A broken strategy for a broken society

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 £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.


  1. APL
    June 23, 2008

    JR: "The sad fact is that Gordon just does not get it."

    Gordon Brown has two problems that make it impossible for him to change.

    The press have done us the disservice of promulgating Gordon Browns economic genius. I think Jilted John's appraisal of another Gordon can be validly applied to our Mr Gordon Brown MP, PM.

    Two, even if he was an economic genius, his attempt to suggest that his new administration would be a 'new broom', when we all know he was the primary architect of the old regieme. He cannot sweep away any of the old policies without implicitely criticising himself. Like Sisyphus he is doomed to repeatedly perform the same futile task.

    Sisyphus of course, was greedy and deceitful, Gordon Brown being an honourable man and clearly none of those things. But he did covet his brothers* throne. * Socialist 'commie' speak for Mr Blair.

    JR: "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."

    Hopefully this is not the New Tory economic policy?

    Have politicians ever considered that we are where we are today because of the actions of past politicians?

    Perhaps they might consider that

    1. we shouldn't be spending 'huge sums' of public money at all.

    2. Given the total failure of generations of politicians to micro, macro, manage society, perhaps the best of all possibilities would be to just leave us alone?

    One might have hoped that the Tory party would articulate similar sentiments.

  2. Adam
    June 23, 2008

    Another good analysis from JR. I'd just like to say that Gordon was never really with Prudence, it was just Westminster gossip.

  3. Richard
    June 23, 2008

    Spot on analysis of the situation. I watched Gordo telling the turkeys to vote for Christmas with a sense of total disbelief.

    Saudi oil is worth about a billion a day and I can't imagine that the opportunity to own a few dozen nuclear plants (with all of the attendant red-tape and potential to accidentally irradiate their clientele) would persuade them to increase production by an extra barrel per decade.

    Peak oil is a complete myth. When oil was first pumped it was "surface oil" (e.g. less than 50 meters). When the price went over $20 per barrel it became cost effective to start pumping from deep fields. When it went over $50 it became cost effective to re-open old fields and use pressure pumping, when it went over $70 it became cost-effective to start drilling in africa, at $100 we've started searching for more deep-sea drill sites, as soon as it goes over $150 it'll be cost effective to start extraction from tar flats and shale oil (10+ Trillion barrels). Oil will continue to get more expensive, true, but there's no danger of the stuff running out for hundreds, if not thousands of years even with spiralling usage.

  4. Rose
    June 23, 2008

    We live in one of many urban villages, right in the heart of an historic city. In recent years our Church has been shut down, despite a thriving attendance and paying its full contribution to the diocese; our police station has been shut down, despite a rising crime rate and increasing population; our post office has been shut down, despite the advent of many businesses who needed it; and now our lovely little Victorian stone built primary school is to be shut. All the Labour Council seems to want in the middle of our city is unsupervised 24 hour drinking, lots of transients, and unlimited motor traffic and parking. No wonder it's a mess and no-one responsible wants to live in it. And no wonder crime, vandalism, graffiti, and anti-social behaviour are rife.

    Our country used to be made up of lots of little self sufficient villages, in town and country alike, and from them grew the precious stability we have now lost, but which people from all over the world are still mistakenly fleeing to from their own broken societies. This five year plan mentality of Gordon Brown can never mend that.

  5. MartinW
    June 23, 2008

    It is tragic that IDS's fine report has received scant attention from the media. We may be sure that when NuLab starts to steal the ideas and policies, the Conservatives will get no credit for them.

  6. mikestallard
    June 23, 2008

    We, the people who read the papers, notice little things, you know. We see that MPs are about to get expenses of £150 a week. We notice that MEPs syphon off hundreds of thousands. We see that many people in London are well over the £100,000 a year mark now.
    So if we are offered £100 for winter fuel or £100 to stop smoking, we feel dirty and humiliated. We are constantly offered stuff like that by all sorts of people from Supermarkets to grubby financial schemes.
    As to the schools – did you read Melanie Phillips in the Mail today?
    She is totally right, bringing back some form of selective schools where people want it would really act like a tonic. Here in Cambridgeshire, our local Comprehensives are running as just about the same GCSE results level as the Secondary Moderns are in Lincolnshire.
    The huge difference is that here we pay £10,000 a year (per pupil) for the Grammar School whereas in Lincolnshire, the Grammar School is totally free.
    I wonder myself whether people are ready for the Swedish system. Do you, at the Top of the Party ever actually talk about it?

  7. James Strachan
    June 23, 2008

    What Gordon does not realise is that he has created the society in which people cannot rise by their own efforts.

    If you are poor, an increase in income does not help. It's all taken away in tax, national insurance, withdrawal of benefits, withdrawal of housing benefit, etc., etc.

    And, if you are in social housing, you are probably in an estate surrounded by people with the same problems. You can't move because, wherever you would like to move to, there is a long, long queue for social housing.

