As this Election Campaign continues it seems all the Tories are interested in is shoring up their core vote, and hoping to pick up disaffected Labour voters. Nothing they have proposed so far rolls out their appeal to create a positive vibe. There is no wave of enthusiasm for the Tories which means Labour has a golden opportunity to get our message across, say what we’ve done and continue to do, and point out how the Liberals as well as the Tories are in a mess with no clear focus.
What have we seen this week?
Unemployment has fallen for the first time since 2008 and whilst this is no cause to think we’ve cracked things, it does prove that the fiscal measures taken by the Government have kept things going and prevented the spectre of the jobless total hitting FIVE MILLION, which is where it would have been under the Tories if you compare unemployment figures with the comparable contraction in GDP based on the 1979/81 recession and it’s aftermath.
Unemployment rose at FOUR TIMES the speed it has now under John Major, and that was a far milder recession.
Youth (18/25) unemployment (18%) and especially black youth unemployment, which is running at an eye watering 50%, need to be urgently addressed and I found Yvette Cooper less than convincing on this today. “Well, err, we are looking at tackling discrimination in this area”, (Sky News) simply isn’t good enough.
However continued investment in Job Centre Plus, added to a cast iron commitment to provide a job or training within six months bode well and show we are ahead of the eight ball. But we need more. And not just the offer of third level courses, which are often inappropriate to the young person’s, needs and won’t do anything for their job prospects.
On a positive note Cooper added;
“The jobs market is still tough for a lot of people, but the drop in unemployment and youth unemployment is very welcome. It means 450,000 fewer people are out of work than everyone (the ONS included) expected last spring."
Today’s figures published by ONS show a 7,000-drop in the ILO measure of unemployment (the one the Tories refused to recognise) and a 7,600-drop in the youth claimant count in December. Don’t be fooled though. Seasonal factors are in play, but it’s still great news.
But it is absolutely vital that we don’t take this as being the beginning of the end.
Unemployment traditionally continues on a upward trend after a recession and we saw a five year relentless increase in the ‘Eighties which resulted in tremendous social upheaval, soaring rates of crime which inculcated the UK with a sense of hopelessness seeing us cast as the sick man of Europe.
The Tories looked after their own by wasting oil revenue on the Social Security budget, which drove down wages by a deliberate maintaining of high jobless totals, (hence their loathing of the minimum wage) and saw UK workers slogging the longest hours in the EU which resulted from Major’s opt out from the Social Chapter at Maastrict.
Now to the Tory mess on families and tax.
My opinion is that I believe in marriage as the optimum environment for raising kids. All the stats show that the MOST important factor in educational and life chances, such having a job above the average wage, avoiding drugs and prison depend on whether your parents are together.
But they can be together and not be married, or one parent may find stability the second time around and yes, believe it or not single parenthood isn’t all about trays of lager in the pram at 11am to be consumed in a council flat.
Ken Clarke sums up for me why Government has no right comment on people’s relationship status, let alone reward one form over another.
He said; I really don’t think it’s anything to do with politicians whether you [get married] and most of the younger people I know don’t seem very keen on it.
‘My view of Conservatism is that it’s not for us to tell you [what to do through] the tax system – my wife didn’t put up with me because I was getting £150 by way of tax allowance.
‘This is social engineering for God’s sake and when I joined the party we weren’t in favour of it."
In fact when Ken was John Major’s Chancellor he went as far as totally abolishing the Married Man’s Allowance.
Today’s Tory announcement on family life confirms that under the Tories Sure Start would be cut back from being a universal service for all families, simply to one for the poorest, a deliberate attempt to marginalize and stigmatise families availing of SureStart.
As a professional graduate family we used SureStart facilities between 2003/06 and found a brilliant way to socialise both mother and child, especially when you have no family around to help.
But the Tories want to label and ghettoise poorer families, and have found a way of doing it.
This from Families Secretary Ed Balls this morning;
"And as we heard from David Willetts this morning, the Tories still cannot say what they would do on marriage tax breaks or working tax credits for couples and they still cannot say how they’d pay for it. This flies in the face of George Osborne’s pledge that the Conservatives would not make any promises of un funded tax cuts.
"Once again David Cameron has airbrushed out all the details he doesn’t want people to see."
The Tories’ slick PR conceals the threat they pose to families on middle and modest incomes.
They would remove access to SureStart for families on modest incomes.
They would cut child tax credits from families on £31,000 a year. They would cut child trust funds ffrom families on just over £16,000 a year.
This in contrast to our proposals to look at the rights of fathers, plus a pledge to aknowledge the role of grand parents in caring for kids.
Another fine Tory Mess.