Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Melanie Phillips on unemployment

Anyone interested in the issue of unemployment will want to listen to a Radio 4 programme at 8.00 pm next Monday and the following Monday. "Journalist Melanie Phillips embarks on a personal journey to explore what work means to some of the most vulnerable and socially-excluded people in Britain. Melanie is known for her uncompromising views on the 'workshy' beneficiaries of the welfare state but will her theories stand up in the face of the complex and difficult lives of the people she meets?" So says the BBC website. Phillips' "uncompromising views" are, in fact, increasingly common among those with no first-hand experience. "In this first programme," we read, "Melanie travels to the north-east of England to meet unemployed young people who are struggling to find their way into the labour market and a married couple who are desperate to move themselves into work and away from dependency." It will be interesting to see if there is any mention of New Deal and the various private companies involved. In episode 2 "Melanie spends time with cleaners and catering staff working on the minimum wage and asks what motivates them to work. Would Melanie's own assiduous work ethic survive night shifts, low pay and cleaning lavatories?" Good question, but I suspect the answer is yes.


  1. Back in the 1980s the Times Columnist Matthew Parrish was a Tory MP. Does anyone remember a World In Action programme where he spent 2 weeks on the dole in Newcastle?

    Admittedly, it was only 2 weeks. But to his credit he at least made the effort to survive on dole money for those two weeks. He said it was possible but admitted it was a lot harder than he imagined it would be. And of course, psycholigically he knew it was just for 2 weeks and not for months or possibly years.

    I suggest Melanie Phillips follows his example if she really wants to get a better insight into the problems of low pay and unemployment.

  2. More impressive was Polly Toynbee, who spent a whole year working full-time on various minimum wage jobs so that she could write a book about the experience.

  3. Historian,

    I have that book. It's called Hard Work. Recommended reading. ISBN 0-7475-9415-9

    Although written in 2003, much of the content is still very relevant. It shows that many who bang on about benefits and low wages in this country, really don't know what they're on about.

  4. I'd forgot about Polly Toynbee. I can't be the only one who has noticed that wages for many people at the bottom end of the labour market have hardly risen, taking into account inflation, in the past 28 years and for some have got worse!

    I'll give you an example. in 1981 I working as a cleaner in London, and getting paid GBP 3-5 an hour.

  5. Wouldn't it be nice if an unemployed person was able to do a Radio 4 programme on the way the unemployed are portrayed in the Daily Mail.

    But not much chance of that, the unemployed and the underclass are rarely part of the panel of so-called experts whenever there is a discussion on unemployment or social policy.

  6. By the looks of it 2010 could be a bumper year for TV and radio programmes on unemployment. The actor Larry Lamb (Eastenders and Gavin & Stacey) is apparently doing a show for the BBC on unemployment.


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