By Tim Montgomerie
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If you want some optimism this weekend I recommend Matthew Parris' Times column. There's no Times paywall for the Jubilee weekend and he argues that, despite the media froth, the Coalition is actually doing quite well. Most Eurozone leaders would, he writes, give their eye teeth for the troubles that this Government faces. While they are worried about economic catastrophe the worst facing Cameron et al are headlines about pasty taxes and a Leveson enquiry that is boring the nation to death.
Here is the meat of Matthew's argument:
"Our economy is broadly flat and likely to remain so. Disappointing, but remind yourself that there is something worse than a flat economy and in Spain and Greece they know it. Unemployment here remains stubbornly high. Depressing, but look at both the levels and the direction of unemployment in some economies across the Channel. Inflation in Britain remains a bit above target. Irritating, but thank heavens it has proved possible to maintain monetary stimulus without a more alarming price spiral. Put briefly and crudely, Britain’s domestic economic weather is dull but remarkably stable; most people have jobs; most jobs seem more or less secure; most people’s wages are flat or dipping slightly. And in the world beyond we see economies that are collapsing around people’s ears. We are not living in such interesting times. Others are. Two cheers for that.
Meanwhile, outside economics, we have a Government that in two short years has been incredibly productive. They have bitten the bullet on university financing and in schools policy turned an evolution into a revolution. Changes to social welfare, with universal credit, will prove a bigger revolution. A massive, Lib Dem-inspired hike in the threshold at which the lower-paid pay tax is an underpraised triumph. An almost untold story is the measured and modest way spending is being curbed, ministers showing steadiness under fire from the proponents both of the axe and the splurge. Almost as a sideline our Armed Forces and diplomatists have saved a revolution in Libya and planned an orderly withdrawal from a futile war in Afghanistan."
For a more downbeat start to the Jubilee weekend I point you towards the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. A man tipped as a possible successor to Rowan Williams, the Bishop focuses on the breakdown of family life in Britain:
"Literally millions of children grow up without knowing a stable, loving, secure family life – and that is not to count the hundreds of thousands more who don’t even make it out of the womb each year… Promiscuity, separation and divorce have reached epidemic proportions in our society. Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be surprised that depression and the prescription of anti-depressants has reached a similarly epidemic level."]
Family policy has been the great disappointment of the PM's compassionate agenda. The three big agents of social progress for conservatives are parents, teachers and job creators. On reforming schools and moving people from welfare to work the Coalition is making encouraging progress but as the Centre for Social Justice recently noted, family policy deserves only a 4 out of 10 rating. If we don't act very soon the huge costs of family breakdown – that are economically affordable in good times – will be unaffordable when tomorrow's working population is also asked to pay off the baby boomers' debts and also for their pensions.