    So you learn to limit your ambitions and to live only for today. And your children learn the same lesson and don't try to do well at school.

    I seem to recall that you said something about this over ten years ago.

    The sad truth is that the benefit system, however well intended, is now the major cause of poverty in this country.

  8. Matthew Reynolds
    June 23, 2008

    Quite simply a flat rate income tax at 15% with the first £12,000 p/a exempt from tax in the form of a bigger basic personal allowance ( rather than the £5,000 pittance & complex age related allowances ) would sort out many of the problems that your blogs point to !

  9. Matthew Reynolds
    June 23, 2008

    Quite simply a flat rate income tax at 15% with the first £12,000 p/a exempt from tax in the form of a bigger basic personal allowance ( rather than the £5,000 pittance & complex age related allowances ) would sort out many of the problems that your blogs point to !

  10. John
    June 23, 2008

    The DVLA are now offering an entry into a prize draw to win one of three Seat cars per month as an incentive to use their online services.
    I wonder how long it will be before we are offered such inducements to register for ID cards or to vote in a General or Local Election?
    (Seat are providing these new cars free of charge but I question what's in it for them and why them out of all the manufacturers?

  11. DiscoveredJoys
    June 23, 2008

    I'm afraid that the whole of society, including the political parties, is caught in a sixties timewarp where everyone is believed to be good and judging people by their behaviour is wrong.

    The Government would sooner issue new laws than go through the pain and effort of dealing with the few people showing bad behaviour.

    I know personally of some firms who issue new companywide guidelines (on claiming expenses, say) rather than dealing with individual employees who break existing rules.

    In reality most people living in social housing are fine people, trying to lead productive lives. There are a few disruptive badly behaved lawbreakers – why not sort the bad ones out quickly or does this mean making a judgement?

    In reality most young people go out for a night and cause no trouble. A few get drunk and violent – why not lock them up for a few days or does this mean making a judgement?

    In reality, or so I am told, most MPs claim only appropriate expenses. A few appear to be committing fraud – why not prosecute them or does this mean making a judgement?

    Not only must individuals be prepared to take responsibility for themselves, but society in general must also take responsibility for actually enforcing laws. People will be happier knowing that there are limits and that these will be enforced (as long as they are fair).

  12. William B.
    June 24, 2008

    Mr Brown's first "re-launch" occurred when he announced that there would be no general election last autumn because he wanted to present his "vision" to the people. Being a generally polite nation, we waited patiently.

    My understanding of a serious politician's "vision" is that it comprises a series of clear statements of principle on the proper role of the state and the way in which the state should fulfill its role as thus defined.

    There are some areas in which the state must always be supreme, most notably defence and immigration. But in many other areas of life a balance must be struck between how much the state seeks to do and how much is left to individuals. What is to be the state's role in the economy, education, transport, health … and the list goes on and on.

    I am still waiting. I have not heard Mr Brown set out what he perceives to be the proper role of the state in any area. I remember an attack on plastic carrier bags; he might be right, he might be wrong, but it is not a matter of "vision". I remember British Jobs for British Workers; that is a non-starter for reasons already well rehearsed in this blog although it does contain at least a hint of "vision". And now we have cash payments being offered for good behaviour in the way one might reward a previously inconsiderate dog when it finally chooses to do its business outside rather than in the middle of the tufted Wilton; it is hard to discern a "vision" here.

    Any former Chancellor who moves into Number 10 and is then faced with economic problems is bound to suffer in the public's estimation. Many questions have been raised about Mr Brown's character and the mere fact that such matters have been aired is bound to have a further adverse effect on his standing. But I cannot help thinking that the continuing failure to explain his "vision" does him more harm in the eyes of the public than anything else.

    Combined with a succession of events in which the government has been reactive rather than proactive, the failure to explain his "vision" must cause many to conclude that he simply does not have one.

  13. DBC Reed
    June 24, 2008

    I though the right to buy was going to sort out the estates that James Strachan is talking about? The idea of the run-down council estate is a thing of the past, surely: a very large number of houses are privately owned, making zero difference to poverty levels apparently and leading to people parking on their front gardens and damaging the infrastructure at a time when the growth of hedges and trees would ,otherwise, take the edge off the raw appearance.
    People complain about energy bills ,petrol prices but the free market was supposed to make everything cheaper (or perhaps" more efficient"means something else).
    P.S round here people "on the social" are put in brand new speculatively built two-bedroom flats which the wonders of the market aka the Invisible Hand have left short of private buyers.

  14. Adrian Peirson
    June 24, 2008

    Gordon Brown is an *******

    Years ago we deposited real money into banks who gave us a receipt, we are now so used to using these receipts as 'money'
    That we believe it to be Money, but it is not, it is simply a receipt, Meanwhile, Gordon has sold off the Real Money to ?
    Leaving us playing with just the receipts.

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