Dobson calls for full employment to be key policy

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A PLEA for full employment to be put back at the heart of Labour's economic policy was made by Frank Dobson, the party's new employment spokesman, last night, writes Anthony Bevins.

He told a party meeting in Camden, north London: 'The people of this country are sick of being betrayed by a Tory government dancing to the tune of some mad professors.

'Britain needs to be governed again in the interests of the British people - all the British people. To do that, we need to put full employment back at the heart of economic policy.

'It can't be achieved immediately and it can't be achieved just in Britain. But full employment never will be achieved again unless it is restored to its proper place in the political and economic ambitions of our country and the rest of the European Community.'

Labour dropped its long-standing commitment to full employment in the 1990 policy statement, Looking to the Future, when Neil Kinnock dismissed it as an unilluminating slogan. When the Independent reported in March that a reference to full employment by Tony Blair, the previous spokesman, suggested a double U-turn on the issue, senior party figures said there had been no reversion of policy.

The subsequent Labour manifesto did not mention the term full employment, saying instead: 'We are determined to make a swift reduction in unemployment' - without setting targets.

But Mr Dobson said last night that it had to be returned to the agenda. It had been achieved before, and it could be achieved again. 'Why can't we have full employment again?' he asked. 'Full employment didn't come about by accident. It had to be worked for. It was a top priority for the governments of the developed world. That was how it came about. They willed it and worked for it.'

He said that unemployment was not only bad for those who suffered it, but for the rest of the community as well - those who had to pay for the welfare benefits and the increased demands on the National Health Service; those who suffered from the fear that they might be next in line for redundancy, a fear exploited by 'countless employers'.

But Mr Dobson also raised the spectre of a rising tide of violence and vandalism and of political exploitation, with parties of the far right using increased unemployment as a 'recruiting sergeant'.

He said: 'Those parties can't be countered properly just by clamping down on them - we have to end the disillusionment and despair which is the breeding ground of their support.'

However, he added that full employment could not be created in one country.