Benefit dependency takes many forms

IDS, ex-Tory party leader, finds gainful employment and other stories, CAP to remain?

Cycling for all?Cycling for all?
There is a tsunami of comment on the home front related to the task ahead of Iain Duncan Smith. Here is a man enjoying himself, and why not? Most contemporary press pictures show a now older, and we assume wiser man, toing-and-froing No10 Downing Street with a pile a papers under his arm. IDS, his political label, was the leader of his party from late 2001 to late 2003; some pictures of this time show an altogether different man but these were different times all around. IDS took over the leadership role, after a leadership election, from William Hague who had promptly resigned having lost the 2001 election; contrast that to the going of Gordon Brown and his subsequent sulk.

In 2001 the age of Nulabour was in full spate, the problems that IDS now has to solve were hardening up too, but they began long before. It remains to be seen if the goal of IDS's work will be achieved. If the sentiments expressed in recent press reports are a guide then as a result of this work it's either the end of life as we know it or a new dawn. The older and wiser people I've consulted suggest it's neither of these and a boring compromise is due. The usual - aim high but have explanations ready- scenario.

The supporters of the IDS initiative might say that welfare leads to dependency which is evil and socially corrosive. The critics see it differently, well they would, wouldn't they? Some so called social problems are determined to avoid a fix. Take Gypsies for example. We are told that -

Eric Pickles, the communities and local government minister, is drafting new laws to allow police more powers to evict and arrest people for trespass on public land. Planning laws are also being changed to stop applications for retrospective permission to put caravans on private land.

This problem has been ignored for too long. And the problem with the problem? Well it was not sexy enough. While Tony Blair smooched with George W. Bush prior to going to war, the boring domestic stuff had to wait, this included welfare abuse. As for the Gypsies -

Human rights campaigners have condemned a wave of evictions and court actions against Gypsies and Irish travellers which they say are threatening to extinguish a whole way of life.

Did I hear you sigh? Well yes, it's always human rights and never individual responsibilities isn't it? Then there's the obvious conundrum, travellers who don't travel, what to make of that? Also the bit about 'threatening to extinguish a whole way of life' has to be considered carefully. For it's not just the legislation is it? If travellers don't travel, by choice, then yes, there goes the way of life. A bit like fox hunting perhaps? But naturally blame shift and victimology come in here, as usual.

It's another conundrum with trying to get people off benefits and into work. The word benefit is apt, the work has to be just that. The individual has to be hugely better off, and it's not just money. Job satisfaction, a posh way of saying fun, has to play a part. The benefit of the present scheme is that a lot of poorly educated, dysfunctional people can be 'parked' on benefits and not ruin an employer. We have to look at why our schools fail to educate so many children to a higher standard. Then wonder how the mannerless slobby attitudes of the worst pupils survived into adulthood despite all those years of schooling. Was it part of their human rights to behave thus? Hitherto criticism of teachers has been next to impossible, it being such a highly politicised job. But private industry had no room for these people, the low achievers, and the solution to the problem was not creating more jobs in the public sector.

And, of course, there has to be work. Following civil unrest in some UK cities in the early 1980s Norman Tebbit made his remark about his father, in the 1930s, getting on a bike and looking for work. Tebbit's comments followed the suggestion that unemployment was at the root of the unrest. It was not. But unemployment, poverty and human rights all take a turn in the ducking and weaving that goes on. Anything to avoid facing up to facts; that's why Tebbit's bicycle remark hurt the liberal/left establishment so much. That's why IDS, who took over Tebbit's old seat at Chingford, should be careful in what he says and does. However, Tebbit gave us the image of the bicycle we will stick with it for a while.

In the 1930s Tebbit Snr was not the only man who went to work, or went looking for it, on a bicycle. Cycle manufacturing was an employer on a massive scale in its own right. In fact it would have been next to impossible to buy an imported machine. Companies such as BSA, Triumph, Sunbeam and Rudge, normally associated with motorcycles, plus many others, made bicycles. Raleigh turned away from motorcycle and all other manufacturing to concentrate on cycle production. Following the Second World War the scaling down of industry in the UK included the cycle manufacturers. This was bound to happen as the UK motor and motorcycle industries folded. In fact by the 1980s, the time of the Tebbit remark, we seemed to have lost the will to make anything. Hence no wonder it must have seemed so simple, so sensible, to become a nation of bankers or civil servants.

The ideal solution to the problem IDS faces would be to control both immigration and imports to the UK. Then we would have more jobs for our own citizens as UK manufacturing would be based on a combined home demand and export market. But he can't, and sitting at the same cabinet table to stop him will be Ken Clarke, helped by the LibDem members of the coalition. At the head of the table will be David Cameron beaming as IDS reads from his sheaf of papers, a true believer in,"welfare leads to dependency, that it's an evil and socially corrosive". And the philosophical difference between welfare and farm subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy is?
Moulton bicycleMoulton bicycle
If you are a hawk and see one as money for nothing then why not see the other the same way too? So will Cameron set off to the EU determined to end the CAP that skews agriculture to a damaging degree? I think we all know the answer to that one! And, so long as the CAP goes on, what about Tracy, who left school practically illiterate but with an impressive criminal record and has never worked? She and her baby in a council flat, will feel justified in going on as they are too. There is an army of public sector workers to help make this possible as well.

But back to the bicycle. Dr Alex Moulton, the inventor of the bicycle of that name, turned 90 recently. There is a bit of a resurgence in cycling at the moment but it does not all translate into UK based manufacturing. In terms of job satisfaction I bet it's very satisfying and good fun to work for Moulton so we will let him speak on behalf on all UK industry -

get Britain making things again - it is absolutely vital that we start training a new generation of engineers – that we encourage children's natural desire to make all sorts of things. Our schools, I think, tend to block that at the moment – possibly because they have to worry too much about health and safety

Will this happen? Well rather like in the past when simple solutions were sought and we all became bankers or civil servants, the next risk is we all fall for the myth of the green jobs economy. Serious industry needs a reliable power supply beyond the stupidity of yet more wind farms. Alas it's not clear whether Cameron and his cabinet understand this. Finally, and this may sound cruel, a word of advice to all UK manufacturers, if Tracy comes for a job tell her there are no vacancies, it's not worth the risk!