The Tories might tolerate youth unemployment, we do not

by Rory Palmer

Having grown up in a North Nottinghamshire coalfield community I have seen the costs of a lost generation. That community lived the consequences of Thatcher’s destruction of industry and its vicious spiral of hopelessness.

Areas with traditions of industrial pride and hard graft saw a generation denied opportunity. The consequences were painful; drugs and crime, poor health, long term worklessness and aspirations smashed. This is why the coalition’s refusal now to change course is not just incompetent but dangerous.

The government’s austerity plan and a growth-less economy is a toxic combination for youth unemployment. Nationally over a million young people are now looking for work. In the East Midlands we have seen increases of over 20% in young people claiming out of work benefits.

This challenge is urgent. We need government at every level to act and act decisively. Local government is doing what it can. In the face of slashed budgets Labour-led councils across the country are developing youth job programmes. These areas saw the real impact of Labour’s Future Job Fund which was so callously axed by the coalition, with the prime minister calling the jobs it created “phoney”.

The next few weeks will see the city council in Leicester set out our plans for new action on youth unemployment. Earlier this year I called a summit of employers, unions, training organisations and colleges to make sure action was co-ordinated. Our new Leicester to Work programme will include better co-ordination of apprenticeships across the city as well as new schemes within the council.

A couple of weeks ago I met the first cohort of apprentices starting work in the council’s highway repairs team as part of our new programme. These interventions matter. That is clear when I speak to apprentices starting work. Labour’s Leader in Europe, East Midlands MEP Glenis Willmott and I heard about the importance of good work training schemes when we met rail apprentices recently.

As local councils act we also need to see action at the European level. The European Socialist’s Youth Guarantee campaign responds to the unemployment crisis across the EU. European youth unemployment is now over 5 million. People talk of a ‘social emergency’ in Europe and they are right to do so.

Let’s be clear: a lost generation across Europe damages the British economy and our prospects for growth. This generation of young people demands real action from our EU institutions in the face of this emergency.

Labour’s Leader in Europe, Glenis Willmott, and her colleagues know that dealing with youth unemployment is an urgent priority and are pressing for real action.

Beyond Europe and the work of local councils, it is the policy vacuum at the national level that should alarm us. The coalition has failed to put in place youth job schemes with anything close to the impact of Labour’s Future Jobs Fund. There is no growth and with every passing month the prospect of a lost generation becomes painfully more likely.

It is not today’s young people that caused the financial crisis but they are paying the price. A banker’s bonus tax to fund youth job programmes is a policy that would make a real difference. Ed Miliband was right to call for apprenticeships to be a factor in the letting of public sector contracts. Labour councils are working to make this happen.

We know that this government is dangerously stubborn in its refusal to admit their plan is failing. When it comes to youth joblessness, political failure matters less than the economic and social consequences. When it comes to the risk of a lost generation it is the very real human cost that should motivate all politicians, whether in town halls, Whitehall or Brussels.

Rory Palmer is Labour’s deputy city mayor in Leicester

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8 Responses to “The Tories might tolerate youth unemployment, we do not”

  1. Rich says:

    Seriously? How have you come to forget that youth unemployment was intolerable and rising for years before Labour left power. It is hard for the party to be taken seriously when it fails to own up to its legacy. Acting as though youth unemployment would be fine if only the Coalition had not cancelled the Future Jobs Fund is a recipe for failure. If you want to see Labour’s poll lead disappear like May pollen in the wind when the next election comes, keep spouting this drivel. Otherwise, try something novel in politics—a little honesty.

  2. swatantra says:

    Raising the retirement age doesn’t help matters; it just creates a blockage further up, so young people can’t get a foot on the employment ladder.

  3. SadButMadLad says:

    So a socialist organisation want young people to work. Work for whom? I got the feeling that all socialists hated businesses who employe people. So are these young people going to be working for the state then? And whose taxes pay for the state – those who work for private businesses so hated by socialists.

    Anyway, the last time a socialist organisation (The Labour Party) tried to get youth employment up without working with both parties involved (employer & employee) it failed big style.

    @swatantra: Raising the retirement age doesn’t stop young people getting a job. That myth has been disproved. Think about it. More people are currently employed than the total population of the UK was in the 1800s. How did that happen? By the increase in economy. Similarly, it will be an increase in the economy that will allow older people to work longer as well as new people to have jobs – because there will be more jobs to go around. But state planning and intervention in the market always and I mean always ends up causing problems and unforseen consequences.

  4. Vern says:

    Rory, it is clear to understand your passion if you witnessed what happened to the coal industry and its impact upon your community.
    No doubt everyone grew up in the village expecting to work in the industry as their father’s and father’s, father’s had done. and to see this taken away must have been a hopeless scenario at times.
    This was similar to the Austin factory where i live which suffered a similar fate.

    Where i feel the process is lacking is that too many people believe(d) they have an entitlement to that job in the colliery, car plant, hospital etc and that it was a job for life. Life is just not that simple anymore, it hasn’t been since the 1970’s in reality and we want to provide hand ups to people and not hand outs, except to the very needy.

    The EMA was a policy with all the wrong behaviours attributed to it. Giving young folk £35 per week for going to college when no jobs existed gives false hope.Those people must have thought life was easy ‘£35 for turning up at college for a few hours”. anyone leaving school must have felt quite relaxed about things-they were, after all, entitled to EMA.
    Putting tens of thousands of people through meaningless degree courses where the grads leave thinking they are entitled to a £50k starting salary.

    Where i really struggle to understand supporters of the Labour party is that it was always percieved as the workers party. And yet it was those same workers they betrayed by allowing 5 million more to join UK plc without putting some checks or visas in place to safeguard some national interest when the downturn came.

    The Union leaders do not care anymore, they are more wealthy than they could have imagined thanks to Blair & Brown. MP’s too are beyond our gaze and think nothing of claiming for 2 houses whilst others struggle to earn a decent crust.

    I realise i am a very fortunate individual, one of 5 brothers, raised in a tough working class family but with strong morals and a want-to-work ethic.
    We have to get back to instilling in people a will to work, what rewards await those that put in a decent shift, be it with fountain pen or shovel, and take away the belief they have an entitlement….they must be prepared to graft!
    You get nowt for nowt as my old man would often remind me.

  5. BenM says:


    Socialist this, socialist that.

    Yet the organisation with the worst ever unemployment record is a conservative one.

    Go figure?

  6. John S says:

    I dont believe that anyone tolerates youth unemployment. If we do not address it then we are all in a fix. However, whilst the far left attacks wealth creators and tries to support unprofitable schemes they will continue to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. We must work with the private sector and give incentives to invest.The unions have to stop wanting to unionise everything. They do a great job but there are times where their medicine will kill the patient rather than bring them to health. The left have to accept that the right has exactly the same desire to address and fix this problem.

  7. Kulgan of Crydee says:

    A very disingenuous title by my local City’s Deputy Mayor who is Labour. Youth unemployment breached the 1 million under Labour’s watch. The best thing we can do is to get out of the EU and spend our money in our own country to produce these jobs.

  8. Good article Rory, but there are problems with the short term nature of Step Up and the Youth Guarantee.

    As I explain here
    What I want to see is Euro cash going into proper training schemes that last years not months and long term job creation through funding of green energy and recycling creating thousands of much needed jobs that benefit unemployed people and the environment.

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