Forced to work without pay…Labour got there first, says FT

The FT Blog is reporting that Labour beat the Coalition to yet another policy – this time it’s the IDS plan to make four weeks’ unpaid work part of the scheme to get the long-term unemployed back into the job market.

As Jim Pickard at the FT reports:

In case you thought the IDS scheme was familiar – forcing people to do 4 week’s labour for their benefits – that is because it already exists. Since last October anyone out of work and claiming jobseekers’ allowance for over a year (in most parts of the country) has to take part in Flexible New Deal.

And part of the Flexible New Deal is … doing four weeks work experience.

Here’s how the BBC reported the launch of Labour’s plan back in July 2008*

Unemployed people will be forced to work for their benefits, as part of welfare reforms unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell.

He told MPs that from now on, the longer people claimed, the more the state would expect in return.

The Welfare Green Paper includes plans to scrap Incapacity Benefit and make those jobless for more than two years work full-time in the community.

This raises interesting dilemmas for those on all sides of the debate – and perhaps a question for the media.  Why is it that IDS floating the plan rates front pages and angry comments in newspapers like the Observer, whilst Labour actually doing something remarkably similar was barely worth a mention?

* Thanks to Rob Stickland for bringing the BBC article to my attention.

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  • Wow, you Lib Dems are really up the Tories backsides, now, huh? And this is coming from someone who voted Lib Dem – I actually believed Nick Clegg’s lies. I believed they were actually more compassionate than Labour, I believed they would stick up for the weakest in society. How foolish was I to be taken in by Clegg and your parties lies? Pretty damn foolish.

    So now there truly is no party for left-of-centre people like me to vote for. But you guys will get your reward – last week there was a by-election in my ward (Hulme in Manchester) and the Lib Dems got their lowest vote EVER, since the boundaries were re-drawn in the late 90s.. The Lib Dems who usually are right behind Labour in my area came second to last, just above the Tories.

    At least with the Tories you know where you stand. You know they care more for big business and their rich mates. I never in a million years thought I would see the Lib Dems doing the same. Spineless charlatans who threw away every promise they made for a bit of power.

  • And, further, instead of defending your party’s policy, you engage in major “whatabouttery” – but, but what about Labour??! So because Labour did it, that makes it all ok, right? Labour introduced fees, so it’s ok to break promises on higher education. Labour were kicking those who were unemployed through no fault of their own, so it’s ok if you do it too. Maybe these newspapers are up in arms because the Lib Dems are breaking a new promise every bloody day. Maybe they’re angry because millions of people like me thought the best of you and voted for you because we thought you’d improve our lot. Instead you just kick the weakest in society and pat Osborne and Cameron on the backs while Tory and Lib Dem MPs shout “more, more!”.

    Like I said above, I know what the Tories and Labour are about. I’d vote Tory before I ever vote Lib Dem again. You truly make me, and many many more people sick.

  • Not meaning to be pedantic, but the libs came 4th in 2008 with 8.3% of the vote, as opposed to 8.9% in the by election. But still pretty rubbish!

  • So Douglas, what exactly is your suggestion? How exactly would you solve the problem of long term unemployment? It’s very easy to cry foul but if you don’t have any solution then stop whining and come up with a better way. The answer is you have no idea but love having a good old complain about it on websites…grow up.

  • So the Lib Dem answer to a Lib Dem voter who is now disillusioned is to “grow up”? How much lower can you get? This seems to be the typical Lib answer to discontent, though. When the lib candidate showed up at my door prior to the by-election last week I told her I would never vote for them again because they allied themselves with the uncompassionate and right-wing Tories. She just walked away. Didn’t even bother to explain her stance. And you call ME pathetic?

    Contrary to what Osborne and your sellout party says, this country is NOT bankrupt. After WWII we were pretty damn near bankrupt and we set up the NHS and the welfare state. We undertook the biggest home-building scheme in this country’s history. How would I solve unemployment? I would invest, invest, invest. I would invest in the future of our country – students going into higher education. I would build masses of much needed affordable housing and take away the rights of greedy B2L landlords which are bleeding our country dry. I would invest in high-speed rail and PROPER public transport. I would invest in jobs like we should have done with the Sheffiled Forgemasters. I would tax the bankers and those at the top – and if they threaten to leave the country, let them. They ruined our economy and they will probably do so again.

    And I would PROTECT the most vulnerable and weakest in our society. Your party is doing the opposite. And instead of engaging with me and trying to bring me, a former Lib voter, back into the fold is political suicide. Your party will be destroyed in the elections next may. And thank god for that.

  • gwenhwyfaer 7th Nov '10 - 4:36pm

    Nick, the assertion that a proposal is morally wrong is pretty much stand-alone. The claim that it doesn’t is itself morally indefensible.

  • Nick wrote –
    “what exactly is your suggestion? How exactly would you solve the problem of long term unemployment?”

    How about job creation? I might be old fashioned but that how I’ve always believed you solve unemployment.
    It certainly isn’t Slave labour, which after all that’s we are talking about, being forced to do manual work for 30hrs per week @£2.11p a hour, 37% of the minimum wage can not be described as anything else.

    nige (exLD)

  • I feel so sad that our country has become a place with no compassion or support – I am ashamed of the lib dems

  • @Alex M:

    We can’t have intelligent comments like yours here. If we don’t like LibDem policy, we should just “grow up” instead of complaining about it on a LibDem forum, don’t you know..

    I never thought I’d see LibDems supporting what is rather close to slave-labour. Never thought I’d see them kicking the weakest in society. And, yes, I was disgusted with Labour for floating this scheme as well. Labour’s heartlessness is one of the reasons I voted Lib Dem. Like I said above, how foolish I was. How foolish and gullible indeed.

  • Jenny Willot will be furious:

    The work-for-the dole proposals treat the long-term unemployed as though they were criminals on community service. The rhetoric that is being used demonises those who are on benefits. International examples show that the work-for-the dole option is not a success—it does nothing to develop skills and confidence and nothing to make people more employable. Why are the Government pushing ahead with a policy that has been shown to fail internationally?

  • Firstly, I took issue with the tone of the comment – if you can’t say anything constructive then say nothing at all – I have seen a lot of rhetoric about how this policy or that is bad but no good arguments about what the alternatives are . That said, let’s take these one at a time:

    1) Invest? With what exactly? If we run out of money then we’ll have to go to the IMF of the World Bank and you will no doubt know the kind of conditions they will set on any loans they make. There is still some investment going on (Crossrail etc) but you can’t spend your way out of debt.

    2) Investment in infrastructure alone will not solve long term unemployment – I work in construction and there will always be those who do not suit it or believe it does not suit them. If you have expertise or experience in a trade that is not in demand you have two options – retrain or wait for your sector to grow again. If you go for option two then you are asking your community to support you while you wait – why shouldn’t you repay that with work in that community – that’s not “slave labour” or “forced labour” – it’s being community spirited.

    3) I would not suggest or support the most vulnerable in society being expected to work in the community but then this isn’t about them – this is about those who are able putting something back.

    I appreciate this is a complicated issue and I don’t claim to have all the answers but I’d rather suggest an alternative than just shout from the sidelines.

  • @Steve Cooke
    Surely it must be obvious what’s wrong with this, forcing anyone into manual labour for little or no pay is slave labour, the jobless do not have a choice in the matter, well they do if they want to either beg or steal to survive.

    so how about you now telling me what’s right about slave labour?

  • nige

    What happens in the meantime? I’m not sure what the exact unemployment figure is at the moment but I can’t imagine any initiative would create that many jobs overnight. So what would suggest those people do until they can get a job? Sit at home?

  • What is morally wrong with this? For a start: a) those who are looking hard for a job will have less time to do so, as they will now be forced into this work and b) JSA is a pittance as it is, and now people will be forced to work for less than the minimum wage or be made destitute for 3 months or more. Never mind the fact that you will be sacking people who already do these jobs and then forcing them to do it for free. Never mind the fact that thousands of genuinely disabled people who are being thrown onto JSA will be forced to do things they cannot physically do. If someone has a heart attack or collapses, well, it’s their fault for being weak, right? If someone has learning difficulties and can’t do the work, you’ll just take their benefits away. This very well could lead to people becoming homeless and starving, as HB and CT benefit will stop as well.. We already know ATOS is finding people with terminal illnesses fit for work. Some people will fall through the net. And you spineless sellouts support this sick “plan”.

    But it seems, like all the other parties they told us they were different from, LibDems don’t really have any morals any longer. Which is why they are happily going along with this.

  • Douglas says what many of us are feeling.

    I was a Lib Dem Councillor and an approved candidate. I stopped supporting Labour when they went after single parents and students in their first term. Now I see that ‘our lot’ are no better.

    The default positions seem to be: 1) it’s the deficit stupid and 2) Labour would have done the same.

    1) The deficit was known about before the election. The scale of it does not make a jot of difference with an overall strategy for deficit reduction. These cuts go to the bone and we are in danger of tearing at the very things that keep society together. “Public services” is being made a dirty word and for losers. In this new narrative the public sector is what is keeping the rest of us back. The deception is that the Govt intends to deliver workfare programmes through the private sector – and oh, the third sector, in a cynical attempt to co-opt them into the Big Society!

    2) It is no defence to say that Labour would have done the same, or worse. It goes to the fundamental question about what Lib Dems are (or were?) about. The Lib Dems now look like opportunists and charlatans and living up to how the party was caricatured as being unprincipled.

    From the BBC:
    “Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told the BBC the idea was not to “punish or humiliate” but to get people back into the habit of working.

    Under the plan, claimants thought to need “experience of the habits and routines of working life” could be put on 30-hour-a-week placements.

    Anyone refusing to take part or failing to turn up on time could have their £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance stopped for at least three months.”

    What is stopping basic subsistence if not punishment and humiliation?

  • Liberal commentators are now showing their true colours, applauding a criminal community service for those unfortunate to be out of work. It’s okay though, James Purnell who left Labour a long time ago originally proposed it. How about real jobs for people? Why create real jobs, when we can have a free supply of labour to fill void by the cut in public sector jobs.

