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The Return of Full Employment

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The Return of Full Employment

Labour plans radical shift over welfare state payouts

Hey, everybody! If Labour gets back in then the government commitment to full employment will be back!

Full employment is part of the social democratic consensus after World War II where Labour and the Conservative both agreed that getting people to work in decent wage paying jobs should be one of the clearest aims of any government. From 1945-1979, disregarding recessions, unemployment was at levels we could not even dream of now – about 2-3% more than half of what they are now.

The huge spike there for the war, obviously – but notice the rise from 1975 onwards. The Winter of Discontent, and a raft of strikes by the unions that led up to it brought the country to a halt, and led to British governments advocating a Three Day Week (only using electricity and stuff three days a week – mental, right?). So when Thatcher came to power she declared the social democratic consensual experiment between both parties dead, and she remade the Tory party and its policies along neo-liberal lines – which is why Thatcherite is a term in its own right.

A major part of her economic platform was that the greatest social ill was inflation. Everything must be done by the government to minimize inflation and so protect people’s savings (old people who actually had savings and were more likely to vote Conservative so it was also a handy vote winner). It would mean that bargaining with the unions over wages would have to handled, so she manufactured crises to complete neuter and destroy the unions and collective bargaining rights. It also meant pulling the government out spending so much money, so she cut public spending down incredibly (I would say to the bone, but the deepness of speed of her cuts aren’t anything compared to the current Tories in office). All of this brought inflation down, and everyone was happy. We were immediately thrown into a recession, but certain sections got mega-rich off the market and they donated to the Tories and voted Tory so all was well that ended well as far as they were concerned.

The consequence of this? The government commitment to full employment vanished. People’s savings were more important than other people’s jobs now. Many politicians and economist floated the idea that there is a natural level of employment that should just be accepted. This change in thinking on employment meant that unemployment levels no longer determined whether you won or lost and election as thatcher and reagan both won landslide with unemployment levels at very, very high levels.

So the Labour Party coming out and saying that they wish to return to this standard is great news.

At the heart of Labour’s plan is the reinstatement of full employment as a government objective. Under its plans, no one would be able to remain unemployed for more than two years, reduced to a year for a young person. After that, they would be offered a real job with appropriate training funded by the taxing of bankers’ bonuses and restructuring pension tax relief for the wealthiest.

I’m not sure whether the measures mentioned could actually fund that policy, but let’s set that aside. It’s great. I’ve been unemployed for nearly a year now (without claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance) and I’d bite the hand of a guaranteed job. I’d take it and work and be instantly paying taxes back into the system. The more people we have working, the better – particularly young people who will spend the money to stimulate the economy.

If we had full employment the recession would vanish, gross domestic product would increase, and suddenly (even without cutting) the debt would start to come down because less people were claiming benefits, and more people were working and paying taxes.

Well done, Labour.

But…hold one.

If they fail to take the job they would be stripped of benefits.

Oh…okay. Presuming the job is a good one, they can reach there fine, they have the skill to do it…then okay. Maybe this is okay. But it does sound quite right-wing. Let’s let it slide.

Still better that the goverment, though right? Anything would be.

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, unveiled a poster highlighting what he called a “tax cut for millionaires” which would see 13,000 people earning over £1m get an average tax cut of £100,000. Labour said three of the Tory party’s biggest donors alone would together receive a tax cut of over £500,000. Balls said: “The whole country will today see whose side this Conservative-led government is really on and who is paying the price for their total economic failure.”

Further changes will mean that the amount pensioners can earn without paying tax will no longer rise with inflation, a move labelled as a “granny tax” by critics. The threshold for 40% tax also comes down to to £41,450 from £42,475, adding 400,000 people to that tax band.

The shadow chancellor claims that as a result of the changes working families will be up to £4,000 worse off, while millionaires receive average tax cuts of £100,000.

See? Fuck you Osborne.

Labour also goes back on the attack over benefit cuts, revealing freedom of information responses from 326 local authorities, to which 259 replied, showing that 394,000 disabled people, including 117,000 households claiming severe or enhanced disability benefits, will pay council tax for the first time.

This is a result of a 10% cut to council tax benefits given to the vulnerable and the decision to shift decisions on where cuts will fall to local authorities.

Yeah! This is unfair. I’m happy with Labour to have one right-wing sentence in a policy when this is the alternative. Phew. Roll on 2015.

Why did they have that little added Rightist policy, though?

As Ed Miliband’s party seeks to counter Tory claims that it is soft on welfare, the Observer understands that detailed work is under way in the party’s policy review on how to revolutionise the way the system works and address concerns that it promotes a “something-for-nothing” culture.

Oh, right. The Tories have called them soft on benefits, and dragged up the Philpotts case. And benefit cuts are very popular with the centre-ground Southern voter that will decide the election. Right, makes sense. You’ve got to be a little bit out there to convince them you’re not Michael Foot.

Anything else?

One central idea under consideration is the creation of a flexible payments system offering higher benefits to those who have been employed for longer and have therefore made more national insurance contributions.


 “The problem at the moment is that you have a person aged 50 who has worked all his life and then becomes unemployed getting much the same as the person next door who has never worked. It is about linking what you take out to what you have put in,” said a senior party source.


“There are lots of people right now who feel they pay an awful lot more in than they ever get back,” Byrne writes. “That should change.”

In a further move to reward work rather than welfare, Byrne says Labour will allow councils to give priority when allocating housing “to those who work and contribute to their community”

Housing too? So we’re just going to abandon the people who need help most? We’re going to scramble to get these few million votes in the South by bringing out buzzphrases and fly-by-night policies that will catch the news cycle for about an hour in the hope of convincing them you won’t be giving money to any more Mick Philpotts.

We’re going to use all these codephrases and smokescreens words as euphemism for benefits cuts. Cuts on the smallest part of the welfare budget – when pensions dwarf the welfare budget for out-of-work, and even housing benefits.

We’re going to move to the right to stop criticism from the Tories even though that criticism will always keep coming and landing home because no matter how far Right Labour go the Tories will always be further waving and laughing, and saying “Look, you’re still soft on welfare!”. Standing there with these fucking know-nothing selfish, semi-detached house owning, two estate car owning, Daily Mail sympathising, anti-immigrant, lazily racist Southern Little England voters that will apparently decide the next general election?

Stop triangulating, Labour and grow a fucking spine. Stand up for what you believe in. Make a stand against these fucking stupid cuts. Articulate a vision that isn’t about a semi-demonisation of those out-of-work because you’re “on the side” of the “hard-working family” – articulate a vision of a more compassionate society where we acknowledge finding work can be hard and that it’s not that much of a drain of the system to have a substantial efficient welfare system – and that the system as is is not broken or unfit for purpose. Tell people that if we focus on creating jobs, then the problems you see in the welfare system will disappear because they weren’t really there in the first place. This is the real politics of envy that you’re engaging in. Stop it. I thought this was One Nation Labour? What described is one nation; not your snivelling, cow-towing rush Rightwards.

Shape up, Ed or when Scotland get a vote for independence I’ll either move to Glasgow or be the first in line to call for independence for the North of England.



About thommurph

A History graduate from the University of Liverpool blogging about history, politics, music, television, gaming and literature.

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