Helping the poor?


                  My two grandfathers were working class. They both lived in rented accommodation, and earned their living from a skilled trade. They both spent teenage years in the trenches in France fighting for their country.   One, a farrier, had to become a labourer for the electricity company when horse shoeing went out of fashion. The other did move in later life from carpentry and shop fitting to a clerical job in an office. 

                In the 50s and 60s when I was a  child working class attitudes were straightforward. The families did not want to accept charity. It was the father’s task to find and keep a job to pay the rent and the food bills. There was a pride in self help, and in the dignity of labour. A man defined himself by what he did, by his position in life. As the welfare state developed, people were happy to take universal benefits like free health care and the old age pension. They saw these as entitlements, paid for by their National Insurance stamp.  They saw means tested benefits as a kind of state charity they would rather avoid. One grandfather supported the Unions and Labour, the other I think voted Liberal. Neither wanted to talk religion or politics. Both were Church of England, and had imbibed a moral sense from the Christian message. Both liked the NHS, protecting them from the unaffordable doctor’s bills.

             Labour’s history was bound up with seeking to understand and represent such families. Conservatives made a fight of it, often securing the support of working people who thought Conservatives would manage the money and the economy better, which was in everyone’s  interest. The two main parties accounted for the lion’s share of the vote. People on low incomes were called poor. There was an implied distinction in many people’s language between the deserving poor – the disabled or otherwise unfortunate – and the idle poor who simply did not have a sufficient work ethic to do what everyone else did.

           We now look at things very differently. The erosion of the old class language and arguments is good news. We have moved from discussing poverty to discussing deprivation or disadvantage. We have moved from the poor  to the benefit class. We have changed from a country where most think means tested benefits are to be avoided if at all possible, to where many think means tested benefits are a right, and a necessary means of correcting some  of  the social injustice manifest  in income inequalities.

         I have no wish to put the clock back. Much is better today.Not least, we are a much richer society, and can afford to be more generous to neighbours who do not have well paid jobs. Many families who were working class in the 50s became middle class in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Many more attained clerical and executive jobs and the pay and  lifestyles that go with them. Men and women with skills were able to form their own small businesses, and many prospered as they bought their own home, joined the golf club and sent their children to university.   However, if welfare reform is to work one old idea does need to be strengthened. It is simply that all who can work should work, to pay their own bills.

        The recent employment figures show that the private sector has been generating a good number of new jobs over the last year – more than 300,000. They also show that two thirds of these were taken by recent migrants into our country, leaving many people who were born here out of work. We need to ask why this is so. We need to switch more people from benefit class to employment.  The welfare reforms need to ensure that the severely disabled and otherwise unfortunate are generously treated – something we can now afford – whilst there should be strong incentives for the rest to take the jobs that the economy is now creating.


  1. Mark Wadsworth
    January 30, 2011

    I’d say all young people nowadays will be, in relative terms, about £100,000 poorer than young people fifteen years ago, because the system tricks them into paying £100,000 more for a house than they would have done fifteen years ago.

    And following the house-price induced recession, it’ll be young people who suffer most in terms of not getting a job or losing a job.

    1. Mike Stallard
      February 1, 2011

      When our host was young, most young men could look forward to a job, a house, a happy marriage with 2.5 children, a car (perhaps), free University if they earned it, safe travel throughout the known world (except perhaps Russia) and an apprenticeship in a respected trade/industry.
      Today, barely literate, they scrape around hopelessly for temporary employment if they are lucky. The reason is that their education has actually taught them not to get their hands dirty.

      1. Simon
        February 1, 2011

        Mark , you forgot the pension which was operated for their benefit rather than that of the financial services industry .

        Our parasitic personal financial services industry must syphon off around 20% of the fruits of the average persons lifetime labour through excessive interest on mortgages on overpriced houses and charges on poorly performing private pensions .

        Instead of seeing a bright future for their children they have to watch them getting more and more frustrated by long term unemployment , sometimes to the point of taking their own lives .

        And they get less and less free every year as the treasonous political class signs them up to the EUSSR .

      2. lifelogic
        February 1, 2011

        Some truth in this and that is after all the huge advances in technology and manufacturing efficiencies. The reason is mainly that the state sector is far too big and has stolen all the wealth benefits to engorge itself while delivering very poor services (particularly in education, regulations and health). So most productive industry has, sensibly, just gone somewhere where it does not need to carry such a big state handicap and can compete.

    2. Stuart Fairney
      February 1, 2011

      That’s a one-sided way to look at it. First off, no-one has to buy a house, you can rent, live with parents or move to a less expensive area. Also, if your parents to own a house, you will one-day benefit to some degree, (unless you have really wound them up on your teenage years!)

      And the reductions in house prices, which confusingly, you also complain about, (prices too high and too low for your liking eh?) were a symptom not a cause of the recession, even in the US. These were caused by deficit spending financed by money supply increases which was inevitably inflationary. This causes the sort of mal-investment which leads to bust and recession when the reckoning comes. This in only possible in a fiat currency system where capital can be created out of thin air, whereas real, sustainable capital is created by deferred consumption (i.e. saving).

      1. waramess
        February 1, 2011

        This is a bit one sided: Live with parents; inherit a house?

        House prices determine rental costs. Live with parents a bit of a red herring and inherit property, not likely if care home costs are taken into account.

        1. Stuart Fairney
          February 1, 2011

          “…House prices determine rental costs…”

          No, they don’t. Supply of properties to rent, demand for the property and an absence of market-distorting legislative restrictions substantially determine rents.

          Which is why, in my part of Hampshire, despite purchase prices which have approximately doubled in 12 years, rental prices are entirely static. When I first moved here in 1997, a two-bed house cost me £700 a month to rent. Today similar houses are available to rent at ~ ~ £700.

          1. Colin
            February 4, 2011

            I have seen similar patterns of rental costs in Reading and Wokingham over the last 12 years. They don’t seem to quite be static over that period.

            Prices of Rentals seem to have gone up by about 10-15% ( less than inflation which is roughly 25% ). However house prices have gone up by about 100%.

