The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Parties Swap Seats

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 2, 2010 @ 09:17

When a Tory can address the Beveridge Society you know something is afoot...

I can’t have been the only one – and I don’t think I was judging at the Twitter stream – to have watched Question Time last night pretty surprised at some of the things I was hearing.

First of all, there was the disgrace of Alan Johnson telling the world that “Michael Howard was right”. Prison works, apparently. Labour, what has happened to you? I thought I liked Alan Johnson until last night. No more.

Then there was the remarkable performance of Iain Duncan Smith. Not wanting to show off, and all that, but for the people who’ve been following IDS’s work for a while, it didn’t really come as a surprise.

Hopefully, the few million people watching will have been as intrigued as the studio audience seemed to be. Towards the end of the show, it basically turned into “Question IDS Time” as a string of audience members kept putting intelligent and thoughtful questions and observations directly to him on the issue of benefits and welfare reform.

It was a revelation. A politician who had used his time in opposition wisely. Studying evidence, conducting his own research, and formulating intelligent, rational, evidence-based policy. At several times he displayed a note of passion which we don’t usually get in such dour politicians. He held court, deploying relevant statistics and speaking in such an erudite fashion that I got the sense he will have made a big impact last night.

What annoyed me was that, during all this, Alan Johnson’s lines of attack were simple: IDS is a lonely figure in his party, and will not be able to carry through Tory backbenchers; and IDS will not have any money to conduct his welfare reform programme.

The first point is tired, old partisan hackery. The second has some truth to it. His plan, if implemented properly, will cost money in the short-term, and that’s before you even get into the minefield of how to withdraw benefits from unemployed people who then start work. I’ve had no good answers on this issue.

But the travesty is that the economic mess is probably going to mean we’re not really going to make any progress on this issue. The coalition will hold together on welfare reform, and probably even more so because it’s being led by the most unlikeliest of characters. Meanwhile, Labour will carp from the sidelines, having spent 13 years presiding over such failure.

It really is an incredible turnaround. Progressive coalition versus fatalistic Labour.

The only danger is this. If the coalition fails to make a serious dent in changing the poverty of aspiration in certain parts of the country, simply because there is just no money to finance the agenda, it might kill our best chance of tackling this problem for another generation.

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2 Responses to “The Parties Swap Seats”

  1. Dougf said

    “The only danger is this. If the coalition fails to make a serious dent in changing the poverty of aspiration in certain parts of the country, simply because there is just no money to finance the agenda, it might kill our best chance of tackling this problem for another generation.”

    I think you might find that the people running this Coalition have a pretty good grasp of what HAS to be done, money or no, and. what MIGHT be done in better conditions. If they view IDS ‘reforms’ as necessary, somehow the money will be there. Sooner or later.

  2. loudribs said

    With you on this. I’m no fan of the Tories and I’m usually a fan of Johnson but The Quiet Man played a blinder last night. Came to a similar assessment myself.

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