Leading Article: Nice idea, Mr Brown, but where are these jobs coming from?

Share
Related Topics
Like the tides, if not quite as regularly, capitalist economies like ours have swung from boom to bust.

Economists say there are signs that the distance from peak to trough may be lessening, but their continuing existence is not in doubt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may this week be walking on water, but it can confidently be asserted that within the next few years the British economy will turn downwards and unemployment rates will turn up. Who then will collect their P45s first? The test of Gordon Brown as an effective politician - in his own terms - then arrives. If the first out are the young with marginal skills, those living on estates in Merseyside, Manchester or Peckham, older men and young black men, then all his impassioned rhetoric yesterday about social justice and opportunity for all will sound dreadfully hollow.

Perhaps Mr Brown does believe that 200 years of economic history came to an end on 1 May; that his invocations of the long-term view, together with his skills as a macro-economic manager, will guarantee stability and the abolition of the economic cycle. Even so, to redeem his high- flown promises to the excluded and the unemployed he will have to perform the amazing feat not just of seeing employment grow while the economy is booming, but to continue to see jobs created even when it dips. That commitment to turn the welfare state into a "platform" for work was well made, and the measures announced by Labour so far are a plausible mixture of sticks and carrots. The Government, he said, in a phrase which demonstrates the distance Labour has travelled in recent years, cannot prevent people losing their jobs, but can assist them to get the next one.

But if you are saying to the unemployed, "the age of exclusion is over", you are committing the state to ensuring that demand remains high in an age when Keynesian tools have been discarded. Perhaps Labour is confident that it can guarantee that British business will deliver the jobs on which the expansion of opportunity depends. Perhaps Mr Brown has a plan for conjuring jobs out of the public sector while reducing the national debt. Either way, he did not dilate upon method yesterday, except - unknowingly? - in mentioning ways in which employment might be reduced. If British business is, as he promised, made more competitive, is it not possible that jobs are cut?

The trouble is, Mr Brown also wants to alter the arithmetic of employment. It is not just a question of finding work for those who are unemployed now. His measures will surely also increase the supply of labour. Better child-care facilities - much needed, it is true - ought to mobilise women who are not now classified as jobless. The assault on definitions of disability and long-term sickness being prepared by Harriet Harman will also have the effect of redefining as employable large numbers who are not so classified. Reaching "full employment" may involve creating around 1 million more posts, but Labour is embarking on these other measures that may add hundreds of thousands of people to the labour pool.

Then there is the geography: where are those jobs going to be? In the south-east of England, in East Anglia and other growth regions, the response may be easy: already there are bottlenecks in the supply of labour. Skip over the (rather tricky) question of whether those unemployed can in fact be trained for available slots. What is the mechanism by which jobs are created in those regions, notably Merseyside and peripheral Glasgow, where unemployment remains high? Not a word yesterday about regional policies. Mr Brown was anxious to distance himself from the policy failures of the Wilson and Callaghan years, but he may find himself having to revisit their big-spending remedies for geographical exclusion.

Hubris is stalking the Brighton conference hall this week. Gordon Brown had, before the election, made the dampening of expectations his stock- in-trade. Yesterday he let rip. Popular, clever, charming the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be. He has certainly during the past week or so pulled off the amazing feat of appearing utterly convincing on the world stage at the International Monetary Fund while continuing to speak plausibly about domestic priorities for reducing income inequality. But sooner or later those delegates who currently sit so politely on New Labour benches will expect results on the employment front. They may even take Mr Brown at his word, which means he will inevitably be found wanting. The question is, by how much?

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?