’t just about mass-unemployment. As you state, physical ill health is a major issue, but for those areas which were ‘built on coal’ there are very high incidents of mental health problems and many areas are still grappling to find a new culture.
About two fifths of IB claimants come from Yorkshire and Humberside, and in the Barnsley area it’s one in seven, a large number of ex-miners are now, with age, reaping the effects of that industry, which failed to protect its’ workforce.
People in old mining villages hold

con’t from 69 (pressed the send button by error)

ambiivalent feeling towards the pits, on one hand they accounted for so much ill-health and on the other they represented survival and a particular culture.
But let’s be quite clear, the level of IB paid reflects the level of ill-health, not the extent of the government attempting to cover-up true unemployment levels

@ 61 Watchman
All governments since 1945 (at least, earlier data is less easy to access/understand, and the 1925-6 Lib/Lab coalition data is distorted by the crisis in the coal industry culminating in the miners’ strike) *except* New Labour have left office with inequality of wealth lower than when they gained office.
Maragaret Thatcher reduced inequality, Blair/Brown increased it. Data from HMRC under Brown’s control and ONS during the last months of New Labour.
It is a totally unjustified slur on Lady Thatcher to describe New Labour as Thatcherism-lite.
Perhaps you can explain it to Sunny – he doesn’t listen to me.

Puzzled. Why does Richard Exell use graphs starting in 1999 to compare the performance of Thatcher 1979-91 and New Labour 1997-2010?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  2. Derek Bryant

    RT @libcon Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  3. John H

    RT @libcon: Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  4. Paul Crowley

    Labour's benefits record: the graphs that make a nonsense of Grayling's canards http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  5. earwicga

    RT @libcon: Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  6. Freelancing Job

    Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits … http://bit.ly/duJiw3

  7. Matt Jeffs

    RT @libcon: Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  8. Oxford Kevin

    Fantastic piece on the myth of welfare dependency under labour http://t.co/Yc0lczY via @libcon

  9. Andy Bean

    RT @libcon: Fact: Labour did not 'write people off' to a lifetime on benefits http://bit.ly/9xFrOw

  10. Marika Rose

    Fact: Labour did not ‘write people off’ to a lifetime on benefits | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rPpwzgT via @libcon





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