Purnell misheard demand for a ‘New Deal’…

8 12 2008

An inverse of the New Deal, New Labour now promises a Raw Deal for everyone within the welfare system.

At a time of depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal expanded public works to create jobs and reheat the economy. As Britain’s economy cools down, Purnell’s Raw Deal cuts good works to welfare recipients and slashes public expenditure (to compensate for things like VAT cuts to help retailers etc).

Unemployment is expected to go over 3m by 2010 – a level not seen since the worst days of the 80s. So the welfare system must be structured in a way to accommodate an upsurge. Purnell’s Raw Deal shows the size and shape of that restructuring.

Unemployment is roughly 1.9m at a moment when 40,000 vacancies fell out of the economy last quarter. Either we are efficient in filling those vacancies – unlikely as employment is falling – or the economy is simply losing out as businesses go into bankruptcy etc.

So what will happen in a deeper recession, with fewer vacancies and tougher competition for those vacancies? Well, the least we know is that there’ll be less spring in the welfare system’s safety net (particularly in incapacity benefit). So far, so right wing…

How will the Tories react? They’re going to publish (by sheer good luck?) a report on social mobility tomorrow, which is an altogether more hopeful message.

Cameron’s appearing at the UUP conference refocuses things on UK relationships. How strange those relationships are becoming.

The SDLP are linked to Labour Party. What does the SDLP’s Minister for Social Development (in charge of local welfare management) think of her sister Party’s reforming zeal in relation to the welfare system?

The UUP are linked to the Tory Party. What does the UUP’s Minister for Employment & Learning (whose department has considerable influence, oversight on social mobility through the further education brief) think of the Tories zeal in relation to social mobility?

In terms of this narrow question on policy, Staff at Bobballs know they’d prefer to be in Reg’s shoes (promoting social mobility) than in Margaret’s (questions on implications of Purnell’s Raw Deal for NI/whether she agrees with her sister party etc).

Of course, this narrow policy question will soon disappear into the ether and we start all over again. This just serves to illlustrate that maybe the association with Tory policy will be less of a millstone for the UUP that many might otherwise suspect.

PS. There can be no early election with Purnell’s Raw Deal out there causing mayhem just in time for Christmas, right? Unless of course people in receipt of incapacity benefit tend to be apathetic in terms of voting habits… and whether the government thinks a hugely pressured middle-class will be reassured & supportive of seeing welfare stripped back. Fraser Nelson covers this in the NotW – using Britain’s most reviled women to illustrate the story is of course an utterly revolting masterstroke.

And then there was that very lite Queen’s Speech… mmmm…

PPS. Staff at Bobballs always thought that shadow executive should be working more effectively. The UUP will grab that Tory social mobility policy and run hard with it. Could the SDLP try to do something jointly with the UUP on this? After all, DEL and DSD are powerful departments in addressing issues of social need/mobility. Times of recession, bigger picture, a united political front, UUP/SDLP MLAs sensitive to effects of the real economy in real communities joining forces to… etc. No?

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