Sometimes politicians say things that are so daft you wonder how they got into their position in the first place.
I am not talking about the gaffes, Freudian slips or ill-judged, panicky monologues about bread-makers that understandably happen from time to time. I’m talking about the policy ideas or statements they have obviously spent more than a minute thinking about and still thought were a good idea.
Cameron’s hints about scrapping benefits for the under-25s are at odds with his claim that his party is “on the side of working people”. He believes it is wrong that someone can come out of school at 16 and sign up for state assistance without ever finding a meaningful way to contribute economically or socially to the UK.
I agree. But I disagree about whose fault it is.
Young people work just as hard as their parents. The only difference is often they don’t get paid for it. The state is currently supporting young people because the job market is failing so miserably. As usual, Cameron has identified the problem but got the way to solve it completely the wrong way around. It is, as with all Tory welfare policy, all stick and no carrot.
There are too many people dependent on welfare to have an acceptable standard of living in this country and something practical and positive must be done to fix it.
But the solution is not to take away the only source of spending power most young people can get. We want ideas that get people off benefits into a sustainable job or career, not ones that just push them into poverty. Even though the economy is on the mend it won’t be for long if you hammer away at its engine of growth. It is widely accepted that the single best way to invest long term in an economy is to invest in its young people. In some ways the Government has done this well by introducing loans and help for the young to start their own businesses.
But this only works for the small percentage of young people with a good idea and the entrepreneurial brain to pull it off. The other 95 per cent still have a lot to offer the economy and need to be helped in other ways. Leaving young people to their own devices will be a disaster for the recovery. When interns can no longer afford the unpaid admin work, thousands of companies will suffer. And every time young people are forced onto the streets because they can’t afford to pay rent, the UK’s workforce gets less competitive.
Instead of taking away the only means of support for a graduate doing an unpaid internship, why don’t you force the employer to pay them?
This cut to under-25 benefits will not get very far. It will either be killed by the Liberal Democrats, like its predecessor plan to cut housing benefit for the young, or by popular opinion. But it shows just how little the youth vote means to the Conservative party. Instead of innovating and attracting new members, the Tories seem to be tying themselves up in knots appealing to their base to see off UKIP.
It may work in the short term, but what about in future? This idea punishes young people for being born at the wrong time in history. It may seem like they are an easy target because they don’t fight back - but everyone has their limit. The Conservative party hasn’t won a majority in a general election for over twenty years. If they continue to alienate an entire generation of potential voters, they will almost certainly fail to win another one for the next twenty.