Coffee House The Spectator Podcasts

The View from 22 — North Korea and Asia’s arms race, and Owen Jones vs. Toby Young

4 April 2013

8:25 AM

4 April 2013

8:25 AM

Are Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms necessary to bring fairness to our benefits system? This week’s Spectator leading article argues the work and pensions secretary returned to front-line politics for one reason only — to end the present waste of human potential. Author and Independent columnist Owen Jones disagrees; he debates with our associate editor Toby Young on this week’s View form 22 podcast (10:38). Will IDS’ reforms radically change the welfare system for the better? Is the government striving for more or less equality? And will the coalition’s legacy stand up to closer scrutiny from the left at the next general election?

Clarissa Tan discusses her cover feature on Asia’s arms race (0:41). North Korea is not the only cause for concern in the area; several of the fast growing economies are spending their money on weapons of all shapes and sizes, not just Gucci handbags. What does America think about the rapid rise in armament, and will Uncle Sam do anything about it?


Plus, James Forsyth discusses David Cameron’s legacy (6:20), his current standing with his party and whether he’ll be remembered as a transformative or, to quote the education secretary, a ‘fag-end’ leader. You can subscribe through iTunes to have it delivered to your computer every week, or listen with the embedded player below.

The View from 22 — 4 April 2013. Length: 38:21

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Show comments
  • Jamie

    Toby Young’s attempt change the argument to immigration at circa 21:00 when he is apparently unable to counter the points Owen Jones raises on the faulty logic of the ‘bedroom tax’ is risible and exposes the muddled thinking and dishonesty behind this blunt reduction in benefits, from often very vulnerable people. A smug middle-aged man bettered by a – righteously – Angry Young Man.

    • Jamie

      Having listened further – particularly to Toby’s inaccurate reportage of Channel 4 Factchecker as well by the contrast between Owen’s well evidenced arguments and their contrast with Toby’s prejudices – I’d like to add “ill-informed, intellectually dishonest and lazy” to “smug”.

  • Nick Reid

    Regarding the “Philip Green tax avoidance” that Owen refers to I’d dearly wish Toby had questioned him as to which part of Philip Green’s tax affairs would Owen legislate to ban:

    – illegal to pass ownership of your assets to your wife ?
    – illegal for women to own what was formerly their husband’s property ?
    – illegal for a British citizen (or South African I think in Lady Green’s case) to take up residency in another country (even if it is Monaco) ?
    – illegal to pay the taxes due in the country of your tax residence ?

    It may be annoying that Philip Green has managed to arrange his affairs so that he didn’t pay a large tax bill to HMRC, but in the process he has given away his company and has a wife who lives overseas. So it has come at a cost. A potentially very high cost if they should ever divorce.

  • Tim Reed

    To the techies…
    The direct download on this podcast links to last week’s episode, not the current one.

    • Sebastian Payne

      Fixed, thanks for pointing out!

  • Sheumais

    So you can only describe a family as large when it has more than 10 children? I must admit to already despising Owen Jones and everything he represents, but his unashamed drivel never ceases to increase my dislike of him. If you build all these council houses he’s talking about the guaranteed rent he thinks is o wonderful has to be provided by taxpayers, who will also be paying for t building the council houses in the first place. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows we pay far too much tax across the board in this country and he would only have us pay more. The man’s unbelievable.

    • Mukkinese

      I would happily discuss limiting future child benefit claims, say with a sliding scale down for each child after the first two?

      Having said that, it is not the fault of the children, but it is them who will suffer by cutting child benefits to the poor now.

      • Sheumais

        I don’t know what the average size of the British family is now, but would be surprised if 4 children isn’t above average. We did face a demographic problem in that our population was shrinking and getting much older, but there must be a difference between helpoing people bring up their children and making it pay to have more..

  • ProffessorPlum

    Amazing posts.

    Considering that successive governments have mismanaged the economy,

    Allows multimillion pound companies to avoid paying tax.

    Allowed companies to relocate their manufacturing to where labour costs are a fraction of what they are here.

    wastes millions on illegal wars, etc…

    What do the readers of the Spectator claim –

    It’s all the the fault of lazy benfit scroungers and foreigners.

    Give ’em a banana

  • John Corfield

    Owen Jones what a motor mouth!.
    Reminds me of Jonathon Hari RIP.
    James should have stopped him dominating the debate by verbal bullying.

    I turned off brfore the end .
    He was voted at school as the boy most would have liked to have dunked his head in a toilet, and kept it there.

    • Jamie

      In other words he knew his stuff and couldn’t be beaten with actual argument so put the upstart in his place. Great to see you are engaging deeply with the issues.

