by Dan McCurry
There was an interesting piece in The New Statesman by Rowenna Davis last week that examined the DWP report on Gordon Brown’s future jobs fund. Under this programme young unemployed people were given a guaranteed 6 months work at minimum wage and the DWP evaluation has found this policy had a net benefit to society, for each young person enrolled, of £7,750.
The writer contacted Ed Miliband’s office to ask for a view from the leader’s staff, only to be told that, “it still does nothing for those people who are in work on benefits.”
I see Ed Miliband as a man who has a great conviction that there is something deeply wrong and unjust about the system. He desperately wants to find the answer, but can’t quite put his finger on it. It’s as if it’s there, but just out of reach. It’s good to have a leader who wants to make a real difference, rather than aspiring to coast through a term in office. However, he does sometimes look like he is chasing rainbows at the expense of doing the job.
Rowenna’s experience tends to chime with a suspicion I’ve had in the past. I have an image in my mind of all the people around Ed Miliband desperately biting their knuckles, with the intense hope that they can find the answer, if only they can think deeply enough.
It’s not unreasonable to conceive of this rather comical idea, since a man’s staff does tend to model themselves on the man. Ed Miliband gives the impression of being intense, so his people are intense.
What we need from Ed is for the basics to be put in place as a priority. Once he’s done this, he can go search for the holy grail.
What we don’t want is a leader who hasn’t provided adequate foundations, wandering off looking for some elusive answer, to some bigger question, and taking the whole policy team with him. As a party, we want a simple set of aims and values. From a leader, we don’t want unnecessary complication.
It may be the case that the staff member simply rejected the idea because it came from Gordon Brown. We certainly don’t need Ed Miliband refusing a good idea because it originated from his predecessor.
The leader and his office need to focus on the substance. Even if they believe our past leaders to be toxic, a better approach would have been to point out that this is not about Gordon and Tony, nor is it about Ed Miliband. It’s about a million young people who haven’t been able to get started in life yet, because they haven’t been given a chance.
The priority is them, not us.
Firstly, a young person who has never had a job, is more in need of our help, than a person with a job but in receipt of tax credits. If the future jobs fund has been evaluated and found to be a success, then there is space for it in our policy.
Secondly, we shouldn’t let opportunities to bash the Tories pass us by like this. What we have here is an academic report from the DWP, that says with considerable confidence that Labour’s policy was a big success.
This policy was dumped as an expensive waste of time by George Osborne. We are insane to let pass the opportunity to tell everyone about this. Let George attack us on the expense, it pays for itself. Besides, he’s the one who ground the economy into the dirt, when interest rates are close to zero.
We should get behind the report, publicise it, shout its findings from the rooftops, and attack Osborne for cancelling the program.
Forget the association with Gordon Brown or the Westminster bubble prejudices.
This report is an opportunity to show the Tories as incompetent, the previous Labour government as effective, and a future Labour government as bubbling over with ideas.
What more reason does the leader’s office need to push this one forward?
Dan McCurry is a Labour activist who blogs here