  • @Nick
    This proposal isn’t about job creation or retraining, no unemployed person will gain job satisfaction or regain any lost work ethic, the only excuse I’ve heard (I’m paraphrasing here) for this is that it will teach them to get up in the morning

    If there was payment over and above their benefits of say £20.00, it might just remind them what its like to have a little extra in the pockets and re-motivate them for the job market or offer retraining with a recognised qualification at the end of it then it wouldn’t be so bad but as these proposals stand at the moment it seems too much like a punishment for me to support them

  • @Douglas, you are spot on. These people have lost the plot and are unaware of just how low they have sunk. I voted LibDem, I got the Tory Party – put into power by the LibDems helped by my vote! In effect Clegg and his boys got me to vote Tory. I will never forget that, sunshine. Douglas, they think that we, the voters, are not really, angry; that in four year’s time we will be grateful to them. Yeah, just wait! I will always recall that until 6 May 2010 Cable was allegedly the greatest economics forecaster in Britain, by the 8 May he had developed arithmetic amnesia, and couldn’t remember just how much the country owed. A couple of lectures from Osborne and the sniff of a ministerial car and he was anybodies. In four years it will be fantastic to watch LibDems make promises, I really can hardly wait. I have followed every election since 1964 and I have never witnessed a political party descend into catastrophe so quickly. Please note that Tory supporters are over the moon – they have got everything they wanted and more, plus live TV slaps on the back from LibDem ministers (yes, I know, the same LibDems I voted for). It is a bit different for LibDem supporters (ex), we got nothing that we voted for. Would I have voted for anything that the LibDems have done since the election. No. And that goes for millions more I suspect. But just keep talking the talk LibDem boys and girls if it makes your feel better, and perhaps repeat how much you love Cleggie. Bless Him.

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 6:04pm

    I appreciate that you’re not defending the policy Iain but this is the only article on LDV to discuss this disgusting policy. If you post on another thread about it then you get deleted so it looks like you are In for a rough ride.

    You may not be supporting the policy but you have taken the time to inform us all (rather pointlessly ) that Labour would have done it too. Yet you offer no opinion on why the Liberal Democrat’s are going to allow a Conservative party with only 307 MP’s to attack the poor in this way.

    What labour would have done is not the point. WE are part of this coalition and this policy gets nowhere without our complicit support.

    But you think it more important to attack the opposition than to speak up for the unemployed.

    That in itself speaks volumes…

    As for the policy..

    Its pure Thatcherism , its vindictive , its judgemental and it is morally unjustifiable


    Why force the unemployed in to slave labour when there are bigger fish to fry ?

    Where else could a society look to ensure it’s moral compass is so twisted that it see’s the unemployed as a drain on the system and not a victim of the system.

    Lets start by kicking all the sick people out of our hospitals because us perfectly healthy people are paying for it.. bloody NHS scroungers.

    And why should we pay pensioners their pension when it us ‘tax payers’ who have to foot the bill.
    But they have paid into the system I hear you say…

    Well, so have most of the unemployed and we are quite happy to punish them by forcing them to do manual work without payment.

    A fair days pay for a fair days work. If these jobs need doing then for goodness sake employ someone to do it and pay them (at least) the minimum wage.

    Why is it morally wrong ?

    That’s the understatement of the year!

    It is morally reprehensible. The unemployed are not a commodity to be used as free Labour.
    They are (in the main) victims of the economy , not the destroyers of it.

    How anyone with an ounce of moral fibre can remain silent on this issue is beyond me.

    I am proud to contribute my taxes to those who have fallen on hard times.

    I am proud to contribute my taxes to help heal those who are unwell.

    I am proud to contribute my taxes to pay the pension’s of those who have contributed to society ( and you can do so in many ways)

    And I am proud that the unemployed can depend on my support as they struggle to get back on their feet.

    However, I am not proud that my vote for the Liberal Democrats is being used to force the already unfortunate unemployed to do free manual labour.

    In fact I am disgusted.

  • George W. Potter 7th Nov '10 - 6:07pm

    Okay, first of all, this is not slave labour any more than my 6th form college making me do an hour of “community action” a week was slave labour. That said I don;t agree with the proposal because internationally it has been shown to be a failure. This is more about grabbing headlines than anything else. That said, the point of this article is to show the hypocrisy of Labour in attacking it when they didn’t attack their own policy on the issue.

  • @Barry George
    Very well said!

  • The mere posting of this article is a show of support, it was not posted to discuss why IDS has grabbed headlines for measures already in place, or reasonable debate. The blind wave of support will continue from Lib Dem MPs, Ministers, commentators over the coming days. Vince Cable will surely chime in with his two cents, and label it progressive.

  • George W Potter
    “Okay, first of all, this is not slave labour any more than my 6th form college making me do an hour of “community action”

    So tell me, if you did not do that hour of “community action’ would you of starved? would you of been made homeless? would you of been reduced to begging or criminality? I think not, to compare this to somet school project is just plain wrong.

  • “the idea that the terminally ill will be forced to work or starve is beyond ludicrous for instance”

    Its already happening.
    Flawed benefit system classifies terminally ill man ‘fit for work’

    How long before we see redundant council workers forced into these ‘community service’ type schemes doing the work they used to be paid for? How long before private companies employing people on minimum wage are forced out of business by rivals using a pool of unpaid labour? It’s a contemptible, stupid policy no matter who thought it up.

  • @George

    Funny how you equate 30 hours/4 weeks of forced manual labour with an hour of community work a week during Sixth Form. Bizarre.

  • I can understand making training or work experience that is relevant to the individual claimant part of the Flexible New Deal, but the proposal seems to be any manual work. If the work needs to be done, then pay people to do it.

    I agree with other contributors that the way in which the proposal is being spun by the Tory government is vile. Some unemployed people may be feckless scroungers, but the large majority are people who have lost their jobs because greedy bankers and incompetent, pliant governments have caused there to be a recession.

  • Flexible New Deal was yet more Blairite draconian jumping through hoops for the unemployed.
    It was and is pretty unpleasant poor bashing for the sake of headlines for the Daily Mail crowd
    But it was only in certain areas and the bulk of it was to box tick these kind of activities.
    •discuss what help you need to find work
    •draw up an action plan of things you’ll do to improve your chances of getting a job
    •treat each other fairly
    •attend meetings or take phone calls at the times agreed
    There was a provision for work experience in there but lets not pretend it’s anywhere near as Thatcherite as IDS’s new ‘wheeze’.

    This is a whole new level of wickedness.
    “an unemployed person will be told to take up “mandatory work activity” of at least 30 hours a week for a four-week period. If they refuse or fail to complete the programme their jobseeker’s allowance payments, currently £50.95 a week for those under 25 and £64.30 for those over 25, could be stopped for at least three months.

    The Department for Work and Pensions plans to contract private providers to organise the placements with charities, voluntary organisations and companies.”

    So these private companies will be paid for every unemployed person they can throw into the mandatory workhouse/slave labour scheme. (it hardly needs pointed out that if volunteering becomes mandatory it isn’t volunteering)

    But as we see from the Observers piece this is the ‘vision’ for the Big Society that Cameron and Osborne always planned.

    “The Observer has also learned that ministers have abolished the Social Exclusion Taskforce, which was based in the Cabinet Office and co-ordinated activity across departments to drive out marginalisation in society. Documents show that the unit has become a part of “Big Society, Policy and Analysis”.

    There you have it. The ‘Big Society’ is forcing the unemployed to do all that volunteer work and charity work that Cameron thinks can replace the public sector.

    Whats next ? The unemployed and disabled contracted by private comapnies to work for next to nothing for private companies in the new NHS market ‘reforms’ planned by the Tories ?

    Or maybe David Cameron could contract some of these slave labour, sorry, contracted jobseekers to clean the Wisteria from his Chimney next time and not have to chalk it up on expenses ?

    There was a time when other Liberal Democrats didn’t need to be told when something was morally repugnant and wrong. If it looks like Thatcherite poor bashing, smells like Thatcherite poor bashing, then maybe it’s time to admit it’s a policy designed to scapegoat the poorest and most vulnerable in society and long past time to stop defending these regressive policies and start speaking out against them.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 7th Nov '10 - 6:41pm

    I am opposed to the “Work for your Benefit” element as it is wrong to make people work for less than minimum wage. Moreover, it is unfair to punish people who have been unable to get a job by treating them as if they were criminals doing community service. It effectively bypasses the minimum wage and does not help people develop the skills they need to get a good job.

  • @ Steve

    It’s not paid work, where did you get that idea? it’s 4 weeks/30 hours of manual labour to keep your benefits.

  • @Alex the only MP I would trust to speak out is Bob Russell.

  • Norfolk Boy 7th Nov '10 - 6:55pm

    Well, it’s all been said above. Absolutely shocking. Let’s hope it never happens.

    The fact that people in the party are not roundly condemning it and some even seem to see its ‘merits’ is even more astonishing.

    It will take some ‘clegging’ to make this policy sound progressive, fair and beneficial to those who need work.

  • It looks like we are only one step away now from combining this policy with a “solution” to the housing benefits problem by bringing back workhouses except we will probably call them something like Employment Enabling Residential Centres and then people will be on this site trying to claim that they are fair and progressive.
    These kind of announcements and the increasingly ridiculous attempts by LibDem ministers to defend them, impact on activist morale in a way that will cripple this party.
    @Douglas There are a lot of us in the party who agree with what you are saying. Say what you believe and be passionate! Don’t let the trolls shout you down!

  • gwenhwyfaer 7th Nov '10 - 7:02pm

    A month’s paid work at limited hours

    Can you tell which word in that phrase doesn’t belong there? There has been no suggestion whatsoever that the people dragooned into this scheme will see any reward over and above not losing their benefit for 3 months. Now, you might want to try and argue that

    £65.45 benefit x 90% 12-month reduction x 13 weeks undocked
    4 weeks worked x 30 hours per week

    works out above the minimum wage, at £6.38ph – and indeed, given the “Comical Ali” logic employed by John Hemming to claim tuition fees have indeed been abolished, it wouldn’t actually surprise anyone to see the Lib Dems adopt that line of argument – but out here in the real world, outside the Cleggeron Reality Distortion Field, we can actually see right through such arguments. Just so you know.

  • I have been a party member for 27 years and this latest measure is a Tory measure too far! I have been a loyal supporter of Nick Clegg and understand all the nuances of coalition and compromise but i am afraid I think this will be his downfall.

  • @Steve

    Depends on how much you’re claiming on benefits doesn’t it? If one is merely claiming the minimum of JSA (£51.85 for single under 25’s and £65.45 for single over 25’s for the year 2010-2011) its works out to £1.73 an hour for under 25’s and £2.18 an hour for over 25’s, does that sound fair to you?

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 7:15pm


    Slave labour… forced unpaid manual labour…. involuntary work for no pay. or even “working in order to get benefits ”

    It doesn’t matter what you call it Steve, it all amounts to the same thing.

    I am sure some will find an Orwellian spin and call picking up the dog mess of the employed “employment training”

    Of course if you are on incapacity benefit then you (in 90 % of cases, despite the fact that less than 1% of claimants are fraudulent) will be told that you are fit for work. Regardless of the medical professionals that are telling you that you are unfit for work.