  • Archimedes

    It’s interesting that Owen Jones chooses not to apply the same logic to welfare that he does to tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is entirely legitimate, and yet he calls it morally reprehensible. When it comes to welfare he talks about it only in terms of legitimate claims. What you’ll find is that working class people are surrounded by benefit claimants that gear their lives towards making entirely legitimate welfare claims. These people are exploiting the welfare system in much the same way as aggressive tax avoiders are exploiting the tax system. The two things are entirely parallel — just because a benefit claim is not fraudulent does not mean that it is not morally reprehensible.

    That said, this argument seems to have descended into a debate where the two sides are defined as either in favour of these benefit claims or opposed to these claims. Of course there is a debate to be had there, but it would be better for the Tories to be in favour of those working class people that choose not to behave like that. It is, no doubt, an admirable thing to be on a low wage and to choose to stick to the straight and narrow when everything around you tells you that you’re getting a raw deal: they deserve a little more praise and, after all, these people are the poster child for removing welfare dependency — they could probably do with feeling good about the choices they have made.

    • Mukkinese

      Benefits are not charity. They are social security. You pay taxes and N.I. in and when you need it you draw benefits out.

      A certain section on the right comforts itself with the idea that the majority of benefit claimants are “working the system” in a “morally reprehensible” way, but show few actual facts to support this argument. Again and again what we see are extreme cases presented as the norm;

      According to the governments own figures.

      Those who got £100,000 a year on benefits (or the equivalent for a shorter period) = 5, that’s right 5. Most of that goes on housing benefits.

      Families with ten or more children claiming benefits = 180.

      %40 of the long-term unemployed lost their jobs while in their fifties, after years of contributions.

      %60 of all benefits go to pensioners.

      The next biggest group are low-paid workers, that includes many immigrants who have been here for more than a year.

      The next biggest group are the disabled.

      The average time on the dole, including the long-term unemployed = 3 months.

      No doubt those who are poor will claim as much as they can, would you see your children go without?

      Fraud is relatively small at %0.8 of the benefits bill, the government saves more than that in unclaimed benefits.

      There are arguments to be had about limiting the availability of some benefits, but the idea that benefits are generous are a fantasy. But the poor must be bad, they cannot be honest or hard-working.

      We all know those who are doing well, through no effort or talent of their own, just circumstance. Why can’t we believe that people fail just through circumstance too? Very few choose a life on benefits, it is not the “life of Riley” many tell themselves it is.

      • Archimedes

        “Benefits are not charity. They are social security. You pay taxes and N.I. in and when you need it you draw benefits out.”

        Rightio. So we can all just put money in the bank instead, can we? I mean — I presume you were just pointing out that benefits are just an inefficient way to access your savings, right?

        My point, made earlier, is that people alter their behaviour in order to make themselves eligible for benefits. Now, you might say that it’s not exactly the “life of Riley”, but that’s relative — for example, if you’ve grown up in a household with no working person, then it may well strike you as the life of Riley, because you’ve never known any better. Or if you’ve grown up in a low income household, it again might strike you as the life of Riley because the reward is the same without the hassle of having to, say, go to work.

        “Why can’t we believe that people fail just through circumstance too?”

        That’s why welfare is being reformed.

  • AnotherDaveB

    Hung parliament most likely outcome? No.

    In the unlikely event that Labour fail to win a majority in 2015 they’ll govern as a minority government. The current coalition government has thoroughly discredited coalition government in the UK.

    • Hookeslaw

      How has the principle of coalitions been discredited – the influence has been a left wing one from the LDs yet you say this will benefit Labour.

      The govt have reduced public sector jobs, limited public sector pay rises and pension entitlements, launched education welfare and health reforms. The total inherited mess of our defence budget recognised and faced up to. We are already investing in and preparing for the next generation of nuclear deterrent.

      We have more people in employment that ever (despite public sector job losses) unemployment has been falling and are witnessing a massive investment in our car industry.
      A triple lock has been enacted in parliament guaranteeing a referendum before any further EU treaty changes. Cameron has pointed out there will be a referendum following the EU fiscal union treaty – giving an OUT option. Immigration rules have been tightened ( a sharp drop in student numbers) further restrictions on immigration recently announced.

      A start has been made in lowering the top rate of tax and the tax allowance increased to £10k in the last budget. Corporation tax is falling to 20%. Objectivity has been brought into official budget forecasting. Financial regulation has been overhauled. A new broom has been brought into the Bank of England.

      Labour will only win a majority if the nutjobs do their usual imitation of turkeys voting early for christmas.

      • Jamie

        “We have more people in employment that ever” haha. Brilliant. Wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that we have a bigger population than ever. Clue: it has everything to do with that, not to mention about 200,000 on welfare to work and other ‘training-schemes’ and about 100,000 ex-public sector employees rehired for the same or similar roles they were doing before.

  • DWWolds

    “And will the coalition’s legacy stand up to closer scrutiny from the left at the next general election?” Surely, that will work two ways. Will the “solutions” of the left, if they have worked out what they are by then, stand up to closer scruntiny at the next election?

