The hard left destroyed the economy of Liverpool in the 1980s. We can't let them run Britain
The Militant movement of the 1980s is back, rebranded as Momentum. But while the hard left make empty promises of free money and utopia, we Conservatives know the only true way out of poverty is through employment and a strong economy, writes Esther McVey
I must be one of only a handful of ministers who have spent their whole ministerial career in just one department – Work and Pensions – moving from parliamentary private secretary in 2010 to junior minister, to minister of state, now to secretary of state; even with a spell of unemployment in the middle.
But my interest in employment didn’t start in 2010. It began many years before, growing up in 1980s Liverpool with high unemployment. And it wasn’t just the lack of work I saw; it was how those without jobs were exploited by the Militant tendency selling the romantic pretence of a people’s revolution, delivering false hope to the individual and bankruptcy to the city. My beautiful home city literally sold down the River Mersey by people peddling a political philosophy that has failed right across the world.
And that Militant movement of the 80s is back – renamed, rebranded, rebadged as Momentum. With promises of free money and utopia, swooping on a new generation who haven’t seen its aftermath.
In the words of John Hamilton, leader of Liverpool city council 1983-86, “When I die I will go to hell with [Derek] Hatton because he will make it look like heaven.”
Why do I tell you this? Because there is a distinct deja vu of the 80s, with the growth of Momentum, and a Conservative government clearing up the economic mess left by Labour.
When the Conservatives came into office in 2010, we knew the welfare system needed repairing. Not only was it ballooning out of control, but it promoted a system of welfare dependency – under Labour’s term in office the number of households where no one had ever worked almost doubled.
Undeterred by Liam Byrne’s 2010 note, “I’m afraid there is no money” or the enormity of the task, the Conservatives began implementing a range of reforms and building a new benefit system, fit for the modern age.
Labour howled that our reforms would see unemployment rise by 1 million. How wrong they were. The work experience and sector-based work academies schemes we introduced have helped reduce youth unemployment by a whopping 48% since 2010, that’s 451,000 fewer young people unemployed.
Added to that, measures like the work programme (now the work and health programme), the benefit cap, and the claimant commitment – a contract between each claimant and the state to match support and jobs to their needs – have delivered nearly 3.4 million more jobs since 2010. That’s 1,000 more people into work each and every day from all backgrounds and right across the UK. Despite what you might read on social media these jobs are overwhelmingly full-time and permanent.
It is this work that has set the foundations for this government’s new benefit, universal credit – a simpler, fairer system, which combines six of the old benefits into one modern system, providing tailored support; and for those who can’t work through illness and severe disability, financial support.
Universal credit allows the claimant to look for work online, gives advice online and connects to a work coach online too, supporting people in part-time and low-paid work, or with irregular hours. Its purpose is to make work pay, and this approach is having a profound effect as we are seeing people earning more, looking to work more hours and building up their careers.
Of all the employment records that have been broken since 2010 – including the record high women’s employment rate and record high BAME employment rate – it is the lowest number of children living in workless households that stands out.
A cultural shift is starting to occur in the UK where workless households and intergenerational unemployment is falling, meaning more children will have a working role model in their homes. For we know the only true way out of poverty is through employment and a strong economy.
The Conservative party, which in 1995 introduced the Disability Discrimination Act, has always recognised the huge talents of disabled people. That’s why, when I was minister for disabled people, I created Disability Confident in 2013 – a step-changer in supporting businesses to recruit and retain disabled people and people with health conditions.
By building on this and providing financial support into work through the Access to Work scheme, latest data shows that in the four years to 2017, 600,000 more disabled people have moved into work. However, we want and aim to go further, and help 1 million more disabled people into work by 2027.
With employment rising and a healthier economy than we inherited, we have also ensured more people are saving for their future. We introduced automatic enrolment, which has revolutionised pension savings in this country. Within six years almost 10 million people have been automatically enrolled – many of whom will be saving for their futures for the first time. As a result, total membership of occupational pension schemes reached a record high of 41.1 million in 2017, up nearly 50% since 2012.
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