Alex Massie Alex Massie

Welfare Reform is this government’s most difficult but most popular policy.

I always enjoy Peter Oborne’s columns not least because his opinions are as entertaining, predictably unpredictable, quixotic and changeable as his cricket captaincy. This is not a bad thing. This week he’s back in full-on Cameron as Disraeli mode, arguing that the coalition’s reforms of education (in England, though sadly the Peter and the Telegraph refer to “Britain’s schools”) and welfare (across the UK) are so important that success here dwarfs any failure anywhere else.

I think he may be right.

Coincidentally, I’ve an article in today’s Scotsman that, though chiefly concerned with Iain Duncan Smith and welfare reform, makes passing reference to Gove too. These two, perhaps more than any other leading ministers in the government, appear minded to think not only that Something Must Be Done but that Something Can Be Done. Being hated is not always the worst thing in politics. Nor, of course, is thinking long and hard before acting.

Anyway, if I were advising Labour I suspect I’d say that being The Party of More Welfare is not necessarily the optimal place from which to campaign. As John Rentoul is wont to say, Ed Miliband is much too fond of “idiot-leftism”. Anyway, here’s my piece:

The image of IDS as a callous “toff” hellbent on whipping the poor into submission is in any case a laughable caricature. Few British politicians – and no Conservative ministers – have thought longer or more deeply about welfare reform. His answers may prove mistaken but he cannot sensibly be accused of failing to address the question.

Despite the hysterical reaction to this week’s benefit changes, no-one actually proposes eliminating the safety net.

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