If Ed Miliband was looking for a flagship policy that ticks all the right boxes, he might just have found one.
Tomorrow he will announce that a Labour Government would get tough on unemployed young adults lacking the skills to get a job. They would no longer be able to go straight on to the dole at the age of 18, stay on it or drift in and out of low-paid, low-skilled jobs.
The policy may help Labour to deflect Conservative charges that it is “soft on skivers”. It should also save money, showing that Labour can make painful cuts. It also points to the sort of “big idea” Labour has been lacking – restoring the principle of Sir William Beveridge, architect of the post-war welfare state, that state support in hard times should be based on what people have paid in (through national insurance).
This concept of social insurance has since been eroded by both Tory and Labour governments in an unofficial alliance. The Tories preferred means-testing to control spending while Labour regarded the contributory principle as too exclusive, opting for costly universal benefits.
Mr Miliband has taken a big step in the right direction. But in any competition to cut welfare, the Tories will always trump him.