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The ravelling and unravelling of the only policy in David Cameron’s speech

3 October 2013

David Cameron’s speech to Tory conference yesterday was supposed to be policy-free so that the media would pick up his list of achievements because it had no other choice. The problem with this, though, was that the papers found a policy in the speech anyway, and if they did splash on the speech, they chose this policy, not the ‘finish the job’ line or any other (although the Mail used the ‘Land of Hope is Tory’ line). It was on housing benefits for the under-25s, but it wasn’t exactly ready to be a set-piece conference announcement, more a fleeting reference to gain more applause in the hall.

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Because the policy wasn’t quite ready, a rushed briefing came out when it was demanded. You can read the note in full at the bottom of this post. The reason I’ve included it is that it shows how little detail there is on it. But it isn’t, as many thought yesterday, a full ban on benefits for the under-25s. I explained the differences in this post, and James had details of the discussions around this policy in his Mail on Sunday column months ago. To underline that this is not the full ban on benefits but a sanctions policy, Nick Clegg today told LBC that he could support it too, while he opposes an outright ban. He said:

‘I’m all for making sure there’s better conditionality so that the incentive to just rely on benefits is minimised; I’m not in favour of just blanket removal of people just because they happen to be a certain age.’

But because there wasn’t much detail to bandy about, the story has been written up in a multitude of ways. And this means that it’s quite easy for people like Frances O’Grady to claim that the policy is already unravelling, as she has here. But the truth is that the policy hadn’t even been ravelled yet: it hasn’t got to the stage where it could unravel. So perhaps the lesson from this week’s Conservative conference is that if you want to give a policy-free speech, don’t give one containing references to things you haven’t quite worked out yet.

Briefing note issued yesterday on under-25s benefits plan:

Today’s announcement builds on the PM’s speech at last year’s conference when he raised the prospect of stopping housing benefit for under 25s. In his 2012 conference speech, David Cameron said: ‘we’re going to look at ending automatic access to housing benefit for people under 25 too’.

An existing review being led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is looking at training and education for under-25s and will feed into this policy. The Heywood review is also looking at reforms to support young people while they are in training.

Under existing rules, young jobless people lose their benefits if they train for more than 16 hours a week. As a result, the system pays them if they are not in training – but stops supporting them when they do and the Heywood review is looking at ways to support young people after they’ve commenced training programmes.

Those who refuse to take part in the scheme will lose automatic entitlement to some benefits including job seekers’ allowance and housing benefit. This policy is a bringing together of Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove’s ground-breaking welfare and education policies with making work pay and getting the education and skills necessary to prosper in life. A fully fleshed out version will be in the Conservative party manifesto – and further details will be set out in due course.

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  • Monkey_Bach

    Cameron said: “Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits.”

    This is a breathtaking lie. Nobody under 35 can rent a flat (or anything other than a single room in shared accommodation) and have it paid for by Housing Benefit due to changes his government made to Housing Benefit when first put into office. I find it extraordinary that a serving Prime Minister can like like this in public, in order to give impetus to a move to strip benefits from the under 25s as a cost-cutting measure, which could end up leaving hundreds of thousands of perfectly innocent boys and girls homeless and destitute, and that no journalist has the gumption to tackle this liar-politician about his incessant dissembling.

  • Fernando5

    I’m puzzled by this article, still more by the reactions to it. Why not
    read the speech.

    “There are still over a million young people not in education,
    employment, or training. Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on,
    find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits.
    It’s time for bold action here. We should ask, as we write our next manifesto,
    if that option should really exist at all. Instead we should give young people
    a clear, positive choice: Go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship.
    Get a job. But just choose the dole? We’ve got to offer them something better
    than that.”

    Who decided this was a policy? Surely it merely outlines a problem and indicates that measures will be outlined in the next manifesto to address it. I could understand it if we had a debate about whether he has misdiagnosed the problem but not about whether the policy to address it is correct, as there is no policy yet.

  • 2trueblue

    Isabael, where were you in the 13yrs that Liebore were spinning daily?

  • Smithersjones2013

    It doesn’t matter how simple the task is Cameron can claw defeat from the jaws of victory every time! Who on earth gave him a 1st in Politics at Oxford? He is the village idiot of the politics…..

    • HookesLaw

      Look at the article the policy is there.
      The harsh fact is that for too many under 25 they are not fit for work so enforced further education is a good thing. For them and the country.

      • Smithersjones2013

        I’m not questioning the intent of the policy. You completely miss the point as usual which is that Cameron should have waited until the policy was sufficiently mature (particularly if it involves harsh realities) before he presented it and in that way it would stop any misinterpretation and distortion of it. If Labour are going to peddle misrepresentations like the bedroom tax the Tories presentation has to be precise and its clarity of the highest quality.

        As it is this is already undermined. Its not the first time he and Tories have gone of half cocked and a slovenly amateur way. The Big Society at the last election was a classic not to mention the 2011 Budget and George;s pasty tax. There is a whole litany of such occasions. The NHS Poster, The first Election debate etc etc

        Did you know back in 2005 he supported an English Parliament until Ken Clarke implied he was a xenophobe? That scared him off that one and he handed Clarke the Democracy Task Force (a Europhiliac Parliamentary Ruling Class elitist leading a task force on Democracy. Priceless).

        Half of Cameron’s problem has nothing to do with his detached liberal eliteism and his hand-wringing guilt ridden obsession over the ‘Nasty Party’ Years and John Major Years. Half of it is that he is a complete amateur when it comes to doing politics. Where Brown was malevolent, Cameron is inept. Cameron is just crap at politics.

        • the viceroy’s gin


          These people are incompetent. They are not fit for government. They could advocate a governing philosophy combination of Adam Smith, Burke, Mark Twain and Thomas Aquinas and they’d still be screw-ups.

