There’s nothing quiet about Iain Duncan Smith this morning. Echoing Norman Tebbitt’s infamous ‘On yer Bike’ comments of 1981, Duncan Smith has vowed to obliterate ‘welfare ghettos’. For once I agree with Ed Balls: Duncan Smith is going further than Tebbitt, much further. The government is planning to move the long-term unemployed out of sink estates and into other areas, possibly hundreds of miles away, where unemployment is negative. Incentives for work and promises of low regional taxes in Northern England, Wales and Scotland were included in the Budget to this effect.
This may be manna from Heaven for Balls – the traditional candidate in the Labour leadership contest can evoke the spectre of Thatcher and ‘give us a job’. Balls’ campaign has grown from small beginnings, and he was quick to challenge IDS this morning. But Duncan Smith’s proposals are both radical and necessary. If rigid council housing tenancy keeps people in an area where there are no jobs and no hope of investment, you must encourage them to move. The plans and Duncan Smith’s terminology may have totalitarian associations, but there is nothing progressive, enlightened or fair about housing arrangements that condemn millions to a listless, worthless existence through accident of birth. It’s time to turn up the volume.