    Then they get put in the unemployed pile and after loosing 10% of their housing benefit they get told to go and clean the streets for a month.

    When the claimant tells them that they are too unwell to work and that they have medical evidence to prove it, they are rewarded with a 3 month ban on payments.

    No money for 3 months!

    So the sick person begs, borrows or steals to eat.

    You want to get things in perspective ? This policy could force people to survive for 3 months without money for food.

    I think most of the posters here “have” got things in perspective.

  • @Steve Cooke

    Then they aren’t benefits are they ? They are now a wage.
    Congratulations! You are now in favour of ‘earned’ welfare.

    Pretending that because it’s just four weeks at the moment doesn’t make it slave labour is an amusing conceit but fools no-one. If it is mandatory and you aren’t recieving at least minimum wage then it is slave labour.

    And the fact that it is time limited just now doesn’t negate the fact that it is working for a sum below the minimum wage which if another employer tried he would rightly be taken to Court for breaking the Law and could end up falling foul of all manner of gangmaster legislation. Instead of which we actually have the prospect of private companies being paid to get as many unemployed on to this regressive Thatcherite scheme as possible.

    This might impress the Daily Mail crowd but for those who still consider the Liberal Democrats a progressive Party who fight to stop injustice against the poor, disabled and vulnerable (I concede we are sadly fighting a losing battle with some of the comments here), this sounds like a death knell with some unprincipled Liberal Democrats ready to accompany it to Thatchers rallying cry of ‘there is no alternative!”

  • Douglas, “the party that usually came second came third” is equally as correct as your “gone from second to second-to-last”. It’s also worth mentioning that in that ward, we’ve not come second since about 2005, and May 2010’s promotion to second place was unexpected.

    Now, that isn’t to disagree with your other points (though I do disagree with them), but taking a single example and spinning it to sound worse than it is doesn’t exactly do credit to your argument.

  • gwenhwyfaer 7th Nov '10 - 7:25pm

    I have a question, which I haven’t seen asked – let alone answered – anywhere.

    Apparently this measure will be at the discretion of the individual advisors concerned. It’s been described by Danny Alexander as a “sanction”; that takes it right out of the realm of what could conceivably be described as “normal civic responsibility”. So my question is this: How does this square with ECHR article 4, the prohibition on compulsory labour – and we know it is compulsory labour, because the government keep using that exact term?

    Moreover, given that the tasks people will be ordered to do bear some suspicious similarities to the work conducted by those on community service – meaning that essentially, benefits advisors will be empowered to dole out criminal-style punishments without any requirement to go through a proper judicial procedure beforehand – what’s the position regarding ECHR article 7, the prohibition on punishment without trial?

  • gwenhwyfaer 7th Nov '10 - 7:29pm

    No, Steve. What’s “offensive” is to have those of us who are facing precisely being “completely divested of freedom and personal rights” told by silly muppets with an unbounded capacity for doublethink that our protestations about the losses of those rights offend their delicate sensibilities, when one might reasonably have supposed they would be much more offended by the policies they’re now advocating.

  • Steve Cooke
    “hardly seems to merit some of the hyperbole about slave labour”

    Slave Labour definitions
    Longman – (informal) work for which you are paid an unfairly small amount of money
    msn encarta – hard or demanding work, in poor conditions, that is not well paid ( informal )
    cambridge online – (informal) disapproving very hard work for which people are paid very little

    or to put it another way – this policy proposal

  • The bailout of the banks saw the public taking on the ‘moral hazard’ of private risk.

    That is to say, banks made money out of risky ventures. But when those went belly up, we were told that our collective wealth was so tied in with their balance sheets and the country’s credit ratings, that we simply had no choice but to step in.

    Now, this Govt is operating on a slash and burn of the public sector and mounting a major assault on the state itself. Public services are disproportionately relied on by those who are more vulnerable and provided by the many who (by and large) did so, not for private gain, but for common good.

    Where is the principle or morality in squeezing those least able to afford it? Are the unemployed/disadvantaged the ones who are most to blame? What will society look like in 5 years time? Where will the Lib Dems be?

  • gwenhwyfaer 7th Nov '10 - 7:35pm

    No, Steve. I won’t explain a damned thing to you until you stop being offensive.

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 7:40pm

    morally objectionable

    Yeah you can call it that too..

    I am not going to argue semantics over the use of the word ‘slave’ when there are real people whose lives will be ripped apart by the welfare policies of this coalition.

    If you object to the policy then don’t use language as a barrier between yourself and others who object to the very same policy. That defeats the object and merely turns this thread into a debate about which words we should use to describe it.

    You object to the policy,

    I object to this policy,

    Most (if not all) people here object to this policy…

    Can we move on from debating the “S” word ? Or we risk looking divided at a time when it is “both ridiculous and offensive” for the Liberal Democrats to be seen to be anything but united in its condemnation of this policy.

  • now now gwen, I think we being a little too hard on Steve, yes he seems too be playing the devils advocate atm but he has said that he “can see reasons why it might be morally objectionable” after all

    but I must admit that last post of your made me laugh 😉

  • Reading between the lines (and as some have explicitly said) I think this is just coalition kite-flying. There seems no realistic prospect that anyone – at all – will be made to work in order for their benefits – it’s not even been discussed with any likely employers (and think for a minute would actually would be the employers – employers aren’t known for their desire to get involved as social workers).

  • @ Matt
    You may be right about that but remember, it is the Tories proposing this and just in case they really do mean it, I for one am prepared shout from the rooftops that it is morally wrong

  • Oh sure, but I’m just trying to reassure people that it has about as much chance of being implemented as IDS has of becoming PM. .

  • paul barker 7th Nov '10 - 8:14pm

    To go back to the article – why was there so little fuss when Labour announced something similar ? The answer is that it wasnt new then either, variations on this scheme have been announced & re-announced every few years for the last quarter of a Century. Sometimes there is a breif period of outrage but then its forgotten till the next time. I have been on 4 or 5 of these things myself over the years.
    The crucial point about these schemes is that there isnt one, its all about appearing to do something. Its not the re-introduction of slavery & its not a breakthrough, its not much of anything.

  • If it really is slave labour the ECHR will rule it illegal.

  • The last time a ‘scheme’ exactly like this was proposed was by Ralph Howell under Thatcher. So for all those who’s delicate sensibilities are offended by the use of the words slave labour then might I suggest Thatcherite as both factually correct and conveying the correct amount of moral repugnance this policy deserves. Though it’s worth pointing out that even Thatcher thought this was a step too far.

    Because that fact is that there is a large section of the Tory Party who would have no problem at all with the notion of making the unemployed work for benefits. If Liberal Democrat ministers always end up supporting and defending this kind of Thatcherite rubbish then those Tories will keep pushing at what they see as an open door.

    The problem with those who thought that Nick could ‘soften’ the Tories policies is that Cameron is using Nick and his Ministers as cover by sending the likes of Danny Alexander, Vince and Nick out to defend the indefensible then saying to the world that since the Liberal Democrats support proposal X it can’t be all that bad can it ?

  • Even the merest possibility that this may happen should be cause enough for anyone with morals to say enough is enough

  • Richard
    “it’s 4 weeks/30 hours of manual labour to keep your benefits.”

    Use of the word “manual” seems a bit pejorative. The story at the top doesn’t refer to that.

    Are you saying the work would be “manual labour” in all cases?

  • Article 4 has a catchall opt out called ‘normal civic obligations’ – how that is defined is anybodys guess….

    I predict lots of court challenges, lots of Europe bashing, lots of populist headlines and costly barrister fees.

    Is this just another of those red lines that the Lib Dems are not going to cross?

  • LDV Bob
    “The last time a ‘scheme’ exactly like this was proposed was by Ralph Howell under Thatcher.”

    That’s not quite correct, is it?

    The whole point of this story is that the last time it was proposed was by James Purnell under Gordon Brown.

    Accordingly, it’s as much “Brownite” as “Thatcherite”.

    Here’s how the BBC reported the launch of Labour’s plan back in July 2008*

    Unemployed people will be forced to work for their benefits, as part of welfare reforms unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell.

    He told MPs that from now on, the longer people claimed, the more the state would expect in return.

    The Welfare Green Paper includes plans to scrap Incapacity Benefit and make those jobless for more than two years work full-time in the community.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 7th Nov '10 - 8:47pm

    “Use of the word “manual” seems a bit pejorative. The story at the top doesn’t refer to that.
    Are you saying the work would be “manual labour” in all cases?”

    Well, that’s probably because the story above is mostly about the last government’s scheme, and not about what Messrs Duncan Smith and Alexander are proposing!

    It’s easy enough to find out what Iain Duncan Smith has been saying, with a little help from Google:
    ”One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks’ manual work – turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they’re doing other work.
    ”The message will go across; play ball or it’s going to be difficult.”

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    I take it that you also don’t think it means “manual labour” in all cases.

  • @Simon Shaw

    Exactly like this means what it says.
    This porposal is far closer to Howells workfare ideas than James Punrnell’s which I have already dealt with.

    By all means keep telling yourself that because there was a scheme similar to it under Labour’s incompetent regime then it must be fine, but some of us aren’t fine with it, never will be fine with it and aren’t so ready to excuse it using Labour’s moral lapses and excesses as cover.

  • LDV Bob
    “This porposal is far closer to Howells workfare ideas”

    But at 8.20pm you said it was “exactly” like that proposed by Ralph Howell.

    Is it “far closer” or “exactly” like? Or are you just spinning your personal interpretation onto it?

  • @Simon Shaw

    Perhaps you could take up semantic irrelevance with someone who cares ?
    I care about opposing Thatcherite nonsense like this and sticking up for the poor, disabled and vulnerable.
    You clearly have far bigger fish to fry in the field of linguistics.
    I wish you well with your worthy and crucially important endeavours in that area.

  • @Simon
    I can only go by the current reports which suggest manual community work in the form of litter picking/gardening. I have not come across any reports which indicate voluntary work tailored to the individuals skills and work aspirations.

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 9:20pm


    I don’t understand what you are trying to achieve. That the nuance of a detail isn’t being expressed in a way that satisfies you?

    The comments so far are almost unanimous in their condemnation of this policy and you merely seem to want to dilute the thread

    Why not tell us your view of this policy so that we can all understand where you are coming from? That would be far more enlightening than a pedantic critique without substance.

  • @LDV Bob
    I’m glad to read that you don’t like “semantic irrelevance”.

    That’s a very good way of describing your earlier post when you said:
    LDV Bob
    “The last time a ‘scheme’ exactly like this was proposed was by Ralph Howell under Thatcher. So for all those who’s delicate sensibilities are offended by the use of the words slave labour then might I suggest Thatcherite as both factually correct and conveying the correct amount of moral repugnance this policy deserve”

  • And yes, my heinous crime was ommitting the word ‘almost’ from ‘almost exactly like it.’
    That my meaning was clarified with the phrase “far closer to Howells workfare ideas than James Punrnell’s” (a TYPO! again, my grammatical inferiority is shown to be beneath contempt) does not lessen my abject shame at losing all credibility against your carefully considered semantic arguments.

    You can consider that linguistic carelessness as a triumph in your brave stance for this policy.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 7th Nov '10 - 9:26pm

    “I take it that you also don’t think it means “manual labour” in all cases.”

    I can only assume he meant what he said.

    Do you have any basis for assuming otherwise, apart from wishful thinking?

  • @Richard
    @Barry George
    It would be wrong to criticise a policy based on a misrepresentation of same, wouldn’t it?

    The BBC News website reports an interview with Danny Alexander as follows:
    “It was intended to “support and encourage” and to get people back into the habit of getting up and going out to work. It also meant those who did it could demonstrate their employability to prospective employers.

    This meant that “more people can do what they want to do which is get a job and go out to work because that is the best thing for the country, but it is also the best thing for those individuals and it is by far the best route for anybody out of poverty”. “

  • Anthony Aloysius St
    “I can only assume he meant what he said.”

    I’d seen that quote from IDS as well. The fact that he had said “one thing we can do…” implies that it did not apply in all cases.

    That was why I asked Richard to clarify: “Are you saying the work would be “manual labour” in all cases?

  • As I thought, Simon’s continuing brave stance in parsing posts for any semantic irregularities shows he has the moral high ground. That I was posting in direct respose to a poster who was clearly as upset about the phrase slave labour as Simon is with linguistic nuance is irrelevant.

    We who think forcing the unemployed to work without pay is abhorrent Thatcherite scapegoating of the poor might as wel give up now in the face of such an overwhelmingly reasoned and carefully balanced arguments supporting the policy.

  • LDV Bob
    “And yes, my heinous crime was ommitting the word ‘almost’ from ‘almost exactly like it.’”

    I accept what you say.

    But, having made a simple typographical mistake, wouldn’t it have been much better to say so earlier, rather than getting on your pompous high horse?

  • @Simon

    Good to see those quotes from Alexander have cleared up things. It’s okay to force people to work for free, as long as it is intended to support and encourage them back into work. It all makes sense now.

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 9:49pm


    It would be wrong to support a sickening policy on the basis of an interview with Danny Alexander wouldn’t it ?

    How it was ‘intended’ from a Liberal Democrat perspective has no relation to how it will be ‘implemented’ by a Tory led government…

    The Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.has said that its intention is to ‘support and encourage.’

    Well, that that then, move along people, nothing to see here, Mr Alexander has said that we have got it all wrong…


    Will we still have to do four weeks unpaid (probably) manual labour?…. Sure thing ,
    Will we get the minimum wage for doing it?…… Hahahaha
    Will we be paid for it?….. No way
    Will we be forced to beg or steal to feed ourselves if we are unable to comply and clean up the dog mess from the pets of the employed?…. Sure thing buddy

    But Mr Alexander said it’s a good thing, so it must be… right ?

  • Richard
    “It’s okay to force people to work for free, as long as it is intended to support and encourage them back into work. It all makes sense now.”

    I assume you really think it isn’t OK.

    So do you think it is or is not OK to “force” (good word that, a bit like “manual labour”) long-term unemployed to undergo training, including in job-finding techniques?

  • “wouldn’t it have been much better to say so earlier, rather than getting on your pompous high horse?”

    Or indeed better for you not to get on your pompous high horse about “a simple typographical mistake” ?

    That Danny Alexander is spinning this as ““support and encourage” in the face of “an unemployed person will be told to take up “mandatory work activity” of at least 30 hours a week for a four-week period. If they refuse or fail to complete the programme their jobseeker’s allowance payments, currently £50.95 a week for those under 25 and £64.30 for those over 25, could be stopped for at least three months.” sadly comes as no surprise.
    I already highlighted the tragic reality that rather than softening the tories policies, he and Vince and Nick are now Cameron and Osborne’s ‘go to’ mouthpieces to help soften all those Thatcherite ‘rough edges’ for any given policy.

    The fact that private companies will be paid to put the unemployed into mandatory unpaid labour with the threat of losing benefits and the fact that we are still in a recession seems not to trouble Danny Alexander whatsoever.

  • matt – I except that many employers would like free labour, but I don’t believe many would like policing workers who didn’t want to do the job and were being forced to, for a start it would demoralise other workers. I doubt any charity would want to be associated with such a policy. But I could of course be wrong.

    Btw, does anyone know if Danny Alexander has ever worked in the private sector? Does ‘britain in europe’ campaigning group count?

  • Barry George
    “It would be wrong to support a sickening policy on the basis of an interview with Danny Alexander wouldn’t it ?”

    Are we talking about a “sickening policy” which (according to the BBC) hasn’t actually yet been unveiled?

    Is there the slightest possibility that it might be a good idea to wait until it is unveiled before attacking it, or supporting it?

    I’m only asking.

  • @Simon
    I think it’s a good idea for those who need training and help with job searching to undergo such schemes. However I don’t think it would beneficial for most individuals to be forced to clean streets/gardening to keep their JSA, with a threat of a 3 month sanction if they fail to comply in any way.

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 10:05pm

    Is there the slightest possibility that it might be a good idea to wait until it is unveiled before attacking it, or supporting it?

    Well if the Archbishop of Canterbury feels it is worth fighting against this policy from the moment it hit the press then who am I to disagree with him.

    Decen’t bloke, good moral fibre and all that…

    Maybe we should put Mr Alexander and Dr Rowan Williams together and see if we can work out were the moral line should be on this policy..

  • Anthony Aloysius St 7th Nov '10 - 10:14pm

    “I’d seen that quote from IDS as well.”

    Then why on earth did you waste everyone’s time by posting stuff about there being no reference in “the story at the top” to the word “manual” – if in fact you knew that IDS had specified “manual work”?

    What exactly do you feel you are achieving by posting such rubbish?

  • “Is there the slightest possibility that it might be a good idea to wait until it is unveiled before attacking it, or supporting it? ”

    In an ideal world, but in an ideal world we woul have a government that doesn’t that leaks things, overpromises, misses out details, does expectations management etc. One follows the other, unfortunately.

    Steve – It’s perhaps stating the obvious, but there is actually a rather large moral gulf between someone voluntarily going on job courses and working in an office unpaid, and being forced to.

  • Let’s also not forget that this policy is triangulation intended to ‘trap’ Ed Miliband into supporting it and thus giving the Tories all the cover they need to go full steam ahead after the poor, or oppose it so the Daily Mail and right wing press can paint him as a communist friend of their imaginary millions of unemployed workshy scroungers who have the temerity to be on welfare.

    I’m not convinced Ed Miliband will oppose this yet, but I am least heartened that many here remember the welfare state is not something to be despised like the U.S. Tea Party and their Thatcherite brertheren in the Conservative Party do, but something that Britain should be be immensely proud of.

  • Lisa Ansell 7th Nov '10 - 10:26pm

    For the single parents who are forced onto JObseekers Allowance when their children turn 5- will someone be paying for childcare while they are being shown how to get up in the morning(as if anyone with kids needs teaching that…)- or if they can’t attend a 30 hour a week placement- will they have a right of appeal? THe people booted off ESA with serious health problems? Will they be excused?

    Will it matter that they are already trying to deal with debt and homelessness? Or will that just be more evidence of fecklessness?

    The number 1.5million has been cited to justify this- the number of adults who have never worked. Housewives, the disabled, the ill, those who are independently wealthy are all in there- but apparently this is justification for people who are long term unemployed, in the middle of a period of rapidly rising(government created) unemployment.

    My comments usually get deleted, I am sure this one will. But it is truly nauseating to watch people whose core value is liberalism- show that that liberalism is only really for those who can earn- the rest of us didn’t pay taxes apparently- or they didnt count.

    The kid from Harry Potter got 120 hours community service for growing cannabis- that is now the punishment for being unemployed in a recession that noone who is paying for, caused.

    Future JObs Fund where work experience leads to an actual job…cut. The housing benefit that allowed people to work and keep a roof over their head(in areas where work is accessible), cut. The tax credits which help pay the childcare, so lone parents can work- cut. The schemes that actually worked in incentivising employment- cut. To what? Incentivise work? An estimated 1000000 jobs to dissapear, many of those jobs done by precisely the people who are now going to find themselves forced out of their communities- with widespread recruitment freezes and job losses in the sector they worked in.

    What possible benefit is there to doing this to people? Forcing them into unpaid work for what? Their self esteem? How much will this cost to administer? To organise? How much will it save? Or bring the taxpayer?

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 10:27pm


    but how that translates into a belief that he must always be right about everything and we should therefore not bother thinking or opining for ourselves is beyond me.

    How you translated that remark out of my comment is beyond me.

    You assume that just because I agree with him on this issue, I therefore agree with him on everything and that I am somehow incapable of independent thought from the Archbishop.

    That’s nothing more than a non sequitur I’m afraid

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 10:46pm

    If you are going to be pedantic Steve then maybe you should look up the meaning of the word ‘this’.

    As in…

    “if the Archbishop of Canterbury feels it is worth fighting against THIS policy from the moment it hit the press then who am I to disagree with him.”
    ‘This is singular.. it does not mean ‘all’

    It may have kinda gave (you) that impression but that doesn’t mean that your ‘impression’ is accurate..

    For example

    You kinda give me that impression that you will say anything to dilute this thread and take it away from debating the affect of this policy on the unemployed.

    Like I say, you kinda gave me that impression, doesn’t mean it’s true though, does it ?

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 11:07pm

    I see – my incorrect interpretation of your meaning, which resulted from you not writing what you meant, is my fault? You know, it’s much easier for everyone if the words you use don’t mean something completely different from what you intend them to?


    Language is fluid Steve but when in doubt. check a dictionary or better still, simply ask the person to clarify…

    Ok , now you have dealt with your compulsion to give me an English lesson how about justifying what you have just wrote.

    lots of ad hominem attacks

    Lots ?

    I recall one or two but I am sure you can point me to lots of examples of ad hominem attacks in this thread ?