  2. Mike Stallard
    February 1, 2011

    “We need to switch…”
    May I recommend a quick course of Jeremy Kyle?

  3. lifelogic
    February 1, 2011

    If the best job you can get pays say £20,000 at say Tesco for 40 hours a week and is some distance away. Then on social security you find you get your rent, your council tax, your prescriptions and some cash to spend. Then you also have more much more time to shop cheaply, collect fire wood, play with your children, go fishing or do DIY. Also perhaps help your friend for a bit of illegal (cash in hand work or bartering) practice your guitar for the band you are in and fix your Mums &Dads kitchen or car for them.

    The systems encourages you to do the latter, as you are very little financially better of after tax/NI working and much worse off time wise. The system is telling you to behave this way. It is the system that is mainly to blame.

    Another absurdly childish program on BBC 4 last night desperately trying to push global warming again “Meet The Sceptics” might better have been called “let us see what clip of the sceptics we can patch together to see how odd/mad we can make the sceptics look – while trying to pretend that all scientist agree they are mad”.

    No discussion of the science, the huge uncertainties and unknown factors, no discussion of the huge costs of alternative energy, no pointing out that if we cut or 2% of man made emissions it will make but a tiny difference to natural and world total emissions. No pointing out that there are far better ways to cool the earth than removing CO2 if that were ever needed. No pointing out the climate history of the world and historically higher CO2 levels and temperatures. Just footage of extreme weather events, as if these events never occurred before the industrial revolution.

    The BBC coverage of the great global warming exaggeration is now a complete joke, does no one in the BBC have any scientific honesty or care about this at all?

    1. TriggerPoint
      February 1, 2011

      I agree that there is no incentive to work…The best thing that could be done for the economy, and for that reason it will be done as the public sector is too big, would be to cut taxes on people under the average salary to about 2%, and taxes on the upper incomes to 5%, and the very top earners about 20%.
      The tax code doubled from 5000 pages when Brown came to power to 10,000 pages when he left. Of course to be able to reduce the income tax like this, it would mean cutting the public sector by 30%,not politically feasible, and it would involve a stinking recession. The media was up in arms about the gdp figures the other day. I think it is foolhardy to think that we can get through this without a few more double dips. They should reduce the public sector by 2% a year and reduce taxes by the same each year. Slowly slowly

    2. oldtimer
      February 1, 2011

      This BBC programme exhibited all the characteristics to be expected in a propaganda film. It confirmed that AGW is all about politics, not about science. With the closing admission that the presenter was all too willing to surrender his liberty because of his belief in AGW, he revealed he wants us all travelling on a new version of The Road to Serfdom.

      The last time I looked it also still seems to be Coalition policy.

    3. Bob
      February 1, 2011

      Welfare Incentives – well said. It’s known as the path of least resistance.

      The BBC – well said. They went to court to deny Monckton a right of reply. This is abuse of power. Cut the TV tax.

      Problem is, Dave is fully signed up to AGW, he’s even got his own wind turbine.

      1. lifelogic
        February 1, 2011

        Yes perhaps Cameron could tell us how many Kilo Watt Hours it has generated in non windy Notting Hill over the years perhaps £40 worth maximum (at true value) I would guess. If he is genuinely green I am sure he will be keen to stop other wasting energy and time on these nonsense little machines.

        Cost of installation perhaps £1000 + ? Energy used in construction, planning and installation perhaps £200 +. “useful” life perhaps 5 years.

        Quite a cheap advert PR stunt for cuddly green Dave though. Rather cheaper than the large nonsense ones all over the country we will have to pay for.

      2. Big John
        February 1, 2011

        The tragedy is that they genuinely think that this counts as legitimate programme making.

    4. norman
      February 1, 2011

      The BBC programme last night (I managed about 20 minutes) and, presumably, the one I missed last week shows how the media still don’t ‘get’ the internet for all that they profess to embrace it. It’s no longer a case, as it was 10 years ago that the BBC put out such a programme, people watch it, think ‘that was jolly educational’ and believe it all. We now have a massive research facility available on every desk and everywhere we go (if you have a smart phone).

      Not only that, information is no longer a one way street where the mass media tell us what is what and we accept it.

      For all that I enjoy John Redwoods posts (and I do) I enjoy reading the comments from other people equally as much, if not moreso.

      1. lifelogic
        February 1, 2011

        It is surely less easy for JR to take too strong a line as he is restricted by his position and politics somewhat.

    5. Derek Duncan
      February 1, 2011

      I’m puzzled. What have Lifelogic’s remarks about the climate debate got to do with the subject of Mr Redwood’s blog?

      1. Stuart Fairney
        February 1, 2011

        Things can get a bit tangenital in the comments thread, but I enjoy it all the more for that.

      2. lifelogic
        February 1, 2011

        Nothing really I just watched the BBC program and it annoyed the Physicist/Engineer in me. But without the expensive Global Warming and green energy nonsense they would be able to reduce taxes and thus reduce the disincentives to work.

        And without the BBC propaganda voters might start to accept this is clearly true.

      3. oldtimer
        February 1, 2011

        Belief in AGW resulted in the Climate Change Act. This imposes significant costs on both people and businesses through higher energy prices. Some of these higher energy prices are intended to subsidise inefficient wind farms and solar energy. These costs are regressive and hit the poor especially hard.

        1. BobE
          February 1, 2011

          Its worse because an extra charge is levied on normal power bills to subsidise these foolish windmills.
          I am led to belive that Dave never fitted his windmill. Noise levels were to high. (I may be wrong).

          1. alan jutson
            February 2, 2011

            Bob E

            Thought it was because he could not get planning permission.

            It looked ugly on the side of his house.

    6. Cliff
      February 1, 2011

      Yes, I too watched the propaganda film. This morning, I have written a complaint to the BBC about it on the grounds of it’s biased contents and how the film suggested only batty ecentric people would question climate change.
      I hope others might do the same if they feel strongly about the programme’s contents.

    7. Bazman
      February 1, 2011

      20k a year at Tesco? Must be an easy life if you do what with all that cheap shopping and staff discounts though not as easy as a life on the social fishing/pub all day. I’ll try to get my Gas Combi to run on wood. Don’t seem to be much about. Note to self: Must get up earlier for my foraging and haggling!! My main problem is that I’m not desperate enough, it’s good to see the government working on this.

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    February 1, 2011

    In this country we pay people not to work and give them other benefits whilst we tax to the hilt those who do work. Governments then wonder why unemployment is high and allow massive immigration to fill the available jobs. We await this government’s determined action to correct this stupidity.

  5. Richard
    February 1, 2011

    The key word in your excellent article is the word incentive.
    When I was involved in running an engineering business we always worked out for applicants the overall effect of accepting a job with us.
    Often, for the lowest grade, unskilled production staff, they were either worse off or only marginally better off.
    As well as losing all their weekly state wage, they would suddenly have to pay all their rent, all their rates and all their child care costs.
    Other items such as free prescriptions, free school meals, free dentist costs, free bus fares and small things like concessions in libraries, cinemas etc were also lost.
    In addition, we reminded them that they would have to pay some tax and national insurance and join our company pension scheme out of their gross earnings.
    Which brings me to your question as to why migrants are taking most of the jobs.
    It is because they are, in the main, single, young and male.
    Their benefits don’t amount to very much and if they take a low paid job here and gang together to rent a flat they are much better off than the wage they would get back home, so this is what gives them the incentive to come here and work.
    Whilst people complain about the 50% top rate of income tax and its effect on the incentive to create wealth, spare a thought for poorer citizens on benefits who face an effective tax rate of over 100%
    In an attempt to relieve poverty, we have inadvertently created a large group of people who are trapped on benefits and have a strong incentive to work in the black economy for cash, as the only way of improving their standard of living.

    1. D K McGregor
      February 2, 2011

      Thank you for a well considered post which added light and not heat.

  6. Geoff not Hoon
    February 1, 2011

    Mr. Redwood, Through my Adviser work with CAB I see the very people you write about and I have to agree with all you say. I do not like to say it but until some of these folk wonder about the next penny to buy food instead of the next ‘latest’ CD by some unknown, pedalled at them nightly by the t.v.,or the next packet of cigarettes etc. etc. nothing will change. The old adage of ‘be harsh to be kind’ (probably got that wrong somewhere) applies to too big a part of society for all our comfort and the sooner the changes are driven through the better the chances for the Party for a second term.

  7. alan jutson
    February 1, 2011


    You recount your grandfathers days in a similar manner that many of us (over 60)will remember.

    So what has changed so much ?

    Probably personal pride, self discipline, and the work ethic.

    Certainly with all of the changes, and billions of pounds spent on education for todays young people, I do not think they are any better educated for “PRODUCTIVE WORK” than those of 50-75 years ago, indeed in many cases the present education system is in many ways worse.

    In years gone by education gave you the basic skills to enable you to earn a living to support yourself and your family. Education today appears to be for educations sake. Basic mathematics, physics, English language, physical education, and believe it or not time keeping and self discipline, were drummed into every pupil in years past.
    Now many find mental arithmetic impossible, cannot put a few coherent words together, and have forgotten that feet were designed for getting you about.

    Yes the Welfare State/NHS/State Pension was a good safety net at its inception, but it is no longer just a safety net for those who for a limited period fell on hard times.
    Over the years it has grown out of control and been used by POLITICIANS OF ALL PARTIES for social engineering on a grand scale, in a vain attempt to satisfy THEIR idea of equality.

    The reason why so many newly arrived immigrants get jobs here over and above our own people is simple, its the work ethic, which still exists in the Country in which they were born.

    The welfare state for many (not all) is now simply a meal ticket for a life of leisure and personal pleasure, where those who work, pay through the nose for those who for a variety of reasons CHOOSE not to. The fact that the system is now so complicated and far reaching, means that we have to employ hundreds of thousands of people just to administer the System and churn money at a huge administrative cost.

    The really sad fact is that many very deserving people, do not claim the benefits they would be entitled to, because the system is so complicated, and because of their own personal pride.

    The present system is simply busted, no longer affordable, and needs a complete re-think.

    The State needs to restrict itself to helping those who are prepared to help themselves, and those who for medical reasons cannot help themselves.

  8. Bill
    February 1, 2011

    Are we getting to the point when we have had enough of the BBC? I remember what The Times looked like before Murdoch took over and drove it downmarket. If Sky becomes the predominant broadcaster the danger is that we shall be subject to endless mindless quizes, game shows, reality-celeb stuff, and so on. It used to be argued that the BBC was not subject to commercial pressure and could therefore provide a diet of viewing that did not seek the most basic forms of gratification. Now we seem to be caught between a dumbed down but politically correct BBC and a commercially driven Sky. Is there a third way?

    1. Stuart Fairney
      February 1, 2011

      Yep, you can subscribe to any number of TV channels via the internet ~ I particularly enjoy lectures given by the Ayn Rand centre and the Von Mises institute.

    2. Gary
      February 1, 2011

      The internet. Until the plug gets pulled -g-

    3. Robert K
      February 2, 2011

      The third way is the only way: scrap the licence fee and let the BBC compete with Sky, ITV and every other media provider. The argument does not stand on perceptions of bias. It stands on the immorality of forcing people to pay for a service they may not want.

  9. Richard Calhoun
    February 1, 2011

    The Welfare State founded after WW2 has been expanded decade by decade to the monster it is now.

    It has destroyed many individual values, cheated on pensions and generally increased the costs of doing business in this country to the detriment of our manufacturing.

    The present government is making a start, but there is a long way to go, and in the end we need to re-structure our tax system so that the individual is able to make his/her own choices in life.

  10. Gary
    February 1, 2011

    There is no growth. The only real growth is in bankers’ bonuses and the people’s fury. Last quarter we had a rude contraction in economic growth. If we are going to continue to attempt to grow by printing money and tying precious capital in non-productive property ponzi schemes, we are in for an even ruder shock.

    1. Robert K
      February 2, 2011

      The banker-bashers need to get off their high horses. Banks respond to the pricing and availability of fiat money, as determined by the gnomes of the Treasury and Threadneedle Street. So look to your political leaders if you want to find the source of the crash.

  11. English Pensioner
    February 1, 2011

    My father came out of the army 1n 1919 aged 20 with no particular skills, other than the fact that he was apparently a very good artist. He managed to get an office job and studied hard at night school to become an accountant. Some years after he retired, I discovered his talent and I asked him why he hadn’t used it as a job. He said simply “I didn’t want to starve”. And that was the situation in his time, no-one would seek help unless they were desperate.
    When he was about 70, my mother and father started to go on expensive holidays, and I asked why? Apparently, he’d saved what he considered was necessary for his old age, depriving the family of some possible luxuries, and then discovered that his neighbour, who had had a far better job, was claiming all sorts of benefits, and that he could not claim them himself because he had too much money in savings. So he promptly spent the savings!
    Whilst I would not wish to see anyone in this country starve, or be homeless, the present system does nothing to encourage people to work and does everything to encourage the idle to sponge on those who are foolish enough to work. I’ve heard it said, in all seriousness by a youngster on benefit “The government can afford it, they’ve got plenty of money”; this person genuinely believed this and refused to understand that the only money that the government had was taken from others in taxation. So much for our education, as the person concerned had a string of GCSEs and some A levels!

  12. David John Wilson
    February 1, 2011

    On the One Show on Monday there was a piece about a factory owner who had moved his wool spinning factory back from eastern Europe because of increasing transport costs. He was now having second thoughts because he was unable to expand his business, not through lack of orders or finance but because he could not find staff to operate his machines. People were unwilling to work in a noisy environment at a job which involved standing all day.

    1. Bazman
      February 2, 2011

      Probably not for the wages he was paying when there is more easy work.

  13. Javelin
    February 1, 2011

    Having worked in Banking for 20 years I have seen the number of graduates in their 20s fall from being the majority to being non-existence. Instead they have been replaced by EU and non-EU staff.

    The replacement of graduates has happened differently between EU and non-EU staff. EU staff have tended to be experienced staff who have been willing to work on the same salary as UK graduates and banks have been happy to get better staff at the same cost.

    Non-EU staff mainly include (Asians -ed) have tended to be less experienced staff willing to work on a lower salary than UK graduates and banks have been happy to get the same staff at lower costs.

    I suppose what Ministers need to understand is that Banks will exploit which ever loopholes then can to get their bank for the buck. It is their legal duty to their shareholders to do so. Banks and other large companies are forced by law to ignore their social responsibility to UK/EU graduates.

    My message to Ministers is NOT to focus on the details of VISAs but to focus on the percentage of NON-EU staff working in the offices of British companies through whatever route whether permanent of via a service company. I would limit that to 5% – so that only senior staff are recuited and UK graduates can get jobs. Banks will make noises but realisitically within 12 months the good graduates will learn the job and it will not harm their profit margins.

    The risks to the UK are that if graduates can’t get jobs then the education system will be damaged. If Ministers want a strong education system they MUST have strong employment opportunities for graduates.

    1. Javelin
      February 1, 2011

      Sorry for my typos – I write this on my iphone and the implementation of the editing on this blog makes it very hard to see what Im typing.

    2. JimF
      February 1, 2011

      The follow-on from what you say is that whereas EU- and to a greater extent non-EU staff have no great ambition to buy a place of their own, and have no student loan bill to pay back, our graduates will have. So in forcing high repayments of tuition fees, high income tax rates, high pension contributions and high property prices on our younger generation, we are massively handicapping them in competing with overseas workers who have little or none of these to think about in their domestic life.
      This system either has to correct or turn in on itself, with graduates either not bothering to work hard and earn big money, or running away from the UK and doing it all without these handicaps.
      Either way it is quite mad and happening on the Conservatives’ watch.

    3. David Price
      February 2, 2011

      This hasn’t just been happening in the finance sector. One consequence is that the EU and non-EU staff go back to their own countries after a time and build up the local capability. The competion against the UK is increased and the UK capability decreased at the same time. This is happening not just with low skill jobs but also in the high tech industries which require more mental resources than mineral commodities. We never gave away our oil and gas so I am at a complete loss as to why our intellectual assets are allowed to be given away.

      This has been happening for at least 30 years so all parties are equally to blame, that is if they believe they have any responsibility for the success and survival of this country at all.

      The risks to the UK aren’t just to the education system, if the general prosperity of our industry and commerce keep declining it will affect everyone, even the bankers, lawyers and politicians.

  14. RDM
    February 1, 2011

    “We now look at things very differently. The erosion of the old class language and arguments is good news”. RDM: It is about Language; Even among Conservatives, we understand things differently.

    “We have moved from discussing poverty to discussing deprivation or disadvantage”. RDM: Should we not be discussing Opportunity? I don’t care WHAT other people have as long as they abide by the Law and pay their Tax’s, etc… I care what Opportunity I, my family, and friends have!

    “Men and women with skills were able to form their own small businesses, and many prospered as they bought their own home,” RDM: That is; If they had the Opportunity, and so would people with no skills, open shop’s, hair dressers, open small coal mines, etc …

    “We need to switch more people from benefit class to employment”. RDM: To do this you will need to guarantee access to work, the right type work, etc… And the truth is you can’t, not within the locations necessary for people to build their lives! What you can do is too recognize that there are Opportunities out there, including work, a wider focus! But also recognize and ask why people are stuck on benefits, not taking opportunities available?

    “However, if welfare reform is to work one old idea does need to be strengthened. It is simply that all who can work should work, to pay their own bills”. RDM: Their response would be; for who? Why bother? Am I going to be able to build a life? Yes, a negative sentiment!

    Obviously; what we need is an Enterprise culture!

    And, as some of us found back in the 80’s, we also need flexible and responsive banks! Providing access to Capital, Mortgages, Collateral, etc… Recognize the Market failures, and even if Government needs to step in, create Equity/Startup/Project Finance banks!

    Savings and work needs to pay!

    But also recognize that there is great resistance to this idea, within the regions especially (Marxism/Socialism)! Creating a void will not work! So, in short, aim to create a middle class of Independent Entrepreneurs! We can’t afford a narrow market system!

    Haven’t we been here before?

  15. Acorn
    February 1, 2011

    The vast majority of those jobs created are part time and low paid. The “actual hours worked” has dropped by circa 2% in the last ten years. That is with a UK population increasing by 200, 000 a year in recent years. Eleven percent of UK current population, was born abroad.

    The ELMR report is a fascinating read on this subject. It also has a “Directory of on-line tables”. For instance, 2.32 Public sector employment by industry; a table worth following over the next few years.

  16. Martin
    February 1, 2011

    Your analysis has the usual Tory tabloid flaw in that it ignores the million plus who are looking for work and not in receipt of benefits.

    The other problem with the DWP approach of forcing folk to apply for every vacancy is that it scares employers off. A small business with say 20 employees can’t handle 300 applications! The DWP approach isn’t helping employers fill vacancies, it only panders to the tabloid editors.

  17. John B
    February 1, 2011

    “… and can afford to be more generous to neighbours who do not have well paid jobs.”

    Is not that just another way of saying “charity”? Precisely what my grandparents and parents avoided – and me.

    Nobody works to put food on another’s table or improve another’s living standard. We pay towards communal services for our own benefit, not others.

    It is true people mostly are generous to others out of surplus by their won choice, but that is not the same as when the generosity is involuntary, extracted via taxation out of money earned to meet an individual’s needs and to improve their own living standards.

    There is nothing “fair” about that.

    I do not feel I owe anyone on lower income a particular standard of living decided by a political elite to meet their own moralising ideology: for that they should work as I have had to.

  18. Iain Gill
    February 1, 2011

    Not really with you on this one John

    For one there is the ICT visa situation which I note you have not responded yet to the letter from Mr Green, British Citizens born here cannot compete with the workers from the Indian outsourcers on price and the market is failing to buy on quality, I could say that quality of UK deliverables is collapsing and the international market is stopping buying our output – a rather nasty little circle

    Much more I would say on this one, the reality of there being no jobs within travelling distance of many of the biggest state housing stock for one – nothing I have heard is going to change that little reality

    The Conservatives really need to come in on the side of the legal, decent, honest folk who want to do the right thing, many of which are doing their best to find a job at the moment – they dont need to hear this rhetoric which much of the situation is outside their control

    We still have nonsense like the long term unemployed being prevented from studying more than a certain number of hours a week – this could be changed overnight for zero cost to the country and would help people escape in a practical way, encourage people to do the right thing

  19. rose
    February 1, 2011

    No-one has mentioned the destructive facet of feminism: men now don’t aim to keep a family singlehanded, and women can be married instead to the state.

  20. Jamess
    February 1, 2011

    I remember my father trying to earn some more money by doing some gardening. On his own effort he went out door-to-door to advertise, bought the tools necessary for the task and sweated every hour for the money made.

    Every pound he earned led to a loss of 97p of various benefits he received which kept us as a family alive, with the cost of the tools, petrol etc having to come out of the remaining 3p.

    Given these circumstances, who would bother working?

  21. JT
    February 1, 2011

    There has never been a golden age for unskilled workers.
    Education is not designed to help / not targetted to help
    Otherwise, why would maths be Pythagoras and logarythims
    Or English about appraising what Huck Finn said in Tom Sawyer
    However, there was a golden age for unskilled work > when the empire provided a safe, closed market for British goods, when it was the source of cheap raw materials and provided government contracts to protect / support it all.
    But, we’re still locked into the patterns created by that economic system. People stuck in the wrong parts of the country, with the wrong contacts & aspirations. And social & economic policy of last 40 years re-enforces this pattern.
    Look where all the hot spots are >> old industrial heart lands.
    Ship building, coal mining, industry.
    And then over lay that with a benefits system that EXPANDS to meet peoples lifestyle. It doesn’t pay generously, but it expands to meet circumstance. More space and money for new family. Support through school. Health, education all provided. So a person who starts in the system with nothing (single claim is around£50 a week) can build up to being locked into the benefit trap .. with an array of benefits.
    When the excess payments stories make the papers – have a look at how many have a second wave of family – so kids aged 16,15, 14 and then at 2 and 3.
    So. Why not be more generous for all clamiants. Time limit them. And do not allow benefit escalation. ie what you arrive with, is what you get.
    Why is this difficult.
    And what happened to Iain Duncan Smith.

  22. Denis Cooper
    February 1, 2011

    An unholy alliance of right and left has brought us to this pass.

    And the fact that “we” don’t even know what “we” now mean by “us”, and even tentative attempts at a definition may be met with vilification from both right and left, will make it far more difficult for “us” to get out of it.

    On the right there( are organisations for business -ed), but there’s nothing “British” about (some of them-ed).

    (Some business -ed) has absolutely no loyalty to this country or its people; in fact some (businesses-ed) had to be directly ordered by the British government to cease trading with the enemy.

    Now (they) continue to clamour for more immigration, and (they) would have no problem with getting rid of every single one of their British workers and replacing them with foreign workers.

    While at the same time (they) constantly whine about the high taxation needed to keep those unemployed British workers from destitution.

    On the left, there are those who hate the British nation, indeed hate the very idea of “nation” as a product of the equally hated “hereditary” principle, and who have deliberately contrived to open up the country to mass immigration so that the British can be gradually, inexorably, dispossessed of their national homeland.

    Where does something like the “National Health Service” fit in, when there is no longer any “nation”, no extended national family within which there is enough common feeling, and enough altruism, for one person to be prepared to help another who needs help, and where one generation will care about the future of the next generation, and the generation after that?

    Where it will end is hard to say, but it’s difficult to see how it can end well.

    1. Cliff
      February 2, 2011

      You make interesting points. I noticed only last month that the so called “Free national Bus Pass” which Wokingham Borough Council have just issued to my wife, is valid in neither Wales nor Scotland. This won’t affect us as we’re unlikely to travel to these two places but, I always thought that, when one refered to national, one was talking about England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and not just England. I would have hoped that The Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain would have sorted this type of nonsense out as soon as we formed a new government.

  23. stred
    February 1, 2011

    JR’s piece sums up the changes in our so called class system.

    My great grandparents were tradesmen or farmers. My grandparents had jobs in sales but were educated and one was a conductor (musical) in his spare time. None were wealthy but they all managed to pay their way and save. My father became an architect and also made little from his profession but built a series of family homes to make enough to retire and be reasonably well off. All of his offspring would be categorised as middle class. However, I am not sure that, despite the latest consumer goods and travel etc, we are actually any better off today. I have less space to live, congested travel and long hours. Every initiative seems to be delayed or stopped by regulation and charges.

    When my father went on site in the 50s and 60s, the builders would turn off their ‘trannies’ and certainly not argue. By the 80s they would argue the point and refuse to put faults right unless forced to. By the 90s the tradesmen were better paid than the architect and site agent and today I am addressed as ‘mate’, if I am lucky. So, what is the point of separating the skilled trades from the skilled professional people. Both largely agree politically on policies such as the need to work and not rely on the State. Many seem to vote for a plitical party because of family history or because of moral beliefs, rather than because of policies.

    The new factor which may lead to national decline really is the development of the non-working class and downwardly mobile young people who, through useless education, fail to qualify fora profession or trade. I regularly speak to young mothers with 3 children telling me that they can guarantee a high HB payment for a house worth £300k. When asked which bedroom they would chose for themselves and partner, I have been told that partners are only ‘occasional’. There seems to be an increase in this and now HMG is devising a scheme to pay investors a good return for running remedial education for children arriving at primary school unable to speak or think properly. There may be some single mothers who are wonderful parents but I would guess that a high proportion of failing children come from ‘homes where mothers cannot cope.

    Few geneticists would admit it publicly, but there may be such a thing as reverse evolution. When intelligent women work into their 30s, they produce fewer children. But a young woman who fails educationally may prefer to use the State to support a family and may even have a better standard of living by doing so. Are their children, on average going do be as intelligent or successful? Is the recedent gene going to rescue the situation? If not, after another 70 years of the Welfare State the UK may be the butt of jokes in the emerging countries.

    Meanwhile, the deserving self employed find that welfare payments,when they fall seriously ill or out of work, are almost impossible to receive.

    1. Acorn
      February 1, 2011

      stred; for some reason you have triggered my memory back to my early years. A lady in our street gave birth; there was something wrong with the child which I did not understand at the time. The District Nurse – a person of some standing in those days – was in control. I have, stuck in my brain, the words, “best to let nature take its course”. Presumably “the nurse” was advised by “the doctor” of the prognosis. Nobody argued; nobody called the press or the Constable. The nurse took care of the situation. I don’t remember ever playing with a child from that house. In a similar situation today, every politically correct piece of technology would be used to keep that child, so called, “alive”.

  24. Javelin
    February 1, 2011

    John, the more I read your posting the more I see a progressive agenda and the less I see any progressive nature in the Labour manifesto. So called Labour “progression” involves “disincentives” to those below a poverty threshold, “reductions” in employment opportunities for graduates and a dilution of state benefits away from the truly disabled and most vulnerable members of society.

    1. lifelogic
      February 2, 2011

      Yes “Progressive” to Labour generally means taking money off the hard working and wasting it in government, buying votes or passing it to the feckless.

      It is time the coalition made the highly moral case for not doing this which is ultimately in every one’s interest.

  25. Mr J Leslie Smith
    February 1, 2011


    My Grand Fathers too were working men. One a coal miner until injured aged 43 years old and on the dole. The other worked for Harland and Wolf as a Riveter on big ship, moed over to Belfast during his working life to help buikl the Titanic.

    They instilled powerful values in me, the chosen grandchildren who were to go to Universities and become “Bosses” in life. They told me from knee high, when you achieve positions of power and priviledge, NEVER forget where you come from nor who you really are. These were simple yet honourable men. They provided for their own families all their lives and protected us all too. My Welsh Grang Father had eight children, my Scottish Gran Father five. Both died with just a few coins in their pockets, having no other assets, living in Council houses. I am so proud of these great men and proud to be of such a Noble Tradition, where our word really was our Bond. Can that be said of so called “Honourable Members” today, in the House of Commons? ( John not withstanding)

  26. Bernard Otway
    February 1, 2011

    We have brought everything on ourselves,by allowing the political class to take our votes for granted,having once got them they do in many cases the exact opposite of what we want,and we let them get away with it.One of our parties has as it,s core vote people who are intellectually unaware why they are voting for it or what it will do for the country and by that what it will do for
    all the population,so it is not even worth while discussing issues with them as they can,t understand,yet this core added to it,s zealots allows it to win sometimes and then wreck the economy.Actually we have NO democracy as these votes are the equal to those with prescience and education,it is like allowing the seamen to tell Captain Bligh where to navigate the small boat from the middle of the Pacific,if that had happened they would have ended up god knows where. As a result welfare becomes a voting trap deliberately so
    as well as the Public Service and Quangos.If one day the earners and tax payers say they have had enough and stop working and paying taxes we are ….ED .As for Immigration I saw a sticker in the back widow of a car in the programme wanted down under revisited
    this morning which was the australian Southern Cross with these words under
    “if you don,t love it ? LEAVE” aimed obviously at immigrants a blunt message but right.
    What would happen to someone with that message in their car here

  27. sjb
    February 1, 2011

    JR writes: “[The recent employment figures] also show that two thirds of these [new private sector jobs] were taken by recent migrants into our country, leaving many people who were born here out of work. We need to ask why this is so. ”

    Your colleague, David Willetts, contends that a major reason is the immigrant’s willingness to be under-housed: “The larger the proportion of earnings consumed by housing costs, the greater the benefit of under-housing and the greater the price advantage of immigrant labour. It was not despite the high cost of housing that immigrants came to the house price hotspots in Britain to make a living – it was because of them.” (The Pinch: How the baby boomers took their children’s future – and why they should give it back, pp227-8).

  28. Andrew Johnson
    February 1, 2011

    It’s taken some 65 years for the Welfare State to evolve to become the incentive sapping monolith that it now is. I find the comments illuminating. GB is trading in an ever increasing fiercely competitive world and we have no Divine right to continue to enjoy the high standard of living we do. Corporate globalisation, unregulated immigration, membership of the EU and a state benefit package that’s worth more than a modest working wage have been slowly but surely doing their destructive work. Alas, over this time, the majority of the political class have indulged, spoiled and even lied to us, for short term political advantage. For our part, we have disengaged from active participation in politics prefering instead to simply enjoy ourselves as much as we can, while ignoring the reality of our country’s gradual decline.
    In my view, since it took 65 years to get to this point, and given the reluctance of politicians to urgently address these issues, (Coalition Government spending is actually increasing year on year – source: J Redwood) change is not likely to happen any time soon, unless it is forced on us, by the markets, IMF or our new rulers the EU.

  29. adam
    February 1, 2011

    “I have no wish to put the clock back. Much is better today.Not least, we are a much richer society, and can afford to be more generous to neighbours who do not have well paid jobs.”

    The country is insolvent. Huge liabilities are coming due.
    Free at the point of use has shifted huge costs to the government, as those services are not really free, the only way to make them free would be to reintroduce slavery.
    The society today is an illusion, everybody is much better off, but they are not richer in an assets/liabilities sense. Its a ponzi scheme system, costs of today are payed for by debt, which is the promise that future generations will sacrifice later.

    Supposedly the country went bankrupt in 1976, though it seems that was a Dennis Healey scam. Whatever, the IMF took over a large part of the public policy, taking democracy away from the people. The decimation of the nation states will lead to new global governance systems gaining ultimate control. There is no reason a Brit should earn more than someone from the third world, so under global governance/international development/sustainable development, there can only be a huge blowout in real living standards in the west.
    Coincidentally, this is exactly what the high priests of globalism are preaching.

  30. JoolsB
    February 1, 2011

    My family were all working class too John. None us have ever been to university. I was hoping that my 14 year old son who excels at maths and science would be the first to go but now thanks to this coalition, I will now sadly discourage him from going. It is difficult enough for youngsters today, especially trying to get onto the property ladder especially where I live in the South West, without having this millstone of debt around their necks too. What angers me most is my taxes will still go towards free or subsidised tuition fees for the rest of the UK and even students from the EU will have the privilege of being paid for out of my taxes, but not my son. I am ashamed of our elected politicians with English seats for not once standing up for their constituents against this discrimination. I expected no better from Labour, who gave England tuition fees in the first place but I will never forgive the Conservatives, the party I have voted for all my life, for destroying the hopes and dreams of our youngsters, but only if they are English of course.

    Reply please encourage your son to go if he is suited to life at one of the good universities – it is worthwhile and will repay him handsomely.

    1. lifelogic
      February 2, 2011

      Encourage him to go to university he won’t regret it and will not have to pay it back if he does not earn much anyway.

    2. JoolsB
      February 2, 2011

      How can I encourage him to take on a debt which he might still be paying off into middle age, by which time, he may have a mortgage, children and all the expense which having them entails. He talks about being a Doctor or Vet but this might mean he ends up with debts getting on for £100k. I think the tuition fees debate summed up the hypocrisy of politicans when one MP was asked that if he thought these fees were such a good idea, would he be prepared to pay retrospectively for his own university education which he received for free to which he replied it would be impossible with his bank account. This will without doubt, definately discourage working class kids who are bright and gifted from persuing their dreams but only if they are English. Why should they have to pay for the mess left by the last Government? Surely UK taxes should pay for the same opportunities for all our youngsters no matter where they live. Even EMA has been scrapped for students, but only if they are English and what is most annoying is our elected politicians with English seats don’t care because the Union is more important to them than standing up for their constituents against this discrimination. They are even afraid to mention the word England for fear of breaking up the Union but it is by not addressing this unfairness which will eventually break up the union and the people in England will never forgive the Conservatives who were put there by the English, no where else. I know I won’t.

      Reply: Previous generations did pay higher marginal tax rates if they got well paid jobs after university, taking more off them than the student loan idea.

      1. lifelogic
        February 5, 2011

        Top surgeons can earn well over £250K PA so he should not worry but it will be a struggle at first.

      2. JoolsB
        February 6, 2011

        Why will no MP acknowledge the apartheid which has been created over tuition fees. The unfairness isn’t just about the tripling of tuition fees, the real unfairness is they won’t apply unless you are English. UK taxes should give the same opportunities for all our children, no matter which part of the United Kingdom they live in.

        Reply: Many MPs do understand this problem. It is inevitable in a country with devolved governments in the areas which receive the highest levels of tax revenue to support them.

  31. Martin
    February 1, 2011

    I note the lack of mention of the pathetic failure of a trading nation to build adequate airport runway capacity in its trading heartland London and the South East.

    Despite not being a BAA fan I have to ask which government imposed red tape on a private company to stop them expanding Heathrow? What is the cost in jobs and money?

  32. sm
    February 1, 2011

    Yes but change the system and make it more progressive for all, get the overheads down. Get the EU, and the zombie banks off our backs and make work pay, plus a much tighter migration and population policy local and national.

    Combine NI and PAYE and reduce it at lower levels. Reform council tax to a fixed % of income, with a small min contribution. Tranferable personal allowances. End the BBC direct tax, sell it off and auction off public service requirements by tender. Ensure all residents and workers are taxed similarly no ICT visa abuse. No £300 tax free per diems for House of Lords. End the pension divide- stop forcing low earners in the private sector subsidising public pension entitlements through council tax. Lower lifetime pension capital allowances – impute a tax charge on senior civil service schemes.
    Reduce the size of EU,parliament,HOL, etc

    Force more disclosure by banks in relation to offshore activities along with better geographic turnover/profit reporting. Ensure tax is paid where the substance of the transactions take place. Can we cut loose the casino banks before they sink us again- i see food price riots in other countries- speculative hot money from where? Please more destructive capitalism and competition in banking, whilst protecting the little guys.

    Try and encourage saving and self reliance – excessive mean testing changes desired behaviors.

    Unwind the property bubble and retake control of the money supply and ensure growth figures are adjusted for debt spending. If we badly double dip,infrastructure spend.. a few nuclear power stations, some grid spend, a few tidal farms, maybe some double decker motorways, and even turbines if built in the UK.

