The Daily Mail calls it "a startling reversal of positions for the two main parties" but notes that the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, is "uncomfortable" about Labour’s intention – announced yesterday – to force single mothers to seek work once their youngest child reaches twelve months of age.
Mr Grayling told The Mail:
"Nobody could accuse me of being soft on welfare reform but there is a real issue about the welfare of children early in life. The big problem is the availability of the right kind of childcare."
The Conservatives would rather Labour focused efforts on getting the much larger number of people on incapacity benefit into work. In an echo of the bipartisanship that David Cameron showed towards Tony Blair’s 2006 education reforms, the Conservative frontbench nonetheless promises to help Welfare Secretary James Purnell pass the vast bulk of his measures.
Janet Daley is unimpressed with Mr Purnell’s package. She believes the proposed reforms are "over-hyped" and should be more closely modelled on the USA where the work requirements on single mothers, in particular, were much tougher and "the rate of unmarried births fell like a stone". The Mail leader-writers also protest the flimsiness of Mr Purnell’s insistence that "every claimant must do ‘something’." "That may only include updating a CV or ‘finding out about childcare’," they complain. The Mail leader concludes:
"The timing, too, leaves a lot to be desired. What a farce that ministers did nothing when jobs were readily available, but now seek to get the long-term unemployed, including 100,000 drunks and drug addicts in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, back into the workplace at a time when there are no jobs."