Remember Labour’s defining mission: ‘education, education, education’? Yesterday we had the Conservative equivalent ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’.
In what some might see as an important day in the development of the mission of the Conservative Party, the Chancellor pledged the goal of Full Employment:
‘Today I’m making a new commitment. A commitment to fight for Full Employment in Britain, making jobs a central goal of our economic plan.’
What does this mean in practice? It suggests that cutting taxation and cutting the deficit is all about creating the conditions for work, not that tax cuts, and balancing the books are ends in themselves. It creates a moral imperative for economic reform which is not just about rolling back the size of the state. It means that when Conservatives are knocking on doors, we are in a powerful position to explain why the Government has had to take tough decisions – because of a passion to create jobs and get people back into work. Above all, it ensures that Conservatives cement their position as the Workers Party, bit by bit pulling away the opportunities for Labour (so concentrated on the welfare safety net) to claim that mantle.
Of course, stating that the main goal of Government is Full Employment, wouldn’t work without a record of credibility.
With 1.7 million new private sector jobs, 350,000 fewer JSA claimants since October 2011, 1.5 million new apprenticeships, with significant tax cuts for 27 million lower earners and real tax cuts for small and big business, it is possible for Conservatives to set out a narrative of work, jobs and the objective of Full Employment. Economic reforms, combined with Iain Duncan Smith’s deep changes to welfare are the two sides of the same coin. Getting rid of welfare dependency is all about getting people back into work – i.e. the goal of Full Employment.
Some purists might worry that ‘Full Employment’ is a departure from Thatcherite fundamentals, that it is a throwback to the mists of time, when Government owned industries and picked so-called winners, or as the Chancellor stated, spent billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on the public sector hoping that this would create jobs in the long-term. The result of this was clear to see – unemployment under Labour reaching 2.5 million by 2010, rising even before the economic crash.
Far from being un-Conservative, real Full Employment is about Government creating the conditions for jobs, through welfare changes, ending the poverty trap, achieving a living wage by cutting taxes for low income earners, and lowering costs and red tape for businesses.
We Conservatives can’t allow the left to have a monopoly on moral mission, even if it is just about the safety net. Let’s use our aspiration of Full Employment to really communicate to the public that voting Conservative isn’t just about necessity when times are tough but is about jobs for all those who want them.