Off topic for this blog, of course, but of great interest to many of our readers; Labour's announcement today of its policy on unemployment benefits.
There's a great deal of misinformation out there, some of it deliberate from the right-wing media. For a straightforward account see Patrick Wintour's article in the Guardian. I'll simply say what I think, and leave it to readers to agree or disagree.
Labour wants to return to the contributory principle, and I support that. If you've been working you've accumulated entitlement to help when you're out of work. That's how National Insurance was conceived, and it's what most people think is fair. If for whatever reason you run out of contributions, or have never made any, you are still entitled to help, but on a means-tested basis. That was the system for years. It doesn't work if you increase the non-contributory benefit (known for years as Income Support level) but don't increase JSA at the same rate. The differential erodes until there is no distinction. To avoid that is expensive.
The policy on youth unemployment has caught the headlines. Those who leave school without adequate skills will have to go onto training to acquire those skills, and will get a training allowance for doing so. If they don't, they will get benefits but means-tested according to their parents' income. There are obvious difficulties with that, and Labour has said that those who don't live with their parents will be means-tested differently. They have not said that the training will be effectively workfare. If that was the case, or if outsourcing companies were involved in any way, I would be dead against it. What they seem to be talking about is courses in FE colleges and the like. I was rather worried by Labour's Stephen Timms today saying that the threshold was "level 3", i.e. A level. That's too high. But I don't have a problem with the principle. Any young person who has had a job will automatically be entitled to JSA.
Those who are outraged by the ideas underlying this policy seem to be claiming that everyone should be entitled to benefits regardless of whether they have made any contribution, including youngsters who come out of school unprepared or unwilling to get a job. Personally I disagree. I believe in a society based on the old Marxist maxim: to each according to his need, from each according to his ability.
So wade into the argument if you want to. But base your comments on facts.