Leading article: The politics of recession makes for odd bedfellows

But policies will ultimately prove more significant than personalities

Share
Related Topics

How distant all those paralysing rows between the Blair and Brown camps at the heart of Government seem now. The return of Alan Milburn – a politician not renowned in Westminster for his affection for Gordon Brown – to the political fray as a Government adviser on social mobility is the latest example of bridges being mended within the New Labour community. Old grudges have apparently been swept away by the economic emergency that has engulfed Britain. The Labour Party can now honestly say, for the first time in many years, that it stands full-square behind its leadership.

The political symbolism is likely to prove a boost for the Government, but whether this new-found unity in the Labour ranks will deliver any immediate and tangible benefits to members of the public whose livelihoods are under serious threat is, sadly, more doubtful. Mr Milburn is to chair a panel of industry leaders whose mission will be to devise ways to get children from disadvantaged backgrounds into the top professions such as the civil service, law and medicine.

A White Paper covering similar territory is expected tomorrow, and today will see the convening of a Government jobs summit, which the Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, says will examine ways to prevent people falling into a vicious circle of joblessness.

Breaking down barriers to social mobility is, of course, a laudable aim. But it is hard to see much being achieved at a time when companies are processing redundancies. The focus of most firms at the moment is on firing, not hiring.

Similar pessimism inevitably attaches to the Government's jobs summit. New state resources for training, employment advice and incentives for companies to hire are all welcome, but their impact on the jobs market over the coming months is likely to be marginal. While economic activity is drying up and company profits are down, the flow of redundancies is inexorable.

Nor can efforts to give graduates paid work experience, another mooted Government initiative, compensate for the fact that tens of thousands of university leavers are unlikely to get a full-time job this year. None of these efforts are pointless, but we should beware of the Government's spin that they can make a substantial difference. The truth is that, in an open economy such as Britain's, only economic recovery can have a major impact on the jobs market.

This is where the real battleground will be in the new parliamentary session, beginning today: which party has the policies that will make this recession as short and shallow as possible? The Government has adopted an inflationary approach, arguing that fiscal caution translates into recklessness in such extraordinary times. The Conservatives are against a fiscal stimulus, warning that the Government's excessive borrowing will impede Britain's eventual recovery. Both parties believe that restoring the flow of credit to the economy is crucial, although they are squabbling over the best means to achieve that.

Mr Milburn's return, like that of Lord Mandelson last October, is yet more evidence that the politics of recession makes for some strange bedfellows. And it is surely welcome that the Government is at least united in its purpose. Yet we should not lose sight of the fact that it is likely to be policy, more than personality, that determines the ebb and flow of party political fortunes over the coming months.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
F D R and Eleanor, both facing camera, in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1938  

Where are today's Roosevelts?

Rupert Cornwell
 

Now back to the big question: what's wrong with the eurozone?

Hamish McRae
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam