David Cameron says the Tories are aiming for full employment. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

David Cameron reiterates Tory call for full employment: empty words or PR coup?

Countering the "cost-of-living crisis".

David Cameron is to reiterate the Tory commitment to full employment outlined by George Osborne last year. In a speech today, he is to emphasise his party's call for achieving this aim, presenting his election manifesto promises on jobs and enterprise.

Full employment happens in an economy in which there are enough jobs available for all workers. According to the BBC, the Prime Minister is expected to say on the subject:

Full employment may be an economic term, but this is what it means in human terms: it means more of our fellow men and women with the security of a regular wage; it means you, your family and your children having a job and getting on in life.

Are these hollow words or a compelling promise from a Prime Minister desperate to convince an electorate largely yet to feel the so-called recovery that the Tories offer a bright future?

The Labour party has jumped on Cameron's commitment as "empty words", considering this government's record on employment as seen throughout this parliament. The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, commented:

David Cameron's talk of full employment will seem like empty words to working people after five years of talents wasted and opportunities denied.

The Tories' low wage economy has left millions of people stuck on low pay, or unable to get enough work to pay the bills. The average wage has fallen more than £1,600 per year, 3.5 million people want to work more hours, and the number of people paid less than a living wage has risen to nearly five million, driving up the benefits bill and leading to more Tory Welfare Waste.

Meanwhile young people aren't getting the support they need to make the most of their talents and help our country earn its way out of the cost-of-living crisis.

Indeed, although employment levels have been increasing, the number of low-paid and low quality jobs, and unemployment among young people, remain a stubborn scar on the face of the coalition's jobs record. Cameron's pledge to aim for full employment makes his party vulnerable to fair criticism from Labour, which has long been banging the drum for its own plans for higher quality jobs and working conditions.

Labour has promised a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to help the long-term unemployed off benefits into work, a crackdown on zero-hours contracts, raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour and helping more workers be paid the living wage. The PM's speech simply gives the opposition a good opportunity to champion its promises on living and working standards.

Labour is the party that has been consistently stronger on living conditions, summed up by its incessant "cost-of-living crisis" narrative, which makes Cameron's speech today on full employment a little risky for the Tories. His promise begs the question of how he would ensure that, once he's given such a big boost to the country's employment, workers are working and living satisfactorily.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Richmond is a victory for hope - now let's bring change across the country

The regressives are building their armies. 

Last night a regressive alliance was toppled. Despite being backed by both Ukip and the Conservative Party, Zac Goldsmith was rejected by the voters of Richmond Park.

Make no mistake, this result will rock the Conservative party – and in particularly dent their plans for a hard and painful Brexit. They may shrug off this vote in public, but their majority is thin and their management of the post-referendum process is becoming more chaotic by the day. This is a real moment, and those of us opposing their post-truth plans must seize it.

I’m really proud of the role that the Green party played in this election. Our local parties decided to show leadership by not standing this time and urging supporters to vote instead for the candidate that stood the best chance of winning for those of us that oppose Brexit. Greens’ votes could very well be "what made the difference" in this election (we received just over 3,500 votes in 2015 and Sarah Olney’s majority is 1,872) - though we’ll never know exactly where they went. Just as importantly though, I believe that the brave decision by the local Green party fundamentally changed the tone of the election.

When I went to Richmond last weekend, I met scores of people motivated to campaign for a "progressive alliance" because they recognised that something bigger than just one by election is at stake. We made a decision to demonstrate you can do politics differently, and I think we can fairly say that was vindicated. 

There are some already attacking me for helping get one more Liberal Democrat into Parliament. Let me be very clear: the Lib Dems' role in the Coalition was appalling – propping up a Conservative government hell bent on attacking our public services and overseeing a hike in child poverty. But Labour’s record of their last time in office isn't immune from criticism either – not just because of the illegal war in Iraq but also their introduction of tuition fees, privatisation of our health service and slavish worship of the City of London. They, like the Liberal Democrats, stood at the last election on an austerity manifesto. There is a reason that we remain different parties, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn't also seize opportunities like this to unite behind what we have in common. Olney is no perfect candidate but she has pledged to fight a hard Brexit, campaign against airport expansion and push for a fair voting system – surely progressives can agree that her win takes us forward rather than backwards?

Ultimately, last night was not just defeat of a regressive alliance but a victory for hope - a victory that's sorely needed on the back of of the division, loss and insecurity that seems to have marked much of the rest of this year. The truth is that getting to this point hasn’t been an easy process – and some people, including local Green party members have had criticisms which, as a democrat, I certainly take seriously. The old politics dies hard, and a new politics is not easy to forge in the short time we have. But standing still is not an option, nor is repeating the same mistakes of the past. The regressives are building their armies and we either make our alternative work or risk the left being out of power for a generation. 

With our NHS under sustained attack, our climate change laws threatened and the increasing risk of us becoming a tax haven floating on the edge of the Atlantic, the urgent need to think differently about how we win has never been greater. 

An anti-establishment wave is washing over Britain. History teaches us that can go one of two ways. For the many people who are utterly sick of politics as usual, perhaps the idea of politicians occasionally putting aside their differences for the good of the country is likely to appeal, and might help us rebuild trust among those who feel abandoned. So it's vital that we use this moment not just to talk among ourselves about how to work together but also as another spark to start doing things differently, in every community in Britain. That means listening to people, especially those who voted for Britain to leave the EU, hearing what they’re saying and working with them to affect change. Giving people real power, not just the illusion of it.

It means looking at ways to redistribute power and money in this country like never before, and knowing that a by-election in a leafy London suburb changes nothing for the vast majority of our country.

Today let us celebrate that the government's majority is smaller, and that people have voted for a candidate who used her victory speech to say that she would "stand up for an open, tolerant, united Britain".  But tomorrow let’s get started on something far bigger - because the new politics is not just about moments it's about movements, and it will only work if nobody is left behind.

 

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.