Monday, October 05, 2009

Full employment

Bad times

As this 1909 poster shows, the Conservatives have long campaigned for full employment and it is no surprise that it should be part of the theme for this year's Conservative Party conference- people are feeling pretty bruised out there, unemployment is rising, huge numbers of people languish seemingly unwanted and uncared for by Labour on incapacity benefit and the social consequences are horrific but we have been there before...
In the early 1980s, as unemployment rose above two million and headed inexorably for three million, the growing army of the unemployed workless was the most toxic political issue of the day and was used by Labour to point to the alleged heartlessness of the Tory government led by Margaret Thatcher. Sounds just like today really and strangely enough the Labour stratergy is the same too as the political narrative appears once more to be about blaming the Tories. Funnily enough, I doubt it will work. The line that Labour is pedaling that it is uniquely the only party offering the training and development for individuals who find themselves unemployed is a fiction that is as implausible as Bron's surreal 'Tory Cuts vs Labour investment' proposition a few months ago.
Another fiction is the myth that that the Conservatives in the mid-1980s simply did nothing to help the unemployed yet it is used by Labour ministers routinely and blindingly accepted in some sections of the media.
Actually Sir David Young, who was then brought into the Cabinet with a peerage as employment secretary revolutionised the UK's training and skills agenda. Lady Thatcher later said that his schemes for getting the unemployed back to work made a major contribution to her 1987 election victory and tellingly that that the Action for Jobs programme was "the single most effective economic programme we launched in my time in government".
Later, the much derided Youth Training Scheme, established in the depths of a recession, was dealing with 400,000 school-leavers at a time, offering training and work experience with business and (after a fashion and huge initial obstruction) unions working together. I know more than one businessman here in Southampton that cut his teeth on the YTS scheme who went on to be incredibly successful.
David Cameron, then, is on familiar Tory territory in opening his party's conference in Manchester with a focus on how to tackle an unemployment crisis every bit as bad as that of two decades ago but which today's Labour government seems singularly ill-equipped to tackle. It does not even have an employment department any more, but rather a Work and Pensions ministry no longer dedicated to job creation.
If Cameron can win the voters confidence on this issue, he will go quite some way in looking like a Prime Minister in waiting, surely the key goal of this conference week?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Full employment? With this government? somr hope!

4:17 pm  

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