Amol Rajan: Hague can crack a whip all he likes ... it may not work

FreeView from the editors at i

Share

If there are two words modern politicians are generally forbidden from using in tandem, it is "work" and "harder". William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, and Eric Pickles, his Cabinet colleague with responsibility for 'Communities', were at it earlier this week. And the bucket of opprobrium poured over both their heads made very clear the reservations of headline writers and the voters for whom they allegedly speak about what this command entailed.

To his credit, Hague was at it again yesterday, authoring a newspaper piece along the same lines. Again he was lambasted, on blogs, talk radio and news channels.

There are five problems with his argument. First, it is true; second, it reveals voters to be hypocrites; third, it reveals voters to be generally lazy; fourth, that not enough jobs are being created in any case; and fifth, even if Hague's prescription were followed, it will do a fat lot of good for Britain's international position. Let's take them in turn.

Over five and a half million people are "clients" of Britain's welfare state. In a population of barely 12 times that, this is undesirable. Our economy is emerging from a so-called "Nice" period: non-inflationary constant expansion. Now those conditions have disappeared, or exposed as a mirage, and our economy is saddled with public and private debt, making investment harder to come by. Clearly we must work to generate economic growth.

Second, voters everywhere constantly lambast politicians for their dishonesty. Level with us, they say. Then when a politician tells them what they really think, but which voters don't want to hear, the politician is told to shut up. Hypocrisy. Third, Britain's productivity is tumbling down international tables, and whenever unpopular but necessary reforms, such as raising the retirement age to 70, are mooted, howls of protest soon follow.

Fourth, alas for Hague and Pickles, their friend in No 11 Downing Street is pursuing an economic policy that has failed to produce anywhere near sufficient jobs and growth. Many who want to work harder have no chance to do so.

Finally, I wrote a few weeks ago about the fact that, in a global age, the jobs that the poor used to do in this country, especially in industry, have been outsourced to cheaper labour: either manpower in the developing world, or machinery everywhere. This is the long-term, irreversible trend that makes Hague's intervention this week essentially futile. The irony is that in his job as Foreign Secretary he watches the evidence of this futility accumulate every day.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Recruitment Genius: Subscriptions and Marketing Assistant

£12500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A subscriptions and marketing a...

Metail Ltd: Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific

£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Supervisor

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A memorial dedicated to the 52 people that were killed during the 7/7 terror attacks in London is cleaned in London's Hyde Park  

7/7 bombings: We cannot opt out of this fight, hoping that if we hide terrorism will leave us alone

Liz Kendall
 

There are no heroes in the Greek crisis that ended the euro

Steve Richards
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate