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

Photo: Getty Images
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I'll vote against bombing Isis - but my conscience is far from clear

Chi Onwurah lays out why she'll be voting against British airstrikes in Syria.

I have spent much of the weekend considering how I will vote on the question of whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/Isis from Iraq to Syria, seeking out and weighing the evidence and the risks.

My constituents have written, emailed, tweeted, facebooked or stopped me in the street to share their thoughts. Most recognised what a difficult and complex decision it is. When I was selected to be the Labour candidate for Newcastle Central I was asked what I thought would be the hardest part of being an MP.

I said it would be this.

I am not a pacifist, I believe our country is worth defending and our values worth fighting for. But the decision to send British Armed Forces into action is, rightly, a heavy responsibility.

For me it comes down to two key questions. The security of British citizens, and the avoidance of civilian casualties. These are separate operational and moral questions but they are linked in that it is civilian casualties which help fuel the Daesh ideology that we cannot respect and value the lives of those who do not believe as we do. There is also the important question of solidarity with the French in the wake of their grievous and devastating loss; I shall come to that later.

I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister as he set out the case for airstrikes on Thursday and I share his view that Daesh represents a real threat to UK citizens. However he did not convince me that UK airstrikes at this time would materially reduce that threat. The Prime Minister was clear that Daesh cannot be defeated from the air. The situation in Syria is complex and factionalised, with many state and non-state actors who may be enemies of our enemy and yet not our friend. The Prime Minister claimed there were 70,000 ground troops in the moderate Free Syrian Army but many experts dispute that number and the evidence does not convince me that they are in a position to lead an effective ground campaign. Bombs alone will not prevent Daesh obtaining money, arms and more recruits or launching attacks on the UK. The Prime Minister did not set out how we would do that, his was not a plan for security and peace in Syria with airstrikes a necessary support to it, but a plan to bomb Syria, with peace and security cited in support of it. That is not good enough for me.

Daesh are using civilian population as human shields. Syrians in exile speak of the impossibility of targeting the terrorists without hitting innocent bystanders. I fear that bombing Raqqa to eliminate Daesh may be like bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas – hugely costly in terms of the civilian population and ultimately ineffectual.

Yet the evil that Daesh perpetrate demands a response. President Hollande has called on us to join with French forces. I lived in Paris for three years, I spent time in just about every location that was attacked two weeks ago, I have many friends living in Paris now, I believe the French are our friends and allies and we should stand and act in solidarity with them, and all those who have suffered in Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Tunisia and around the world.

But there are other ways to act as well as airstrikes. Britain is the only G7 country to meet its international development commitments, we are already one of the biggest humanitarian contributors to stemming the Syrian crisis, we can do more not only in terms of supporting refugees but helping those still in Syria, whether living in fear of Daesh or Assad. We can show the world that our response is to build rather than bomb. The Prime Minister argues that without taking part in the bombing we will not have a place at the table for the reconstruction. I would think our allies would be reluctant to overlook our financial commitment.

We can also do more to cut off Daesh funding, targeting their oil wells, their revenues, their customers and their suppliers. This may not be as immediately satisfying as bombing the terrorists but it is a more effective means of strangling them.

The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes. I agree with them for the reasons I set out above. I should say that I have had no experience of bullying or attempts at intimidation in reaching this decision, Newcastle Central is too friendly, frank, comradely and Geordie a constituency for that. But some have suggested that I should vote against airstrikes to ensure a “clear conscience” ’. This is not the case. There will be more killings and innocent deaths whether there are UK airstrikes or not, and we will all bear a portion of responsibility for them.

A version of this article was originally sent to Chi Onwurah's constituents, and can be read here