    • Hookeslaw

      The coalition are sweeping up the pieces left behind by labour. Labour took a fair economic legacy and in 13 years have ruined Britain economically socially and educationally and they also traduced the health system and left its defences a total shambles.

      They are a massive clear and present danger to the future of our nation. Gordon Brown was the worst, most disastrous politician to to be in charge of our country ever (his influence as Chancellor was as pernicious as it was as PM) and his acolytes Balls and Miliband want to follow in his footsteps.

      • Mukkinese


        Everyone of the “cock-ups” you blame on Labour have been enthusiastically taken up and redoubled by this government.

        As for the “economic legacy”. Between 1997 and 2008 Labour reduced the borrowing and deficit it was left by Major. Fact.

        It was the credit crunch that bollocksed the economy up. And even then, between 2009 and 2010 Labour achieved five times more growth than this government has achieved in three years.

        Sure, Brown should have reigned in the banks more, but mere weeks before the crunch our esteemed leader, David Cameron, was arguing in the house for less regulation of the banks and financial sector.

      • Jamie

        Long on impressive rhetoric. Woefully short on evidence.

    • Colonel Mustard

      The “solutions” of the left won’t be put under scrutiny, closer or otherwise. One of the problems we have is the emotive characterisation of politics. Labour mean well so they will be excused any crime, however pernicious. The Tories are Toffs and treated with suspicion so are blamed even for the crimes of others or for crimes which don’t exist.

      • Jamie

        How about putting some of Mukkinese’s observations to fact-based scrutiny? It seems to me that it is the right which lurches ever closer to US style faith-based policy.

  • Dominic Adler

    Owen Jones. As they say on the internet… LOL.

  • The Sage

    For starters, we don’t need more equality.
    There’s too much equality already.
    Let those on benefits get off their fat backsides and find a job in exactly the same way that 600,000 Poles did when they came to this country and immediately found work (and without government help) even with over 2 million “unemployed”.
    Let’s end unemployment benefit altogether. That would certainly concentrate a few minds among the workshy idlers that comprise our current underclass.

    • Span Ows

      Sounds harsh but it can be done. Many say ‘There’s no work in our area’ blah blah, blah but work can be found. Surely work programmes (picking up rubbish, cutting grass, clearing whatever…not quite chain-gangs but along those lines) can be found to get these people out of the house while at the same time they can be given application-for-jobs/job seekers sessions. In Spain unemployment benefit is quite generous BUT it is paid for 2 years only.

      • Andy

        I recently went to lunch at a ‘country house hotel’. It is actually on the edge of a major city with above average unemployment. The restaurant manager was English, as was the manager who was working reception that day – both of whom have been there for years. However, the waiter was Hungarian, the wine waiter was also Hungarian and the waitress who brought coffee through into the drawing room was Polish. I rest my case.

        • Mike Stallard

          I really do not know if you realise the impression you are giving by these remarks.
          I am right wing myself and I have had on the whole a good life with all the trimmings. But I have also had a couple of years on the rock’n’roll.
          To anyone who hasn’t been first class all the way you really do sound like a Labour caricature of Tory scum. “I mean the stupid fellow didn’t even know who I was!”
          I am sure that you didn’t mean to sound like that and I am sure that in your private lives you are just decent people who, like everyone else, is striving to get by. But were I an “undecided” I should be very shocked.

          • Span Ows

            I understand what you mean but surely you have experience yourself of other less ‘scummy’ examples: I do: the local taxi rank, various high-street restaurants, nearly all high-street fast food outlets, bus drivers, train staff (these last two you would have thought would be the last-to-fall bastions for indigenous workers)…I could go on.

            • Hookeslaw

              It is the result of the creation of an underclass by labour and their shocking education policies. The left wing education ‘mafia’ have a lot to answer for.

              I think your point about bus drivers seems to me to be well made though. I would assume that these are jobs with national agreed rates and you could not say its’ cheap imported labour’. Its an indicator of something wrong at the heart of our society.We need to de politicise the issue.

              The growth of immigration under labour at the expense of a group of people just dumped on benefits is quite the most shameless and disgraceful legacy of Blair and particularly Brown. They had an opportunity to delay the numbers of immigrants but chose not to.

              • Span Ows

                Well said.

              • arnoldo87

                Still sounding off about Blair, then, Hookster? I don’t suppose you’ve found that proof of a Blair lie yet, have you?
                No – didn’t think you would, despite the fact that you called them a regular occurrence.
                I’ll give you a hand and remind you about it every now and then.

        • chan chan

          In my local KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and a four star hotel, there is one British person in McD’s, and two in the hotel. The rest are all foreigners (I know because I’ve asked the managers). Staggering. I’m talking about probably at least 60 jobs, maybe more.

    • Hookeslaw

      My own view on job seekers allowance is that it should be fully funded by those in work and contributions should rise as unemployment rises and fall as unemployment falls.

      its not a huge sum and it alone hardly encourages people to avoid work.