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: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore