Ed Miliband's plan to cut benefits for young people is a risky swing to the right

Threatening to cut young people's Jobseeker Allowance could alienate first-time voters

Share

Any government policy with a chance of success should generally be a judicious mixture of carrot and stick, and it’s difficult not to conclude that the present Government is more fond of the latter than the former.

So, what of the Opposition? With his proposal to deny the Jobseeker’s Allowance to young, unskilled adults, it seems, unfortunately, that Ed Miliband has chosen to align himself with the stick people.

Just as Tony Blair decided 20 years ago that the way to get Labour back into power was the Tory-lite option, Mr Miliband is pursuing a right turn ahead of a general election. His big idea – and one that doesn’t necessitate everyone in Britain getting their own owl, as a party Twitter account erroneously tweeted yesterday – involves those between 18 and 21 only receiving the Jobseeker's Allowance if they already have the skills to get a job, while the unskilled will be punished with a smaller Youth Allowance.

The Labour leader would presumably deny that the plan is remotely right-wing, but it sounds like the kind of  measure Margaret Thatcher would have clasped to her bosom.

It also looks as if Miliband has taken the crazy decision to risk alienating first-time voters.  If a recent Radio 4 programme is to be believed, young adults are lurching rightwards of their own accord anyway, with less of a feeling for the welfare state and more emphasis on self-reliance. Perhaps they’re feeling that the state has failed them – and Miliband’s stand on the Jobseeker's Allowance will hardly reassure them in that regard.

The Labour leader has, apparently, taken to heart an argument put forward by the LSE sociology professor Richard Sennett that compassion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (sorry, Jesus, you just haven’t moved with the times, and though we still purport to be a Christian country, we need a new religion, one that doesn’t involve woolly liberal ideas like caring for one’s fellow man).

In the Hugo Young Lecture Miliband delivered earlier this year he spoke of the impact on him of Sennett’s book, Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality. Sennett writes: “Charity itself has the power to wound; pity can beget contempt, compassion can be intimately linked to inequality” – which, though Sennett is the product of a Chicago housing project, sounds suspiciously like an argument to bring back the workhouse.

Miliband is addressing the concerns of some voters that while millions of us pay into the welfare system more than we get out of it, some appear to be getting something for nothing. A YouGov poll carried out for the centre-left think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research found that 78 per cent of respondents believe the welfare system isn’t rewarding those whose payments keep it afloat. Miliband said reform is needed to bring down what he calls “a wall of scepticism” that politicians can be trusted to make things fairer.

READ MORE:
Alan Bennett: Private school are unfair and un-Christian
An NHS boob job changed my life
Why the petition to comb Blue Ivy's hair is wrong
Football unites the Dutch, but a debate over blackface is dividing them

Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary was called into action to deny that the Jobseekers cuts proposal is punitive, but how else will look to the average out-of-work young adult?

She stressed that only those without level 3 qualifications – the equivalent of an A-level – will be affected, but that means 70 per cent of 18-21-year-olds currently claiming the JSA. And the initial saving? A measly £65m, by my admittedly rough calculation, about 18 hours of the UK’s defence budget.

With his own popularity on the slide, Miliband needs soft targets. He is making  the noises that he thinks will endear him and his party to the country. The apparently  feckless, idle youth of today – the ones who’d barely reached spotty adolescence when the masters of the universe and the governments that indulged them messed up the world economy – make the perfect whipping boys and girls.

The fact is, tinkering with the welfare system is largely irrelevant to the problems we’re facing as a nation. What Ed Miliband needs is a clear and inspiring vision of how society should be, and a plan of how he’s going to bring that about. Without either of those things he’ll never make it to No 10.

Would you chip in for One Direction’s football team?

A wise man once said that the best way to make a small fortune is to start off with a large fortune and then buy a football club.

According to the latest Rich List, One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson is worth around £14m, which these days is only a small fortune – and that’s probably why, having bought his beloved Doncaster Rovers FC with the club’s former chairman John Ryan, he’s now asking the club’s long-suffering supporters to help him out.

The pair have set up a crowdsourcing  appeal to raise £2m – it rapidly became the  top-trending hashtag on Twitter. Credit to Tomlinson for putting (some of) his money where his mouth is – though some Donny fans may baulk at the idea of stumping up to subsidise a millionaire’s plaything.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory