Gordon Brown today launches another fightback. This time he combines concern about the broken society the Conservatives have highlighted with the new wish to shower taxpayers’ money on groups who might then become better inclined towards the Government. The new big idea is to offer money to encourage those on a low income or on benefits to change their lifestyles. There will be money to buy food of the right kind, money to seek advice and help with children, and money to live life according to the Gordon Brown rulebook.
It is a typically political package designed to spend cash the Government does not have in a bid to show the Government cares and is looking after its heartlands. The prosperous and enterprising people and areas will have to pay more in stealth taxes and deferred taxes when the borrowing has to be repaid. Many Labour MPs will be praying they get a higher political dividend for this new largesse than they received from the Â£2.7 billion emergency package of benefit increases at the time of the Crewe by-election to offset the increase in income tax.
The sad fact is that Gordon just does not get it. In the current climate he cannot buy enough votes by spending more of people’s money. He can lose more votes by debauching the public accounts further. He should grasp that ever since he divorced Prudence the economy has performed poorly. Years of spending too much and managing the public sector badly are now catching up with him. He needs to cut public spending and seek much better value for money. He needs to tackle the broken society by spending the huge sums of money they are already committed to spending in a more efficient way.
Central to this crucial task is education. Too many young people in deprived areas pass through the school system without learning how to read, write and add up to an acceptable standard. Too many are left without enthusiasm, special knowledge and a confident sense of purpose. Tampering with A-levels, dumbing down standards, or showing pupils more films is not going to solve this. Freeing the schools, offering parents and pupils more choice, encouraging the pursuit of excellence in many fields would help.
Mending our broken society requires many changes. Many of these are chronicled in Iain Duncan Smith’s report on this subject. Simply showering more public money on deprived areas, as we have been doing, will not work. Today’s speech is more spin about a broken strategy of spend, spend, spend, than about the problems of a broken society.