Here’s a funny thing: Labour claims to be the ‘party of work’, but the Tories have reasonable claim to be the workers’ party, given that they’ve overseen the creation of 1.5 million new jobs. Anyway, it was one of the slogans that shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves incanted on her Sunday Politics interview this morning, when she seemed to have a pretty torrid time of it.
She had to defend her party’s leader against his cratering approval ratings and the embarrassment of a leaked election strategy document which shows that people don’t trust him on immigration, the economy or welfare. And she had to defend a policy that doesn’t seem to have been thought through: plans to withhold jobseekers’ allowance from 100,000 18 to 21 year olds unless they either have A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) or are in training.
As Andrew Neil pointed out, the problem of youth unemployment goes far beyond than the 100,000 who Labour estimate will be affected by their policy: there are 975,000 young people aged under 25 who are NEET (not in education, employment, or training) in the UK, according to the latest figures. And the latest fall was far more than the 100,000 – more than Reeves is planning send back to college (and a fat lot of good that would be to the 40 per cent who have the numeracy skills of a nine-year-old).
But it’s not quite clear why Labour needs to deny them the dole: this is not an unsolvable problem. Indeed, the number of out-of-work young people is also dropping fast: the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds is dropping at the fastest rate since before 2000.
All told, you can see why Rachel Reeves was prevaricating so much in today’s interview. Britain is midway through a jobs boom, for young and old. There’s not much for her to really add.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.