Coffee House

Jon Cruddas is right – Miliband’s dole policy is punitive. And pointless

29 June 2014

10:57 AM

29 June 2014

10:57 AM

I’ve always admired Jon Cruddas, and worried a little at his being placed at the centre of Ed Miliband’s policy unit. What happens if he talks sense? Well, my fears were well-founded: a good dollop of common sense has emerged from Cruddas, through the medium of today’s Sunday Times splash.

On 21 June, we learn, Cruddas was speaking to Compass, a left-wing policy group, and was kind (too kind) about the IPPR’s ‘Condition of Britain’ report – which I’d recommend to conservatives with a taste for schadenfreude as it’s almost comically vacuous and exposes a Labour movement entirely bereft of new ideas. Cruddas was speaking about the report, saying that it took the IPPR nearly two years to come up with it. And yet, he said…

‘We managed in the political world to condense it into one story about a punitive hit on 18 to 21-year-olds around their benefits. That takes some doing, you know, a report with depth is collapsed into one instrumentalised policy thing which was fairly cynical and punitive… And instead instrumentalised, cynical nuggets of policy to chime with our focus groups and our press strategies and our desire for a top line in terms of the 24-hour media cycle dominate and crowd out any innovation or creativity.’ 

Well said that man. He’s referring to Rachel Reeves’ rather cruel plan to deny the dole to the under-25s unless they go to study for some exams to take them up to Level 3 (the equivalent of an A-Level). I do support tough-love welfare reform policies, as implemented by Blair and IDS. But on the condition that they are effective. Would sending the young unemployed off to study for NVQs of questionable value to employers be effective? Or just a way to persuade the tabloids that you’re tough on welfare reform? I suspect the latter.

[Alt-Text]


The Tory plan is for the young to find work – which people are now doing in record numbers. Each day, the UK employment count is rising by 2,000.
As I wrote in my Daily Telegraph column, this policy exposes a lack of political seriousness. For a start, youth unemployment  is falling at the fastest rate in 15 years:

Second, her ‘punitive’ policy (Cruddas is quite right to use that word) would affect 100,000 Neets – young people not in employment, education or training. The last set of figures showed that the number of Neets falling, over the last year, by more than that amount: the market is doing this work by itself.

And finally, the vacuous IPPR report made no mention of the fact most of the Neets that she’s talking about didn’t even get to GCSE level. So badly were they failed by the system that 40 per cent have the numeracy skills expected of nine-year-olds. It’s not much use sending such people off to study for an NVQ if they stand precious little hope of passing. It’s pointless, as well as punitive.

Cruddas is a serious politician, who can see that his party leader just doesn’t have serious answers to Britain’s serious problems. I have a feeling that more voters will draw this conclusion as the election draws near.

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Show comments
  • Nick

    Why does he have a ring on the second finger of his right hand? Yeuccch.

  • Roger Hudson

    Level 3 is a GCSE not an ‘A’ level, do you think everybody should have A levels ? LOL.

  • Peter Stroud

    Why on earth doesn’t Miliband just give up? He is floundering around, flitting from one useless policy to another. He has Marxist convictions that are completely out of kilter with modern UK politics. But when he tries to move out of this mould, to make an impression on some important issue, such as youth unemployment: he comes up with a stupid idea like this.

    • The Masked Marvel

      He stabbed his own brother in the back. That kind of ambition doesn’t wither away so easily. Miliband will cling to power like his mentor Gordon Brown tried to after he lost the election.

  • The Masked Marvel

    As Andrew Neil recently pointed out to Reeves, who is apparently as vacuous as the plan Cruddas describes, this would essentially affect only those 100,000 or so, which is barely ten percent of the problem. It’s small beer even if it might not be a bad idea. Paying young people to learn a trade – e.g. subsidizing apprenticeships in industry and computer programming – wouldn’t be punitive or have them take pointless exams, and would likely create thousands of new contributors to society, which would be worth the effort, but this is a political move made by blind people.

  • HookesLaw

    Youth unemployment falling fast? Fewer NEETS? I thought from listening to the idiots that Bulgarians were taking all their jobs.
    Of course if we do listen to the nutjobs we will export all our jobs to Bulgaria.

  • Stereotomy

    It’s nice when there are graphs in an article. You can easily identify the points the author feels less strongly about when he omits the statistics and instead goes for hand-wavey words.

    For example, he says that 40% have numeracy skills a 9 year old level, but makes no mention of how many of these people succeed in NVQs. While they do indeed go up to level 3, they start at level 1 which is, apparently, considered equivilent to a GCSE at level G-D. Perhaps Nelson is correct, and these really are beyond the reach of many NEETs, despite being designed specifically as vocational qualifications for people who are not strong in academic areas… but I don’t see any reason to assume that until I see some evidence backing it up.

    That also goes for this phrase: “NVQs of questionable value to employers”. Oh, it’s questionable? Care to actually question it then? Maybe some sort of comparison of the rate of unemployment among people who do and don’t have these qualifications? Or perhaps a comparison of their median salaries? Or just throw a weasel word in its direction and hope your readers come along for the ride?

