We're seeing crude government propaganda at work over "workfare". First there was Chris Grayling using the Telegraph on 19 February to tell us that "critics of the government's work experience programme are 'job snobs'." It's a thoroughly misleading and sanctimonious piece in which he castigates the BBC and the "left wing" newspapers for their reporting and tells us how wonderful it is that retailers like Tesco are offering experience to youngsters. He focusses entirely on the scheme which is "voluntary" (for the first week) for young people. Surprisingly, given that it's in the Telegraph, a lot of the comments which follow are scathing. Then yesterday Iain Duncan Smith weighed in in the Daily Mail with exactly the same soundbite, except that now it's "sneering job snobs who betray the young". It's very bad-tempered. Critics of the scheme are "a commentating elite which seems determined to belittle and downgrade any opportunity for young people that doesn’t fit their pre-conceived notion of a ‘worthwhile job’." He comes up with the extraordinary statement that "13 weeks after starting their placements, around 50 per cent of those taking part have either taken up permanent posts or have stopped claiming benefits." Again the comments are short and to the point. Today YouGov have put out a poll in which people are asked whether they approve of workfare, so the government will be able to see whether the fight-back is working.
Meanwhile the Independent reports that, far from having their contracts suspended, A4e will be bidding for a share in the new contracts targeting Neets. They are payment-by-results contracts, with up to £2,200 on offer for each youngster "helped". "'Any organisation with a proven track record in the field will be able to apply in an open tender – the usual process,' a spokesman said." I hope Margaret Hodge and the other PAC members read that bit carefully, because it is very misleading. The committee were told, correctly, that the procurement process doesn't allow past performance to be taken into account. So this spokesman is plain wrong.
The Independent also today runs a piece by James Cusick on the recent storm over Emma Harrison. It adds little to our knowledge, except that in addition to Thornbridge Hall Harrison owns a £3m mews property in London. But he does bring out her messianic delusions. "She said recently: 'I've got another million people I want to help. I'm going to ... sort out the entire health system.' She also claims to have 'a role in the Bank of England's regional consultations on behalf of the Monetary Policy Committee'. The Bank questioned the use of the word 'role', saying: 'I think Emma's website needs a bit of an update.' "