    Please inform me of which comments you are talking about that justify the comment ‘lots of ad hominem attacks’ ?

    Or maybe you didn’t mean ‘lots’ ?

    You know, it’s much easier for everyone if the words you use don’t mean something completely different from what you intend them to?

  • It’s worth reproducing SandGrown’s thoughtful post on the matter from the original story.
    As it exposes the shallowness of those who are still deluded enough to think being on welfare is some kind of ‘easy ride’ that needs cracking down on by those afflicted by a Daily Mail mindset.

    “It is wrong to say sanctions are not being applied already. They are. My 25 year old son lost his job last October when the firm he worked for went bust. He applies for at least 3 jobs a week, and also applies out of our area as he is prepared to move. He has had some interviews but no offers of jobs. However, last Christmas he took an application form into a camera shop and was told by the assistant that the manager said not to take in any more forms – there had been 200 already. My son duly took the form away and applied for several other jobs in that week, recording all his efforts in his Job Seekers record card as all the unemployed are required to do. He was then informed that he was to have his payments suspended as he had failed to take up the chance of applying for the post at the camera shop. He went through all the stages of internal appeal in vain. He even had a letter written by the manager of the camera shop confirming that they had stopped taking in forms, but still his benefit was stopped for 12 weeks. When this went to tribunal he did get his benefits paid back, but this was 6 months after they had been stopped. Luckily he has a family to feed him or he would have been left with nothing. This government is entirely Kafkaesque; I do not think there will be much of a society left in five years, and certainly not a big society.”

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 11:18pm

    As a side note , I get the ‘impression’ that Steve thinks that this is the Senate and he can filibuster the debate by questioning everything and everyone to ad nauseam so that we all get bored and either stop reading or just give up.

    Not going to happen Steve…

  • Barry George 7th Nov '10 - 11:25pm

    Simon Shaw

    That’s a very silly comment, as I haven’t said what my opinions are on this issue.

    Yes I find it amazing.. You have made 13 comments on this thread and not one of them is expressing any opinion on the issue.

    People might start to think you are avoiding and diluting and generally offering very little to the debate Simon.

    Why feel the need for 13 comments when you haven’t said what your opinion is on the issue ?

    It’s almost like you have a different agenda 😉

  • gwenhwyfaer 7th Nov '10 - 11:29pm

    @gwenhwyfaer – offensive in what way? By asking for people with opinions to justify them with reasons? I can’t see that I’ve made any ad hominem attacks? Is this how you usually react when it’s pointed out that you’ve made an incorrect statement?

    In order:

    I explained in what way previously. Your response was dismissive. So, oddly enough, is this one.

    You say ad hominem as though that is the only way someone can be offensive, or the only logical fallacy someone could commit. It is neither. As I explained, your attempt to paint the valid charge that this policy fits a common definition of slave labour was offensive. I didn’t explain why, and I see that I need to – it was an attempt to shut down a valid criticism by painting it as somehow beyond the pale. Trying to paint criticism of a morally wrong policy as more offensive than the policy itself is a favoured tactic of authoritarians anywhere, and in fact of anyone who doesn’t want to answer valid criticism.

    In your response to that, you attempted another common logical fallacy, the appeal to authority – the OED, in this case – but what you neglected to consider is that (a) dictionaries follow common usage, and authorities tend to precede it; (b) the term most people (but not me, oddly enough) are using is “slave labour“, which has a subtly different definition; and (c) the definition you pulled out for slavery was actually incomplete, and a complete one would have harmed your case somewhat. If you wish to cast logical fallacies as offensive, then that fits. It’s certainly an offence against rationality.

    You ask if the response I gave you before was how I usually respond to someone pointing out that I had made an incorrect statement. It is difficult to answer that question, because I did not make an incorrect statement. I certainly didn’t make the statement you are ascribing to me here – which renders the question of its correctness moot. You, on the other hand, in your exchanges with me, have not readily demonstrated the capability of finding a correct statement with both hands.

    Accordingly I feel the need to draw our segment of this discussion to a close. It is not my practice to attend a duel of wits with someone so egregiously undermatched in arms as yourself, and I fear I must refrain, in the interests of good taste, from embarrassing you further. After all, you have demonstrated that you are quite capable of attending to that yourself.

  • Thank God for the new progressive politics……

    What about the children of those whose benefits are stopped, perhaps take them into care where the daily cost is higher then the weekly JSA. Or give them a bowl and let them beg on the streets. A society is judged on how it treats the least able to help themselves.

    What about those who simply cannot find a job, particulalry those who can’t afford the bus fare to go and look (thanks for that gem IDS). We are about to make 500,000 public sector workers unemployed the total with dependant private sector workers will be closer to 1,000,000. There will not be enough jobs to replace these, and of they are they will be in different sectors.

    And what will the councils use them for, probably the same jobs they have scrapped. Therefore someone goes from a living wage of say £10 per hour to £2 per hour. That will definately restore their work ethic!

    Compulsary training to equip someone for a different job (if it exists) possibly. But virtual slave labour, surely not from anyone with the nerve to call themselves Liberal. What next ? doff our caps at the Tory gentry as they pass by, remove the vote from non land owners, or here’s an idea what about a workhouse or two.

    As for the argument that Labour would have done this as well…… My mother used to ask me if my friends jumped off a cliff would I follow. I know that’s the logic we use for 5 year olds but perhaps thats what is needed to stop these ridiculous justifications for right wing Thatcherite policies.

  • I have no doubt that Labour are the devils that they are made out to be. But I voted Lib Dem, and as a Lib Dem I believe this policy is wrong.

    And in any case, the accuracy of this article is not good. Basically you are trying to tar Labour with the Tory brush on this issue, but the part of Labour’s ;new deal’ that could be used to justify foricng people into work experience is not equivalent to forcing them to do productive manual Labour and community service for below the minimum wage, it was not applicable to the vast majority of claimants… but only the most ‘troublesome’ so to speak, and the forcing people to take work experience for 4 weeks does not seem to have been a repeatable action.

  • If the Liberal Democrats (who are now no longer liberal, nor democratic) had any sense, they would have pulled out of the coalition when high tuition fees were announced. But their chauffeur-driven cars and their image consultants (paid for by us) are just oh so nice and cushy. Their downfall is going to be on an epic scale..Clegg is a Shakespearean tragedy waiting to happen. They will eventually get theirs. Millions of people like myself will never vote for them again.

    Since coming to power, this government has quickly turned into the most savagely right-wing government in recent memory. Even Thatcher didn’t go this far. And how quickly the LibDems gave up their principles and betrayed those who voted for them en masse, actually believing Clegg and co. were different.

    This is a policy I would in the past have known instinctively, without reading the news, that the Lib Dems would oppose with not even the shortest of second thoughts. Bloody look at yourselves in the mirror. Or is it too painful for you to do so? Go ahead and accuse me of being emotive, you’re damn right I’m emotive. This government is systematically dismantling what working men and woman once fought and died for.

    To constantly attack and demonise the weakest and most vulnerable people in society while allowing those who caused the economic collapse to continue as normal and take the piss out of us, the general public, is not only cruel, but is downright sociopathic. Your party is finished.

  • Perhaps someone could also tell me why being on welfare should become the equivalent of committing a crime if these Thatcherite proposals are implemented ?

    We already have a well established justice system that includes community service as punishment and sanction against those who commit crimes. This involves criminals doing unpaid work of the type proposed by IDS.

    So why are we criminalising those who lose their jobs and those who receive benefits ?
    What crime have they committed ?
    Why on earth would any Liberal Democrat tolerate or support this despicable policy ?

  • I have to agree with Barry that the semantic fetish shown by some of the posters here is utterly at odds with their complete lack of substance on the policy at hand.

    This policy is truly abhorrent to most of us here,so parsing posts for grammatical minutia shows a scant regard and contempt for the seriousness of the subject.
    Supporting the welfare state and fighting to stop injustice against the poor, disabled and vulnerable is not just some bargaining red line.
    It is a core belief for some of us.
    And we will never be silenced or deflected from this view by any tactic.

  • Barry George 8th Nov '10 - 1:58am


    If you want answers to your questions, why should any of us bother

    Because it is not us here in this thread that we are defending George it is the welfare of the welfare state.

    To my knowledge not one single poster has even tried to justify the policy proposal yet you feel that there is no need for anyone to do so.

    I am sure I speak for all of us who speak against the policy that we would “love” for someone to come along and actually try and defend this policy that may well find it’s way through parliament , purely because of our complicit silence…

    You seem like you make a good point George until you actually read the thread…

    Please point out where anyone has even attempted to justify this policy ?

    All we have had is semantics and pedantic people trying to throw this thread of course….

    Such posters view partisan loyalty above people and they are richly deserving of some mild sarcasm…

    Believe me (after 117 comments) we have every right to wonder when the debate is going to begin…

    Steve and Simon were (in the main) the only dissenting voices and Steve said he is not entirely happy with the proposal and Simon just filled the thread with irrelevance…

    I think before you go off complaining about the behaviour of people on this thread you should try taking your own advice and reading it from the perspective of those who are upset..

    Not one of their questions have been answered…
    Not one Liberal has stood up and tried to justify this..
    Nothing has been said…

    Yet you feel that silence is justified in the light of some genuine concern that Liberals are diluting or avoiding this very very serious debate…

    Exactly which comments are you defending George ?

    Its not those against the policy
    It can’t be those who wanted to check up on our spelling and grammer ?

    That leaves nobody !

    Unless you care to point me to a comment where substance was retorted with attacks ?

    You may well be able to sleep tonight George but I am ashamed of what is happening to this country and I am ashamed that I voted for it…

    By all means enter the debate and bring us all crashing back to earth George but to dismiss the debate (when there has been no defence from anyone) is an embarrassingly weak argument.

    I think you have just got so used to popping up (usually about this time) at the end of threads defending all and sundry…

    But on this occasion you fail to notice that their is nobody to defend ?

    Are you defending Simon , for his right to not express any opinion but only to criticise others ?

    Or Steve for his timely English lessons and his unwillingness to argue beyond semantics ?

    Before you right as all off as people not worth responding too, spare a moment for those that will be forced to survive 3 months without income. Spare a thought for those that will have the indignity of doing 120 manual work.

    Spare a thought George… If you are unwilling to defend the unemployed at a time like this then what use is there in claiming to care…

    Stand up , speak your mind … But denying us your opinions because we have all behaved so badly is patronising and to steal a line from LDV bob, it shows scant regard and contempt for the seriousness of the subject.

  • Silly me, I thought this post was actually about the hypocrisy of the Labour party and supporting media in attacking the Tories for doing something that the Labour party themselves did.

