We are now closer to the 2015 election than the 2010 one. We also expected by now to have the coalition’s mid-term review, the document that will set out its priorities for the second half of its term in office. But its publication has now been delayed until January. This is because the debates about what new policies to include in it are still going on.
The quad—David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander—met on November 1st to discuss various ideas for it. They were, as I report in the Mail on Sunday, joined by Oliver Letwin and David Laws for this meeting with the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood also present.
Dominating the meeting was ‘earn or learn’. This is a new approach to 18 to 21 year old that has been developed by the Downing Street brains trust which is designed to deal with the problem of people moving from school onto out of work benefits. Under it, any youngster who isn’t in work, at university or doing an apprenticeship will have to take on a traineeship or see their benefits reduced significantly. These traineeships are meant to prepare people for relatively low-skilled work.
The quad was divided about this idea. Clegg feared it was too harsh and worried that the traineeships would be too quality. But, interestingly, David Laws was persuaded of the merits of this approach.
There were a whole host of other proposals discussed on housing, transport and childcare. I understand that Cameron was in ‘umpire mode’ at this meeting, generally letting discussion play out. But one policy, Oliver Letwin’s suggestion to deregulate, social rents was ruled out completely.