One of the most positive and inspiring achievements of this Government has been the growing success in tackling welfare dependency. Often the fall in unemployment is simply attributed to the return to economic growth but it also reflects something more fundamental – the welfare reforms. So Ryan Shorthouse of the Bright Blue think tank got it spectacularly wrong in saying that it was “negative and uninspiring” to “make an issue out of things like…benefits.”
The way the debate is presented also shows how ludicrous the use of labels such as “modernising” and “right wing” has become.
Isn’t it “modernising” to bring in changes such as Universal Credit and the Troubled Families initiative?
Is it “right wing” to show determination to want everyone to reach their full potential rather than just have an “underclass” written off by society as beyond redemption?
It is Labour that have become the Victor Meldrew party – offering gloomy predictions, hostile to reform and sullen about fantastic opportunities such a shale gas. There “willing to wound but afraid to strike” has resulted in a lack of clarity as to their stance on Coalition’s Government measures.
Would they abolish the Police and Crime Commissioners? Would they restore the 50p top rate of Income Tax? Do they accept that extending academy status to primary schools has been positive? The usual formula is to seize on any instance of difficulty while becoming evasive as to what they would do differently.
The Left’s surly pessimism is confirmed by some of the predictions they offered a year ago for 2013.
Seamus Milne in The Guardian declared that the “economy will sputter and could yet shrink again” He added:
The social unrest predicted by northern council leaders is a given – only the form and scale in question.
His colleague Polly Toynbee said there would be “echoes of the Poll Tax” due to benefit cuts. There was a similar message from the Labour MP David Lammy that the Benefits Cap would “cause riots.”
Shadow Cabinet Minister Jon Cruddas was also clear about our dire economic prospects:
Cameron may have to dump Osborne as the economy continues to tank – sent home to spend more time with his Brideshead Revisited DVDs. Things are going to get bumpy.
The Left’s favourite economists were shouting gloom from the rooftops. David Blanchflower warned of unemployment reaching five million. While Paul Krugman predicted “depression.”
Of course the predictions of gloom from the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls have been constant. In one interview last year he talked about a “lost decade” of high unemployment and of the economy dipping in and out of recession:
“The thing that frustrates me is that for a year is how arrogantly George Osborne has said, ‘No my plan will work – you are wrong’, and we are a year on and it is now too late.….
“The economy continues to underperform and, Japanese-style, it grows below trend and therefore unemployment stays high. That sort of stagnation is consistent with a bit of growth, but not enough, that could go on for a very long time,” he adds. “I don’t see what it is which gets an economy out of [trouble] now when you have got such a fiscal clampdown….
“Despite credit easing, monthly bank lending to small businesses has now fallen every month since 2010. The fiscal squeeze gets worse. In those circumstances, where does the hope come from? Where does the optimism come from?”
The Conservative belief in “trusting the people” lends itself to optimism about the scale of accomplishments to be expected. We don’t feel a constant urge to tell people what to do. Provide a framework of responsibility and allow rewards to be retained and then let people get on with their lives. The Left are gloomy about it but it is an approach which has seen our country make some good progress this year.