Recognition of the dominance of the market economy and the necessity of being a productive part of it has had implications for all of us. The modernising element of the New Labour Party appears to now accept that the vast majority of us have to work. It recognises the wastefulness of large sections of the population living long-term on welfare benefits. At the height of North Sea Oil exploitation the annual total tax revenues were roughly equal to total spending on welfare benefits.
New Labour appears to be striving to be the New Workers Party. It seeks to represent all of us who work for a living while at the same bringing the economically excluded back into the included fold. This is the central strategy of the "new thinking" or the "big idea".
Reducing benefits to lone parents is partly about restoring financial equity with those claimants who are required to register as unemployed. It will remove the current anomalous situation where an unemployed two- parent family receives a lower pro rata rate of benefit than a one-parent family. In the long term, both groups will be the target of further strategies to help bring them back into the inclusive world of opportunities and responsibilities.
ROGER HOPKINS BURKE
Lecturer in Criminal Justice Studies
Scarman Centre for the Study of Public Order
The University of Leicester