  • Norfolk Boy 8th Nov '10 - 7:55am

    I voted for the Lib Dems and I do not like my opinion, or people expressing similar opinions to mine being bullied out of commenting.

    If the LDV site seems to be a bit of a rant against the new direction LD policies are taking, then maybe there’s a good reason.

  • Entertaining this. There are (I reckon) about 6 people making up over 60% of the threads under this story. Most of it hyperbolic, spittle covered nonsense about a policy noblody has yet actually seen. Or read the details of. Perhaps you would all like to wait awhile.

    And again infested by labour trolls who forget what they failed to achieve in 13 years of mis-government. perhaps they would like to tells us what the official labour line on tuition fees is?

  • Well said, Cogload!

    As I have observed before, this site is headed “Our Place to Talk”.

    But it isn’t really, as Lib Dems find it difficult to get a word in edgeways.

  • Anyone who supports this “policy” should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. If the Lib Dems stand by and nod meekly as this spiteful and draconian welfare “reform” is hastily pushed through then I, and many others, will hold this party equally culpable. I voted for the Liberal Democrats…….how many more like me are bitterly regretting that decision as the weeks pass.

    It is a bizarre and saddening statement on our state of affairs when Rowan Williams is one the few credible voices against these vicious plans. Where are the “liberal” voices? I long ago washed my hands with the Labour Party as a credible voice of the needy and the vulnerable….what are we left with now? no voices.

    I genuinely fear where this country is heading under this “coalition”.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th Nov '10 - 11:43am

    Interesting to see Julian Glover’s latest comments, in an article entitled “Oldham could point the way to a Lib Dem obliteration”:

    Before the Lib Dem trolls here get too agitated, I should point out that what he means is that tactical voting in the by-election may be the forerunner of a Lib/Con electoral pact at the next election, to which “the logic all points.”

    I suppose “The Conservative, Unionist and Liberal Democrat Party” has a certain ring to it. At least it would have the virtue of clarity.

  • Norfolk Boy 8th Nov '10 - 12:57pm

    Do the moderators allow people to throw around ‘troll’ insults on any thread they like? Perhaps the website should be a party members only site?

    I resent being labelled a troll. I voted for the Liberal Democrats in good faith and would still vote for the party as it was in April.

  • @Cogload:
    And again infested by labour trolls who forget what they failed to achieve in 13 years of mis-government. perhaps they would like to tells us what the official labour line on tuition fees is?

    Jesus Christ. I can hardly believe what I am reading. I am a troll for voicing my disgust at the policies of the party I voted for? So me, a disillusioned ex-Labour voter, who turned to the LibDems because they seemed the true compassionate and left-of-centre party is now a troll because I am disgusted by your party’s betrayal? I am a troll for being angry with the Libs for breaking countless manifesto promises? Well, Labour did that, too, so you guess that makes it all ok. That is your “argument”.

    You are now just as bad as New Labour was. Smearing and calling those who voted for you names. You have no idea of the true anger towards your party from people like me. You won’t even engage with angry LibDem voters now, you just label us as trolls.

    Like I said above, your party is finished. You’ll be lucky to have 10 MPs at the next general election.

  • Douglas,

    “You are now just as bad as New Labour was.”

    Really? Have we started any illegal wars lately?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th Nov '10 - 2:06pm

    “Really? Have we started any illegal wars lately?”

    You have to give these things time.

  • I have read with interest the comments made. I am not what would be considered an “activist”, and yes indeed as someone who has supported the party for many years, yes I am uncomfortable with some of the policies as a member of the coalition we are going along with.

    In principle, I support the general motives of this policy, however I believe it should be more considered in its approach. For whatever reasons somebody finds themselves unemployed, account should be taken into their previous “work” history. If somebody has been in employment for several years, and they are now in the unfortunate position of having been made redundant etc, this should be considered before they are “made” to participate in this scheme. If somebody has say, never worked in the preceding 5 years then I believe the scheme, with appropriate support may give the person a sense of self-confidence and belief in themself.

    In respect of the issue of the “equivalent” hourly rate, I note that most calculations are based on the rate of JSA ONLY, which to some point is somewhat misleading. If for example, the person is in rented accomodation, they receive both housing benefit and council tax benefit, which they may not “physically” receive, but is income all the same. I have based my calculation on a single person in an “average” 1 bedroom flat rental, and council tax b rate band in the area where I live. Therefore JSA £65.45 p/w, HB £144 p/w and C.Tax Benefit £24.50 p/w that is an “income” of £233.95 p/w and based on the 30 hour week talked about on here, is an hourly rate of £7.79 which for some who are in low paid work, is more than they receive at the current rate of £5.93 an hour which I believe is a travesty anyway, but am sure the issue of a “decent living wage” will be aired at some other time!

    As I said at the start, yes in principle, with the caveat that the policy should take “other” circumstances into account, rather than a blanket policy approach. I have considered my posting this will no doubt result in me being villified, but I believe I have given this issue a considered and thoughtful personal view, and posted it in good faith.

  • Barry George 8th Nov '10 - 2:38pm


    You won’t even engage with angry LibDem voters now

    You highlight a growing and deeply concerning trend on LDV. This site is packed full of grass root members who (in the main) appear directionless out here on the public site. They seem too frightened to criticize the coalition and too embarrassed to face the angry voter.

    When the pro coalition posters do come out of the echo chamber of the members forum, almost everything they say can be reduced to simple arguments.

    (1) It’s all Labours fault.
    (2) Labour would have done it anyway.
    (3) It’s the price we pay for being in a coalition.
    (4) Did you say 3.457 , surely you meant 3.456 so I will imply that your argument is invalid.
    (5) If you turn the figures upside down and read them whilst closing one eye and touching your nose, this policy is actually progressive.
    (6) You’re a troll.

    The scary thing is, that the members don’t appear to realize that it is them and their compliance (and silence) that is as much to blame for the appalling public perception of the party as Clegg.

    This used to be a party with policies and principles that the voter could clearly define.

    Now we just look to the Tories and say “yeah, what he said.”

    As has been said, if this policy proposal was announced in April then you wouldn’t even have to stop to think what the Liberal Democrat position would be.

    How times change.

  • “In respect of the issue of the “equivalent” hourly rate, I note that most calculations are based on the rate of JSA ONLY, which to some point is somewhat misleading. If for example, the person is in rented accomodation, they receive both housing benefit and council tax benefit, which they may not “physically” receive”

    Yes you do have a point and one I should of taken account of myself, however the fact still remains with this proposal is the person is ‘forced’ into manual labour such as litter picking, technically he/she has a choice but in reality there is none as there is no way anyone can survive for three months without income except through either begging or criminality, so when IDS said “The message will go across – play ball or it’s going to be difficult.” he wasn’t joking was he.
    As you can probably guess I’m against this proposal on moral grounds and I find it incomprehensible that any Lib Dem would support this proposal as it stands

  • Barry George 8th Nov '10 - 3:02pm


    In principle, I support the general motives of this policy,

    I strongly disagree with you but I welcome your post. At least you are willing to stand up and give an opinion in favour of this policy and to say what you think.

    I think you are the first person in this thread who was willing to do so.

    Apologies in advance if by being the only person brave enough to speak out mean’s that the genuine anger some people feel is directed at you. Alas, there are few, if any non dissenting voices to reply to.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th Nov '10 - 3:04pm

    “You won’t even engage with angry LibDem voters now”

    I see the latest apologia on university fees has been posted with comments disabled. One way of shutting up the voters – sorry, trolls – I suppose.

    Rather ironic that it’s a link to a piece in “Comment is free,” I thought.

  • Barry George 8th Nov '10 - 3:17pm

    I see the latest apologia on university fees has been posted with comments disabled.

    Ah, editorial paranoia strikes. I of course now wonder if your comment is safe 🙂

  • @AAS
    “I see the latest apologia on university fees has been posted with comments disabled.”

    I though you was joking but now I realise you aren’t and that the real joke is the article itself, who says the LDs have no sense of humour!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 8th Nov '10 - 3:34pm

    Oh, I don’t know. Anyone who can claim that fees are being abolished while raising them threefold must have a sense of humour! Or maybe he’s just a fan of George Orwell.

  • @Sesenco
    “Really? Have we started any illegal wars lately?”

    Judging from the amount of promises you’ve already broken, and by the fact the LibDems now live in the Tories’ backsides, I would not be surprised in the slightest to see the LibDems supporting action against, say, Iran.

    If you can break your promises on the economy, higher education, the welfare state, the environment and accountability, then I’m sure it won’t be a hard stretch at all to support an illegal war. You gotta make sacrifices in a coalition, dontchaknow!

  • “Ah, editorial paranoia strikes. I of course now wonder if your comment is safe :-)”

    I would imagine the last four comments (including this) will be deleted as they are off topic, maybe the comments have been turned off as the first post on the ‘comment are free’ site just about says it all so no other is now needed.

  • Barry George 8th Nov '10 - 4:21pm

    I would imagine the last four comments (including this) will be deleted as they are off topic

    Well I suppose you could classify (and delete) almost all of this thread as being off topic, because we should ‘only’ be discussing how Labour got there first !

    However (like tuition fees) this is a major current news event and if LDV don’t publish articles in response to what the voters are discussing then the public will simply bring the subject up in another thread…

    Hence , half hearted censorship of selective articles is pointless. You have to go (Chinese) and censor everything 😉

  • coldcomfort 8th Nov '10 - 4:31pm

    Congratulations Shaun. I’m with you. It’s all very well sounding off, and those who have done so, at considerable risk to their blood pressure, are right to do so, but it won’t make the problem of the amount of money that we haven’t got being soaked up by the benefits system go away. Perhaps what we should be doing, instead of choking on bile, is pressing our leaders to do something positive. There ARE jobs that don”t require a degree but do require some training. In my experience most people would rather work. So we should focus on helping those that do so want whilst still being prepared to clobber the few that can but won’t. Just one example: my 19yr old grandson identified that Security Doormen are in demand. But, quite rightly, you have to undergo some training & pass a test and get accredited by the Security Industry Association (SIA). Total cost £450. Has he got it? Of course not. Is there anywhere other than Grandfather he could borrow such a sum? Of course not. Was this possibility of employment suggested by the Job Centre? Of course not. He now can make £300 in a weekend which fits in well with his studies and won’t leave him with shedloads of debt. If enough of us battered our Lib Dem leaders ears with this approach we might get somewhere. I bet there are enough of us with similar stories to demonstrate the statistical significance of the approach.

