Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

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

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.

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