Saturday 22 May 2010

The Real Crisis

A few days ago it was announced that the number of unemployed people in the UK had risen to over 2.5 millions. Yet since the initial announcement there has been little mention of this in the media, and the coalition "programme for government" declares that tackling the alleged financial crisis is its first and most urgent priority.

In the 1970s, when Michale Foot was minister responsible for employment, we watched with bated breath as the number of unemployed people rose inexorably towards 500 000. There was serious discussion as to whether or not a stable society could survive if the symbolic half million figure were reached. How is it that we can now tolerate a figure five times as large, plus a similar number diverted to incapacity benefits, without turning a hair?

All prolonged unemployment is devastating, but that of young people is a cause for particular concern. We are told that the young unemployed of the 1980s have never recovered and have become a lost generation. Is this to be repeated, even with Liberals in government?

It is perhaps not surprising that a government dominated by the Conservatives should give priority to placating the financial establishment over the lives of real people, but surely the Liberal Democrat element, heirs to the party of Keynes and Beveridge, should be pushing for measures to reduce life- sapping unemployment as their priority.

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