    Bring about more binding referendum for issues where the parties are out of step with the electorate. Resolve the West Lothian question with an English parliament.

  33. Kenneth
    February 1, 2011

    The more the State does the less we do for ourselves. In fact, if you drip feed small amounts to any animal or plant or human, it will be less likely to develop fully.

    I know some young people who spend their EMA on cigarettes and don’t need or want a part-time job. They are social welfare trainees.

    In my view the whole system stinks and turns a significant proportion of us unto benefit junkies that never grow up.

    1. alan jutson
      February 2, 2011


      Many Aid agencies in Africa are now coming to the conclusion that food aid for decades has made matters worse, as the population now just sits and waits for aid to come to them.

      A recent Tv report showed that some Aid organisations are now trying to target aid to a much closer degree, so that the majority of people are encouraged to help themselves.

      The final summing up suggested, decades of simply handing out aid had only made the situation worse.

      1. alan jutson
        February 2, 2011

        oops sorry, Kenneth

      2. Kenneth
        February 2, 2011

        That’s interesting. It’s so sad that they have only just reached this conclusion.

        All they needed to do was go out into the street and ask a couple of people with common sense. Honestly the mind boggles (or is that biggles. Alin?)

  34. StrongholdBarricades
    February 2, 2011

    The things that your article misses are aspiration and opportunity

    Aspiration can be encouraged by our education system by demonstrating the “doors” that open if you can persue a certain path

    Opportunity is where a person’s own background is not an impediment to social mobility.

    With the destruction of the selection system, and the gerymandering of the national curriculum you have no coherent view.

    The economy needs entreprenurial skills, whilst our school system turns out garbage who have difficulties reading the Red Tops, and our industry has too little profit to invest in making better employees who can innovate. On top of which squats the state that says “come to us for all you need”.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    February 2, 2011

    Interesting. I hope you’re not implying that atheists don’t (can’t) have a moral sense. For persecution and murder in history, organised religion runs closely behind Stalin and Hitler.

    Both Quintin Hailsham and George Orwell, to name but two, believed that what distinguished the middle class from the working class was not so much income as what they spent their money on. The middle class would spend money on books and any amount of time and money to ensure that their children were well educated.

    It was Enoch Powell who asked the question “Is there any reason why any state benefit should not be means tested?” That may strike readers as a left wing sentiment but then Enoch didn’t believe there should be many benefits.

  36. Bazman
    February 2, 2011

    The most basic problem is if you believe in making everyone absolutely desperate and working for food money which I suspect is right wing Tories real belief and aim, is how to implement such a policy without effecting the lives of the children of the lowest levels of society. If you cannot answer this then your argument is dead in the water. Often smoking, drinking, watching SKY TV all day on a big plasma telly is a symptom of poverty. This golden age of work that so many wet eyed people grieve for never existed. Woman would often wait for their men at shipyard factory gates to get the rent money before they drank it. Money was apportioned as beer and house money. Now there is no shipyards and little factories. So in areas where there is no work what should they do? That great MP Cecil Franks believed that they should sell rock in Blackpool. All of them?! What they should do is take to the stage or become surgeons Cecil.
    Huge swathes of the population are embedded where they live as they are poor. Why would anyone move to an area where there is work when he could only just afford to sustain himself there and be away from his family? The East Europeans who come here are more often than not young and if not desperate, looking for adventure. Should any British person compete with five to room/car? Answer that one right wing Tories. Many of the comments above just seem to imply that making everyone desperate is the answer. Starting by removing any pleasure they have like booze, fags and SKY TV. Of course this will never apply to them and they should bear in mind that if there is undeserving poor than by default there must be undeserving rich.
    Reply: Most Conservatives I know want a more prosperous UK and want many more people to enjoy the benefits of modern consumer society. Conservatives disagree with sensible Labour over how we get to a a more fully employed more prosperous UK, not over where we are trying to go.

  37. Gary
    February 3, 2011

    I just got a freedom of information request answered and the average basic salary (excluding allowances) for an Indian programmer coming to London on an intra company transfer visa was £6,800 in December. That is £5k less than the national minimum wage.

    The programmer job tends to be done by someone with only a couple of years or less of experience and they are in direct competition with recent UK graduates. No wonder recent UK computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rate.

    Even including the mostly tax free allowances/expenses, the average paid to an Indian programmer coming to London on an intra company transfer visa in December was £27,981.50 while the average advertised salary for a programmer in London is £32820. That is almost £5k less and, when you include the national insurance exemption for intra company transfers (worth another £3k on employer contributions for a £30k salary), you can see the huge cost savings using imported labour.

    1. Simon
      February 7, 2011

      You have to question why anyone would do an computer science degree these days as even the average advertised salary for a programmer is at least £9k less than the starting package of a police constable in London .

      Police constable salary including london weighting , london allowance and housing allowance ;
      – £28,605 on commencing service
      – £31,176 on completion of initial 31 weeks’ training
      – £32,610 after two years’ probationer training.

      + benefits package worth an additional £13,000 – £23,000
      – free travel on London Underground, buses and most rail services within a 70-mile radius of London. Estimate £3,000 gross before tax .
      – employer pension contributions to the second best pension in town estimate an extra £10k for a journeyman , extra £20k for a career person due to nature of final salary arrangement .

      The actual taxpayer contribution to police salaries is over double the fudged official figures because of the very high notional investment return rate of inflation +3.5% which is assumed .
      Compounded over 30 years this produces a sum of money double the best risk free rate available to outsiders of inflation + 1.25% .

      Plus other benefits
      – permanent sick leave at above statutory sick leave rates
      – early retirement before completion of 25 years service on full pension due to ill health for a huge proportion .
      – paid overtime
      – late working meal allowances

  38. Matthew
    February 6, 2011

    I’m 29 and one thing that I think disadvantages young people today is that we can’t get on the housing ladder. Even successful high end professionals have to settle for some crappy cut up conversion or a very expensive new build. House building is so far behind demand that we’re in living in smaller and smaller properties.

    This isn’t progress…

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