David Blackburn

War of words | 28 June 2010

War of words | 28 June 2010
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Yvette Cooper has condemned IDS’ ‘nasty’ rhetoric this morning and claimed that the government’s proposals are about ideological cuts, not welfare reform. It’s simple, but effective. IDS’ reforms are both radical and necessary. The plan is to incentivise movement out of areas of welfare dependency with regional tax breaks and housing guarantees. There is a clear link between this policy and the non-EU migrant cap, which will protect at least some low skilled or unskilled jobs. A policy that encourages fairness, aspiration and a first chance in life for those condemned to worklessness by accident of birth.

But the coalition is losing the rhetorical argument. When used in conjunction with population movement, the words ‘ghetto’ and ‘dependency’ assume an almost totalitarian air. This has enabled Labour to shift the debate from policy to politics. Also, the coalition has emphasised this policy’s long-term money saving potential, which has allowed Balls et al to characterise the proposals as pure ideology.

The reforms are not entirely convincing in their current form. Vague promises about jobs and employment should be met with scepticism in the current economic climate. Also, the government has not adequately explained how it will address the housing issue, on which success will depend. What would you rather have? Secure tenure or a tenuous job? That said, IDS’ reforms are visionary; they must be not be lost to self-defeating rhetoric.