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If Blake were writing ‘Jerusalem’ today, he would find an easy contemporary equivalent for his ‘dark, satanic mills’. In our attempt to build a welfare state, we have created a national disgrace: welfare ghettoes, which scar every British city. Over the Labour years, millions of people were shovelled away in edge-of-town housing estates and paid (in benefits) to stay there. They were categorised so as to not show up on the unemployment count.They were replaced in the jobs market by an industrious immigrant class. With no money, no inclination to vote and no incentive to work, they were ignored by the British political elite. Until now.
Next week, Iain Duncan Smith will begin what is perhaps the largest single assault on joblessness ever attempted. Over the next year, a million people will be enrolled on the work programmes run by a series of private companies, which will be paid in full for each work placement that lasts two years. The payment to the companies for each successful placement will be up to £13,700 — generous and prudent, given that someone on incapacity benefit for two years is likely to spend the next eight years on benefits at a cost of £62,000 to the taxpayer.
The human cost of keeping five million
True welfare people on benefits was always unacceptable, even during an economic boom. But now the monetary cost has become unaffordable. In the bubble years, Gordon Brown could allow the economy to grow through the use of immigrant labour. Unless welfare is reformed, David Cameron will preside over what is, for the British, a jobless recovery and he will pay for it at the ballot box. So there is a political and economic imperative to reform.
Britain’s problem is not the supply of jobs, but the supply of workers. In the final three months of last year, even when the economy was shrinking, 2,300 jobs were created every day. Over the past year, Britain has enjoyed the second-fastest jobs growth among the major economies. But 81 per cent of the jobs created since the election can be accounted for by immigration. If Cameron wants his economic recovery to be celebrated in Glasgow as well as Gdansk, there must be more incentives for British workers. Right now, welfare pays so well that it is often illogical to work: why break your back on the minimum wage when you are no worse off — or even better off — on the dole?
One answer is that work is a virtue in itself. Low-paid work leads to higher-paid work, to higher self-esteem and better health. This argument will now be made to the long-term unemployed by the welfare-to-work companies. These companies are investing £580 million in offices, motivational courses and even group therapy sessions, which can have an extraordinary effect if done properly.
Starting a project to change a million lives is not without its risks. Labour tried a similar approach — the so-called Employment Zones — but did not develop it fully. Britain has more people on welfare than Ireland, Finland and New Zealand have people. This is a leap in the dark. Some of the welfare-towork contracts will be wrongly drafted; some payments will be too generous. Some companies will not be up to the task, others may be too successful and hoover up too much of the market. But for the first time in 13 years, forgetting about these people is not an option.
It can be easy to grow disheartened with the coalition, its tragicomic U-turns, its mystifying inability to articulate a growth agenda and almost criminally inept handling of NHS reform. But the good far outweighs the bad. Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform joins Michael Gove’s school reform as one of the best reasons to support this government — and one of the best reasons to hope that it might, after all, transform Britain.
In 1953 Prince Philip knelt before his wife during her Coronation and promised to be her ‘liegeman of life and limb’ and to ‘live and die for her’. For six decades, he has stood by those vows. He is the longest serving royal consort in British history and, as he turns 90, it is right that the spotlight should fall on him for a while.
The Queen says he has been her ‘strength and stay’ and that Britain owes him ‘a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know’. This is surely true. His service
A happy prince has been silent, but devoted and constant. A Royal Navy officer mentioned in dispatches during the war, he has since promoted countless charities and worthy causes. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, his brilliant programme to encourage youth volunteering, has been undertaken by more than two million young people in 60 countries.
Even his supposed ‘gaffes’ — those oftquoted, politically incorrect and occasionally ill-judged one-liners — are usually funny rather than offensive, and they serve to lift the spectator | 11 June 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk the national morale.A consort who has averaged 370 official engagements a year is richly entitled to the odd backfiring joke. And while he has never offered his personal life for public scrutiny, it is obvious to all that he is not simply some embarrassing reminder of a bygone age.
In his quiet way, the Prince helps keep alive the old-fashioned virtues of duty, courage, forbearance and public service. These have been the lifeblood of what is arguably the most successful monarchy in the world.