    The graphs aren’t particularly impressive either. Especially the first, which shows this “falling fast” in the context of much higher increases in recent years. Of course there is a fall now, because the rate was pumped so artificially high by the 2008 crash- a point made less obvious by choosing to graph rate of change rather than the actual unemployment. If anything that fall seems dwarfed by much larger fluctuations before it!

  • stephen barker

    Miliband could – and might, anything seems possible with him – announce that all 17 year olds without a job will be tied to a post in the middle of town for insults to be hurled at them. He would gain not one vote. No-one is listening to Labour. Not with Ed at the helm.

    • GraveDave

      He would gain not one vote. No-one is listening to Labour. Not with Ed at the helm.

      Wasn’t this – or a similar idea – mooted by Cameron recently.

  • Mike Barnes

    It’s even more pointless than all of that Fraser, because Labour has already promised a jobs gurantee to NEETS and other young long term unemployed people.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26506522

    There won’t be any need to force people back to college, Ed Balls is going to find them all jobs on day 1 of the next Labour government!

    • GraveDave

      Well if so lets hope they are real jobs and not the nonsense written up by IDS and his useless cohorts in the DWP under ‘Work Programme’. Because to the Tories and the number crunchers at the job centre, these are also classed as REAL jobs.

    • HookesLaw

      Guarantee a job? Doing what?

      • Mike Barnes

        I don’t know, ask Ed Balls.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Cruddas is just the latest Frank Field. A decent and usually sensible man who has no place in Blair’s Big Top or Milliband’s multiculti Hall of Mirrors.

    • GraveDave

      usually sensible man who has no place in Blair’s Big Top or Milliband’s multiculti Hall of Mirrors.

      Yes, isn’t he the one building a new home in ‘rural Ireland’.
      All right for some eh

      • Hexhamgeezer

        I thought there was plenty of empty ones? What gives?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Miliband, Savile… only one l.

        Looks like a cut-and-paste job.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Miliband, Savile… only one l.

  • RavenRandom

    Labour has no serious big issues policies. Miliband only knows how to stab brothers, jump bandwagons and hope the inbuilt Labour voting class, allied to a weird version of democracy, will get him past the winning post.

  • swatnan

    Cruddas has put his cards on the table: Labour has to be bolder, or lose.

    • McRobbie

      Labour can only be bold in their spending of our taxes, as they have only one solution to every problem..spend…. and therein lies their dilemma, as there is no money to spend….thanks to labour.

      • swatnan

        If more people realised that paying your taxes is the duty of every good citizens, and do so willingly and not begrudgingly, the country would be in a far better shape. You can’t deliver good services without paying for them. One reason I’m against rate caping. You get what you pay for, and blame the whingers for poor services, and the scroungers.

        • Andy

          Rubbish. All taxation is theft. We should reform the State, what it does and what it spends. And we should introduce a Flat Tax.

          • swatnan

            ‘All taxation is theft’….You’ve just opted out of the human race. Get thee to a nunnery. Flat Tax-Poll Tax. same difference.

            • Wessex Man

              Get thee to Amazon,Google and all the others that Labour and now the Tories and Lib/dums cuddle up with.

            • Andy

              A Flat Tax is entirely democratic. You don’t have different rates of VAT do you ? And where is the morality in imposing on others rates of tax you yourself will not pay. A Flat Tax also destroys the envy driven people like you. We should also abolish Corporation Tax and only tax the withdrawals from companies, be it wages, dividends. And all Governments (especially profligate Socialist ones) should also be made to live within their means.

              • Stereotomy

                It’s hilarious that you’d describe a policy supported by such a tiny proportion of the population as “democratic”

              • Tom M

                Qute so Andy. How anyone can say with a straight face that demanding 40% tax rate from one and 20% rate from another comes anywhere near a dictionary definition of “fair” beats me.

              • HookesLaw

                There is nothing wrong with tax bands – as with everything its how you implement it. I don’t fancy a flat tax set at 40%. Some suggestions for a flat tax which demand tax on ‘imputed income’ and which entail a revocation of many allowances would open something of a can of worms.

              • Roger Hudson

                VAT was a Euro-empire builders idea to squeeze more tax from everybody to spend, spend, spend. A well structured sales tax is a far better idea, luxury taxes even better.

        • saffrin

          Tony Bliar, Ken Livingstone and Gordon Brown have all been found to be dodging their tax responsibilities, offshore accounts, dodgy charities and the like.
          After spending thirteen years throwing everyone elses money around, I think that a bit rich don’t you?

          • swatnan

            Its true, if Tone Ken and Gordon gifted all the profits of their run in with the Labour Party, to the Party, then the Party’s Debt would be cleared, at a stroke.

          • Andy

            Don’t mention that Fascist rag The Guardian and its tax dodging. Oh and don’t mention the tax dodging Miliband family.

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