  • Lisa Ansell 8th Nov '10 - 4:45pm

    ”but it won’t make the problem of the amount of money that we haven’t got being soaked up by the benefits system go away.”

    Only 5percent of the money spent from teh welfare bill goes to working age adults, to supplement income when they are unemployed.

    THis ‘saving’ that will be made. Can you illustrate how it will work? What is the cost of organising this forced unpaid labour? Or will the people ‘working’ be contributing tothe profits of companies exploiting them? Will their labour be used to generate revenue from the government? Is that where the saving comes?

    Am seriously confused? The 1.5 million people described by IDS as never having worked- includes the independently wealthy, housewives whose husbands work, the disabled, and the ill. A very small number of those people will be on benefits at all- and even less of those people will be people who are unemployed.

    And how does reducing the welfare bill- fit with introducing a universal pension of £140 per week- to everyone. Regardless of investments and property. When this is the demographic likely to grow quickest?

    Is this like the savings made when you push working people away from their jobs, by reducing the housing benefit that enables them to work? THe money saved when they are rehoused under emergency housing provision, in expensive and frightening bed and breakfast accomodation? The money saved by social care budgets and health budgets as people are pushed into crisis?

    These policies are not about saving money. They are very unlikely to do that- when THatcher did it she increased the welfare bill massively. And she was really more about talking tough- than doing it. The coalition are about pretending to be progressive while doing things THatcher would never dream of. There is no saving here. To think there was, would require a complete ignorance of how social policy works, of the effect on people. Who is going to police this? Who is going to do the endless bureacracy that comes with forcing people into unpaid labour?

    Cheryl Cole got less community service for her altercation with at toilet attendant- than someone will now expect for losing their job. Even though the government is actually deliberately adding a million the list of unemployed.

  • @coldcomfort
    You raise some very good points that should be looked into but it still does not alter the fact that this proposal as it stands is simply morally bankrupt.
    And if I were on a jury say (if they still exist then) and someone was accused of shoplifting food from a supermarket after he/she has had their benefit stopped for 3 months I would acquit them without hesitation.

  • The last few times I was on the dole, which was under the Major and Blair governments, after six months or twelve months or what have you there were compulsory one- or two- week courses that if you didn’t agree to attend or were persistently late for, your benefits could get stopped or reduced. They had fancy names like retraining and jobclubs and gateways and what have you, but they were basically: here is a hoop, you’ve been signing on for a while, jump through it.

    It will last a little longer than the two-week courses did but otherwise I fail to see how this proposal is substantially different?

  • >When this went to tribunal he did get his benefits paid back, but this was 6 months after they had been stopped.

    Sounds grossly unfair. But giiven this story relates to Oct 2009 to the first half of 2010…?

    I can see how working four weeks out of 52 would be slavery. Take out the hyperbole, and it would be more interesting to discuss what it’s supposed to achieve.

    Shouldn’t it depend on who you are and why you’re unemployed? Not a blanket thing based on time?

    Some young people round here who aren’t just unemployed, but unemployable. Would it teach them a bit of self-discipline? Would they stop trashing things if they’d spent some time caring for them? And learn that the ‘f’ word ten times a minute isn’t big or clever?

    Would it help people who’ve been out of work a long time in the eyes of employers, who tend to pick people with recent experience of work over those who’ve done nothing for years?

    Will it help people who’ve sunk into the despair of being stuck at home every day with no purpose to regain some confidence?

    What work are they going to do? Will it be at the expense of people on real wages? Or things that would never get done otherwise?

    Who is going to oversee this, fund the staff to organise it, determine what work is done and where?

    People who say ‘there aren’t any jobs’ are right; but does that mean we write off hundreds of thousands of people and accept they’ll be on benefits from the day they leave school till they die? As seems to happen round here now.

    How do you persuade people to get low-paid work when they think they’d be better off on the dole, without the effort?
    It’s not just Tory toffs who demonise the unemployed as lazy. It’s their neighbours who resent them. Why else would so many working class people vote Conservative?

  • @Neil
    “to undertake a limited amount of voluntary work which will both help their self-esteem and demonstrate to potential employers that they have the skills”

    So in what way will “picking up litter” for 4 weeks help with self esteem and demonstrate skills? what has been proposed is ‘community service’ normally reserved for convicted criminals as a punishment, I would not be against if there was some sort of recognised qualification could be gained in say IT for instance or if there was some other incentive such as an extra £20.00 on top of benefits as It may remind then what it’s like to have a bit of disposable cash rather than this ‘punishment’, yeah sure it’s motivation alright but then again I’m sure the workhouse was motivation too.

    “It will last a little longer than the two-week courses did but otherwise I fail to see how this proposal is substantially different?”

    See Above

  • @ douglas:

    “Like I said above, your party is finished. You’ll be lucky to have 10 MPs at the next general election”….

    Well 41/2 years is a long way away. Perhaps as your crystal ball is so good you would actually like to reveal to us all the policy in full detail so we can all take a long and considered (which you have patently failed to do) look. Instead of using the spin from a left leaning newspaper.

    Feel free to enlighten us all on the ins and outs of what is to be announced……

  • There is no metric under which this policy does not fail if you are a Liberal Democrat.

    Will it work ?
    If the aim is to get more people working, then as stated, doing the type of jobs criminals do is not going to magically produce jobs in the deprived areas where long term unemployemnt is a problem. Those who say it’s not Thatcherite because the mandatory unpaid labour is for a month (at the moment) also have to face the fact that a month of unpaid labour of the kind proposed is not going to sway employers in a recession who are reveiving applications from those who are over qualified for posts. This situation will be exacerabated by the coming mass cull of public sector jobs and the concomitant private sector jobs that will also be lost. Add to that the influx of those who will no longer be able to afford living in the more ‘job rich’ areas and it becomes obvious just how bad things are going to get for those unlucky enough to be unemployed.

    You cannot ‘force’ a work ethic under threat of even more extreme poverty.
    That work ethic will come only when there are real jobs for it to be applied to.
    This ‘scheme’ is not real training in any sense of the word.
    It is yet another addition stick to beat the poor and vulnerable with when the reality is that there is already a whole beaurocracy of sanctions and hoops for those who are long term unemployed to jump through. If the long term unemployed do not satisfy those at the jobcentres that they are doing everything possible to find a job then they lose benefits. They are required to show that they have been applying for jobs and visit job centres regularly and early throughout their week to even stand a chance of keeping their small sums £50-£60 odd a week.
    The notion of millions of workshy layabouts living a life of luxury can safely be disregarded as the lunatic spiteful rantings of those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with a Daily Mail mentality.

    Politically is it smart ?
    A thousand times NO.
    It is a Thatcherite right wing policy that was designed to scapegoat the poor and vulnerable while keeping the right wing press and Camerons Thatcherite MPs happy after they had to endure his E.U. payout and the child benefit policy. But we know what the problem is for Nick his ministers and the wider Liberal Democrat Party as a ‘brand’. The public in ever greater numbers think we are unprincipled Tories. So politically this policy could not be more damaging. The AV Vote and next years elections are a fast approaching reality and unless Nick and the Leadership have already written them off then it is obvious that we need to disassociate ourselves from the Conservatives NOW. This policy does the opposite and every time Danny Alexander or Nick defends it the damage keeps piling on. Even those who have reservations with AV have to recognise that it is the only game in town and one we have to win. Nick bet all our hopes for electoral reform on it and right now it is sinking slowly beneath the waves.

    Is it morally acceptable ?
    Well that depends if you think it is morally acceptable to treat the unemployed like convicted criminals. Or if you are untroubled by scapegoating the poor and vulnerable in the midst of a recession not of their making. Maybe paying private companies to get as many people as possible on this Thatcherite scheme does not ring any alarm bells for some. And
    the prospect of cutting all means of support to the poor and vulnerable might not unduly concern those who consider more people on the street a price worth paying for this policy.

    P.S. For those who think that a similar policy under Labour is a get out of jail free card for any concievable policy, I merely ask if they supported Iraq because Labour supported it ? And if not why not ?

  • “to undertake a limited amount of voluntary work which will both help their self-esteem and demonstrate to potential employers that they have the skills”

    This is the best comment on the thread thus far. The self-esteem built from picking up needles, used condoms, etc will be too much for one man to handle.

  • You launch a real training initiative to help the long term unemployed into work in the boom times.
    So that was indeed one of the many manifest failures of Labour.
    To launch this madatory work scheme now, in the midst of a recession seems to run against any narrative that it is primarilly about helping the unemployed by creating more employment. We know employers are dealing with more applications than jobs and they are about to get a fresh influx from the huge public sector layoffs. This would negate the effectiveness of even a well organised, funded and thought through training initiaitive. Never mind this Thatcherite Daily Mail soundbite initiative.

    It’s not even being done on the cheap as the pre-spin we have had from IDS makes clear.
    “The proposals, in a white paper on welfare reform to be unveiled this week, are part of a radical government agenda aimed at cutting the £190bn-a-year welfare bill and breaking what the coalition now calls the “habit of worklessness”.

    It’s being done in the name of cutting yet more of the welfare bill.
    And it is being headlined by the Conservatives as punative for the sake of being punative.
    Pure scapegoating as some of us expect from the likes of Cameron and Osborne.
    We might not know all the details yet, but if those details already leaked do not concern those who think Britain’s welfare system should not be dismantled in the name of cost cutting, then I have to wonder what would concern them ?

    I do not question that many Liberal Democrats have a well meaning desire to help the unemployed via training schemes, but by that same token they must accept that the Conservative benches are hardly short of Thatcherites who would dearly love to see the welfare state dismantled while making the unemployed work for their benefits.

    I can give Nick and his Ministers some benefit of the doubt even now, but those siren Thatcherite voices whispering in Cameron’s ear are not to be trusted and giving so much ground to their pet projects will only encourages them to push the coalition ever further down this repugnant path.

  • @Cogload
    Well 41/2 years is a long way away. Perhaps as your crystal ball is so good you would actually like to reveal to us all the policy in full detail so we can all take a long and considered (which you have patently failed to do) look. Instead of using the spin from a left leaning newspaper.

    Feel free to enlighten us all on the ins and outs of what is to be announced……

    Again, you attack me and my views and my critisisms as an ex-LibeDem voter rather than defend your party’s new policy and the effects it will have on society. You think you’d want to try to convince me to vote LibDem again, but instead you just have a go at me for feeling betrayed by Clegg and the Rodent. The image of Clegg and Alexander patting Osborne on the back will haunt you for years. Dismiss me and those who feel the same all you want, but there is a good reason why the Lib Dems are scoring as low as 9-10% in some polls. Based on the number of promises broken by the LibDems in the last 6 months, I’m sure we both have a pretty good idea where they will be in the next five years. Out of government and no longer a viable 3rd party. It will take years and years to undo the damage Clegg and his right-wing betrayal have done to the LibDems. But ignore that. Just have a go at me, because that’s easier. And it’s also what New Labour would have done.