          They are simply not fit to govern.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “Oh, I know, we are already characterised by our enemies as the nasty party, the party of the rich, the party that taxes and persecutes the poor and vulnerable, so let’s think up another policy that can be easily and quickly misrepresented by all the usual suspects in the same way.”

          Great strategy.

          • telemachus

            But is it not a true and fair analysis?

            • Colonel Mustard

              Only in your warped and deluded mind. You are one of the most self-deluding and dishonest tribalists I have ever encountered. And the fact that there are people like you in the Labour party should worry everyone.

        • JamesdelaMare

          When the Conservatives finally displaced Attlee’s government they had a large team of experienced political figures, and moreover those had seen and learnt much from the War. They were backed by a cache of clever younger members who’d spent the Labour years in the Conservative Research Dept. after serving in the armed forces. Some of them and their legacy lasted through to Mrs Thatcher’s time.

          Look in contrast to today’s party! Nobody has ever done anything worth remarking upon. Most of the senior (cabinet) members (Tory or Lib.) have never held political office. Cameron was only an MP for three years before becoming party leader (!!!). He comes from a stock exchange family. Even that isn’t a serious background – it’s at the entertaining lightweight end of the City. They’ve never settled down after Thatcher. Is it any wonder they are totally unsuited to government and to running this country? We couldn’t expect any better from Labour either.

          The whole system needs reform but none of them will acknowledge that if it means losing their offices, status, perks, pensions, and jobs.

        • telemachus

          Brown was far from malevolent
          He espoused the very truth in politics that I perceive you may be about

      • Lady Magdalene

        I sometimes think Cameron and his advisors sit down together to try and identify another section of the electorate which they haven’t completely alienated – and then try to come up with a half-baked policy which will drive them away.

        Many of our young people did what they were encouraged to do. They ‘did the right thing’ and landed themselves with huge debts in order to go to university and get a degree. They now find themselves competing for jobs with half of Europe.

        Others may not be sufficiently qualified for the jobs they would LIKE, but the jobs they COULD DO are all being taken by Eastern and Southern Europeans.

        It is no good blaming and penalising our young people for not working when the cards have been massively stacked against them by a Government which would rather import unlimited numbers of cheap foreign workers than protect the interests of their own country’s young men and women.

        I suggest you read Michael Heaver’s blog from the DT. He explains very succinctly why UKIP is attracting the support of more and more young people.

        Anyone who wants the interests of the British people put first has only one party to vote for. And it isn’t LibLabCON.

        I suggest you read Michael Heaver’s blog in the DT.

        • 2trueblue

          Firstly it was Liebore who opened the doors to all and sundry.

          If you decide to take a degree in an area purely because you ‘like’ it then you do not deserve a place at university. The study should in some way be of merit to want someone to engage you in the workforce. That is a hard reality of life.

          Liebore encouraged all and sundry to go to university without looking at that reality. The skill you acquire must be a skill that is needed within the workforce. The half baked policies occurred over 13yrs Liebore were in power and had very little real strategy to build a workforce for our future. Instead there were not enough people with the real skills necessary to go forward to gain employment. We all did not get into a field initially that we wanted to be in, and learned to live with it. Work is not a playground, it is about supporting yourself and if you have strong interests find another way to enjoy it. there is no entitlement to work in a field just because you like it. Employers employ those whom they think will do the job and maybe the foreigners are more willing, better qualified, work harder???

          During the 13yrs of their parliament youth unemployment grew at a faster pace than before or since, D Milliband had the honesty to say this before quitting politics) single parenthood grew (teenagers especially) There was no strategy for the future, just soundbites daily on the BBC.

          If employers take on those from abroad you must ask why.
          Cameron is not creating policies to drive sectors of society away. If a large number of our youth are unemployed is it better to abandon them to a life in the wilderness without trying to put some structure in place? In more ways than one Liebore left a mess and we have to lie with it, there was no infrastructure or planning in any of it. Money was just thrown at it and the job considered done.

          • Lady Magdalene

            I agree that there were many “mickey mouse” degrees which didn’t prepare the graduate for a job in the real world. But even completing a mickey mouse degree demonstrates some application and ability.
            They could take lower level jobs, if they weren’t competing with half of Europe for them.
            And that is the CONs fault, just as much as Labour and the LibDems. They are all obsessed with remaining in the EU with its policy of “one European jobs market” and equal right to income-boosting welfare such as Tax Credits.
            They would rather see a generation of young British adult forced onto the scrapheap than prevent mass immigration by Eastern and southern Europeans.

  • Tom Tom

    Cameron must have been fun in tutorials at BNC. “I have a draft essay but the words have no logical ordering yet”. This is a Master of the Half-Baked and Purveyor of Platitudes…….3 years into Government and he is still doing Chocolate Oranges at W H Smiths

    • HookesLaw

      The ignorant people are the ones writing and speculating about nthe policy.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Blustering about them being ‘ignorant people’ won’t stop them misrepresenting and sabotaging any policy they don’t like and can bend to their own purpose (e.g. the Bedroom Tax). The only way to stop them is by presenting well thought through policies clearly and precisely.

        If policies sound like they have been thought up on the back of the plain packaging for cigarettes however good it is they will trash it.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Or deliberately trapping them, like Brown did. I’d like to see the national socialists trapped and hoisted by their own petard.

        • 2trueblue

          My memory fails to pin point which of Bliars policies, which were of the ilk you mention, were thrashed? they were lauded daily by the BBC, and in some cases hourly.

      • Tom Tom

        You are hard on journalists…..and they try so hard to follow Graeme Wilson’s briefings….

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