I occupy a unique position in the House of Commons. My office in Room 101 in Norman Shaw North has two neighbours. On my right is the ultra pragmatically Labour chair of Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East.
On my left is Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham: he is the head of Ed Miliband’s policy unit. I have shared debates with him - including the 10th March event with the Equality Trust and the authors of the keystone book - The Sprit Level. It is hard not to be impressed by Cruddas - he is a genuine thinker.
On 21 June Cruddas was speaking to Compass, a left-wing policy group, and was recorded speaking frankly about the Labour policy review: he was very critical. Cruddas said:
‘We managed in the political world to condense it into one story about a punitive hit on 18 to 21-year-olds around their benefits. That takes some doing, you know, a report with depth is collapsed into one instrumentalised policy thing which was fairly cynical and punitive… And instead instrumentalised, cynical nuggets of policy to chime with our focus groups and our press strategies and our desire for a top line in terms of the 24-hour media cycle dominate and crowd out any innovation or creativity.’
The Labour spokeswoman, Rachel Reeves’ plan is to deny the dole to the under-25s unless they go to study for some exams to take them up to Level 3 (the equivalent of an A-Level). Will this be effective or is it a gimmick, even though a massive proportion have no GCSEs?
The Coalition plan is based on apprenticeships and work. Each day, the UK employment count is rising by 2,000. In addition, Youth unemployment is falling at the fastest rate in 15 years:
Cruddas makes it clear that Miliband and Reeves do not have answers to Britain’s serious problems.
Hexham JSA Claimant rate is down 31.1% on last year
Indeed throughout the North East every constituency is seeing an improvement in job numbers and JSA claimants. The plan is working.