Letter: Workfare: Labour's knee-jerk response; jobs policy; family in limbo

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The Independent Online
Sir: On the subject of 'workfare', the Labour Party needs to abandon its knee-jerk responses and wake up to the fact that there is a world beyond Westminster crying out for action for the unemployed.

Returning to Hartlepool today, I was confronted by a constituent over Labour's dismissal of the work-for-benefits idea. I came back with the standard arguments about demeaning cheap labour, an insult to the unemployed, what we need is real jobs, etc etc. My constituent almost screamed. What did I think could be worse than being on the dole for months on end with nothing to do? Why should others have the right to work and get paid while the unemployed have to be kept indoors?

Everyone must abandon slogans and start some real thinking instead. No doubt there are Tories whose only interest is changing the benefit rules to make savings in the social security budget. But they are vastly outnumbered by the unemployed who, desperately, want the chance to work, even if normal market mechanisms have failed to create the jobs. In other times, in another generation, Labour would have supported nationalising unemployment.

Yours,

PETER MANDELSON

MP for Hartlepool (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

5 February

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