Martin Bright

Revive the Enterprise Allowance Scheme

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Some will see it as final proof that I have made the journey from left to right, but I have to say I don't see it that way.

In tomorrow's Telegraph I have written a column calling for the revival of the Thatcher-era Enterprise Allowance Scheme. This initiative gave a £40 per week payment to people who wanted to get off the dole and set themselves up in business. Alumni include Alan McGee, who set up Creation Records on the EAS, Julian Dunkerton of the Superdry fashion label and visual artists Jane and Louise Wilson.

New Deal of the Mind was commissioned by the Arts Council to examine the government's response to the recesssion. Our report concluded that it had failed to address the issue of self-employment and entrepreneurship, especially in the creative industries.

Was it a cynical, ideologically-driven attempt to fiddle the dole figures or just another state-subsidised work creation scheme? I think it was probably both of those things but something more as well. As I say in the piece it allowed people to "define themselves not by what they had failed to be (gainfully employed) but what they wanted to become".

I was on the scheme myself in the late 1980s and I will always be grateful for the opportunity it gave me. I still despise Margaret Thatcher for the brutality of her economic model, which saw unemployment as a necessary evil. But the law of unintended consequences meant that a scheme intended to create a nation of mini-capitalists, spawned a generation of artists, musicians, fashion designers and even the odd left-wing journalist.