  • “The whole point is that Labour have a monopoly on morality.”

    I take it you were in a state of suspended animation during Iraq ?

    We can’t spend all our time justifying policies on the basis that because Labour had a similar approach then it must be okay. And we also can’t spend all our time justifying Conservative policies because they are coalition partners at the moment. We are constantly told that because we had a smaller share in the vote then we must accept that some Conservative Policies will take precedent over ours. Well that arrangement must include the freedom to state where we disagree or it is worthless. We can’t keep pretending we agree with Cameron on everything and the longer it goes on the more foolish Nick will look when he has to suddenly start campigining as a Liberal Democrat Leader who supports AV next year.

    Nick negotiated a coalition NOT a merger and some of us think it has long passed the time to firmly distance ourselves from both Parties. The voter won’t be asked to tick a box next year that says coalition. Nor will they at the next election. We have to remain a separate and distinct Party or the consequences will be catastrophic.
    Distancing ourselves from this abhorrent policy would be a great place to start.
    Let it be IDS’s baby as he was the driving force.
    The coalition agreement did not impose unqualified staunch support of any and every policy.

  • @Barry George, @Nige, @Matt, @Coldcomfort

    Thanks for your comments, and I do take them onboard.

    I know that this is a contentious issue, and I do know that if the policy is rushed/pushed through without reasoned debate, it will lead to resentment and anger.

    I do believe that a major problem is the inherent inadequacies of the DWP system. I do believe that there are many people who have for whatever reason, found themselves within this system, who are desperately trying to find employment, and while trying may wish to put their skills to use.

    An example of this was a friend; some years ago he was made redundant. He was an experienced IT Systems Developer, but he was willing to take an offer of employment in roles well below his qualifications, and willing to travel/commute a couple of hours. After a few months he began to doubt even his own abilities, and over some drinks one evening, I suggested the idea of putting his skills to use in the voluntary sector. Within a couple of days, he had found a local organisation. He was so happy, had agreed to go in two mornings a week to completely revamp their IT system, and also assist the clients they worked with to offer training in IT skills. The organisation understood, that should he find work, that he would still undertake what he was going to do, but would have to fit it in with his work hours.

    When he went to sign-on, he informed the DWP what he was going to do, 8 hours of voluntary work a week while looking for work, and was tersely advised that his claim would be cancelled as he would be considered as not actively seeking work! This devastated him. The upshot was, he found work a couple of months later, volunteered with the organisation, worked with them for three years, and actually had two of the clients he trained, employed with the same company he worked with.

    As I said initially, I agree with the policy in principle, but there needs to be in place support as well, and if somebody is willing to do voluntary/unpaid work, while they are looking for employment they should not be threatened with loss of benefit.

  • Social wage, hilarious. So one can work for 30 years and pay taxes, be made redundant and then be forced to earn his benefits carrying out community service, like a common criminal. Those who have been on benefits for 3 generations, will find a way to get around such schemes, and I doubt Job Centre staff will risk their own safety by effectively cutting such peoples livelihood.

  • Barry George 9th Nov '10 - 4:56pm

    George Kendall

    As you guys had some civil words to say to Shaun, and the tide of ad hominen attacks seems to have subsided, I’ll make a contribution. But I admit I’m a little disappointed in you both. When you guys were attacked in much milder ways, I disassociated myself from those attacks

    I am sorry you are disappointed George, I merely responded in kind to those who were attempting to filibuster the debate. Until Shaun came along, not a single poster had made any effort to speak in favor of this proposal. The frustration caused by those who appeared to have nothing to contribute to the debate (and no opinion to give) yet a persistence in trying to pick semantic holes in everyone else got the better of me. I now accept that I could have done more to calm the debate rather than my testosterone charged (but not ad hominem) responses that could have been viewed as a green light for others to make personal attacks.

    Mea culpa.

    I responded kindly to Shaun as he was clearly the first non dissenter to take the debate seriously. I always respond respectfully to anyone who is serious in their conviction and Shaun gave his opinion honestly. I don’t agree with his position but he has every right to make his genuine point without fear of attack.

    For a period, I worked for an NGO, concerned with development in the poorest parts of the world

    Thank you for sharing that with us George. Fascinating insight and well worth waiting for.

    An insightful perspective on poverty.

    If the specific policy discussed in this thread were to humiliate all the long-term unemployed to clean graffitti off walls, as if they were criminals doing community service, I’d be totally opposed.

    That ‘is’ how the media have portrayed the policy and ‘if’ the media perception is accurate then I look forward to having you on side in our battle to prevent such a humiliating policy being inflicted on what is in the main, previous tax payers who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own.

    If however the policy contains the kind of training that Matt describes then I will gladly change my stance too. Though I strongly doubt that it will…

    As for your concerns about how the policy should be implemented and the problems faced by the unemployed. Your position is not that far removed from those of us who are angry at the very suggestion that the unemployed should be used in this way.

    I particularly agree (and want to highlight) your concern for how this policy could affect the physically and mentally ill. How these vulnerable people will be treated is at the very core of my extreme concern at the direction that our welfare policy is going.

    If we as a society do not protect the vulnerable then we will have returned to a form of selfish Thatcherism and her belief that “there is no such thing as society”

    I thank you again for your post.

    Finally , and not addressed at you, I would like to bring up the concept of taxation. Too many seem fixated that ‘their taxes’ are being used to pay for the welfare state and the implication is that by reducing this cost they will somehow be better off and/or get some of their money back!

    Why do I pay taxes ?

    To pay for the safety net that is the welfare state in case one day I fall on hard times and I need it.
    To pay for the NHS so that if I get sick I will get treatment.
    To pay for my pension when I am too old to work anymore.
    To pay for the education of my children.
    To defend the country and protect its citizens.

    Taxes are after all ‘our money’ and I gladly contribute to get the above (and a lot more of course)

    If the Government wants to reduce it’s spending to reduce the debt then that’s one thing.

    But I fail to hear any politician inform us of ‘how’ this extra money will be spent once the debt is cleared.

    If I have to pay the same amount in taxes for a reduced service from the government then I want to know ‘when’ those services will be returned to normal.

    I do not want to continue to pay the same taxes but get less in return for infinity.

    If just one member of the Coalition stood up and said that these draconian cuts are ‘temporary’ to clear the debt and that once the debt is cleared we will restore those services that we have had to cut, then I would have a totally different perspective of the Coalition.

    It is not the cuts that anger me. It is the fact that they are permanent and led by a Conservative ideology of a small state.

    I would have a great deal easier time accepting these cuts and believing that they were necessary on this kind of scale if someone stood up and said “sorry we have to cut but once the debt is reduced we will be able to offer you all these wonderful progressive policies”

    But evident by the silence of those in power, these cuts are permanent.

  • Barry George 10th Nov '10 - 11:10pm

    George Kendall

    I presume you meant “once the deficit is reduced we will be able to offer you all these wonderful progressive policies.”

    No George I meant debt. If I had meant ‘deficit’ then I would have said deficit.

    Apparently this country is £900 billion in debt.

    But when put in comparison to other nations the problem looks slightly different…

    “In fact, the UK has the lowest level of debt of all the leading developed economies of the world. Its 68.7% of GDP compares favourably with the US (84.8%), Italy (115.8%) and Japan (218.6%)”

    Source BBC

    So you don’t have to be a mathematician to realise that once this debt is cleared there will be a massive surplus of money that was once used to make the repayments. It is how this surplus of money will be spent that is the basis of my question.

    The deficit was £73.5 billion in the year to date of 2010/11, down from £77.4 billion in the same period last year.

    Clearly the deficit and the debt (although one is the primary cause of the other) are not the same thing.

    That means the cuts have to be permanent

    I disagree. As we reduce the debt, this should free up funds for progressive policies. For example the taking away of 10% of an unemployed persons housing benefit can not be justified now, so it certainly can’t be justified when the debt and subsequent repayments go down.

    If the cuts in housing benefit are temporary due to the debt/deficit then that is one thing. But if these changes are permanent then we can not justify them as a temporary necessity.

    If they are not a temporary necessity then one has to consider the idea that they are ideologically based.

    If they are ideologically based and senior Liberal Democrats have bought into that ideology then we will find it very difficult to present a progressive alternative to the Tories.

  • i would like too express my disgust in the lib dems, in supporting the student fees.
    i am really hoping that im still breathing gods air, by the time the next general election comes around.
    as im sure that the monster raving loony party will take over from the lib dems as the 3rd choice party.
    it will be fun ,watching tories and lib dems blaming each other for the failings of this coalition goverment.
    for the lib dems 5 minutes of glory in a coalition goverment ,the rewards will be 30 years in the wilderness because they will find it hard trying to persuade the electorate that there policies are policies they will stand by.
    on the subject of making the unemployed work for their benifits ,will they get the standard minimun wage hour rate
    if so then the north east unemployed will only have to work 1 day.
    or will they be expected to work for a lower rate surely this cant be as law states a minimin wage.?

  • Peter Chivall 13th Nov '10 - 8:14pm

    First thing to say is, as a LibDem constituency chair and Agent last May, that I’m rapidly losing patience with patently Thatcherite Tory proposals not being publicly disowned by LibDem MPs or even Ministers (Jenny Willott excepted?). Perhaps Tim Farron our new Party President, elected by us, will now stand up for OUR values and be listened to.
    Secondly, as a former Connexions Adviser I spent many years advising young claimants on benefits, employment and training. Effectively, the GCSE system was designed to ‘fail’ 1/3 of young people who could never get the magic ‘5 good GCSEs’ routinely demanded by employers. The labour market has changed radically in the last 20 years and you need IT skills to be a warehouseman these days. Virtually all the vacancies for any job are controlled by private Agencies from Manpower to street corner 1 minibus Gangmasters. It’s almost impossible for someone without a recent employment record to get considered for any job – even people with Doctorates in Chemistry have been out of work in this City, with not a single job offer or interview from any agencies, for over a year.
    When I hear some sensible discussion how the mainstream unemployed are going to be HELPED in finding work then all these ideas about ‘voluntary’ work will be just Thatcherite Daily Mail-like ‘scrounger’ bashing. Just like they were when New Labour floated them.
    So come on Tim (and Simon) let’s remind the country what LibDems really believe.
    Meanwhile, they can find me in my workshop, building tumbrils for bankers…..

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