As his idea for evening and weekend opening of GPs’ surgeries shows, Gordon Brown is now setting out his stall for the premiership. It is time for Conservatives to react with some policy initiatives of our own.
Brown’s style is obviously different from Blair’s, but in the most important respect, his substance is much the same. He shares with Blair the guiding principle that the state – using ever more of tax-payers’ earnings – is the best machine for delivering almost anything that government wants.
Yet in spite of that, as Frank Field points out in a report published today by think-tank Reform, his New Deal for youth employment – cost so far nearly £2bn – has been a ‘woeful failure’ (see today’s Telegraph, p 4), with the number of people aged 18-24 out of work up by 70,000 to 505,000 since it was launched in 1998. Numbers of young people “not in employment , education or training” are also up on 1998, and climbing – now 131,000 above the figure when Labour came to power ten years ago. As Field says, many of the people who got a job through the New Deal would have found a job in any case. Not everyone needs the nanny state to hold their hand.
As Field comments “The results show that even if the money was available, which it isn’t, more of the same won’t work and will be a betrayal of young unemployed people.”
No wonder Brown has already attacked Cornerstone for our tax reduction proposals.
We shall continue to be a thorn in his side. P.S The first of the Cornerstone policy papers submitted to David Cameron’s policy review will appear on this site on Wednesday. We will start with Brian Binley’s excellent paper on how to create an “Enterprise Britain” for the 21st Century.
Edward Leigh is Co-Chairman of The Cornerstone Group