The Prime Minister's miracle
On the face of it, it's a time for national rejoicing. After just 13 years in government, Gordon Brown has suddenly apparently discovered the secret of 100% employment – state jobs for all.
New Labour's latest attack on the voiceless poor is the stunning assertion that after 30 years of millions-long dole queues, it seems there was no need for anyone to be unemployed at all.
If Brown is still PM in three weeks' time, he tells us that New Labour will implement a policy which appears to have gestated more or less overnight – every unemployed person who has been out of work for two years will be offered an unspecified job working for the state.
(This, of course, is an "offer" in the Godfather sense. Refusal will result in the unfortunate claimant having their benefits cut off.)
We're further told that somehow these state-funded vacancies – to be created at a time when both main parties are standing for election on a platform of massive cuts to the public sector, not the wholesale expansion of it with millions of new state employees – can be conjured from thin air at no cost to the taxpayer. Supposedly this can be achieved from the savings made by not having to pay these newly-employed public sector workers the welfare benefits they're currently receiving.
A fairly substantial number of pretty obvious questions immediately arise from this startling claim.
1. If creating state jobs doesn't cost anything, why have millions of people been left to rot on benefits for the last 30 years?
2. Similarly, if there have been millions of jobs in need of doing all these years, why weren't they created and advertised, whereupon they'd presumably have been filled by grateful jobseekers without arm-twisting legislation forcing them to? What sort of criminally-negligent incompetents must have been running the country, if there were millions of legitimate jobs needing done, millions of people looking for work, and no expense to the taxpayer involved in putting the two together?
3. If these jobs are entirely funded by savings in welfare expenditure, why are they apparently to last for only 12 months? Why can't they carry on indefinitely?
4. Come to that, if we can suddenly create millions of jobs for the unemployed at no cost, why do they have to hang around being unemployed for two years before they're eligible for one?
5. When similar schemes are proposed, the "jobs" in question are usually menial labour more often associated with the community service orders imposed on criminals – picking litter, cleaning graffiti and the like. Do we actually have enough litter and graffiti in the country to employ another several million people working full 40-hour weeks?
6. And what will we have left to punish minor criminals with? Treadmills? Flogging? Stocks? Or will we set all the unemployed construction workers to building dozens and dozens of new prisons until everyone's in jail?
7. Will we in fact end up having no choice but to employ a million people to spraypaint big cocks on walls and scatter crisp packets in the street, and then another million to follow around after them cleaning up the mess? If so, won't vandals stop being "criminals" and in fact merely be "freelancers"?
8. Whatever jobs we do end up giving the unemployed, what happens to the people currently doing those jobs? Presumably they'll be undercut by the state conscripts, and themselves become unemployed in turn, and then be forced by the state to go out and do the same job for less money.
9. What's going to happen to anyone who DOES refuse to join the state slave battalions and has their benefit cut off? Do we just leave them to starve to death in the street, then have their corpses carried off by the minimum-wage conscript litter-picking squads and their still-warm blood mopped up by the minimum-wage conscript anti-graffiti team?
10. And finally, what will we do with the tens of thousands of Job Centre staff we'll have made unemployed by ending unemployment?
The true evil, of course, is that Brown doesn't have a pig in a sausage factory's chance of still being PM in a month's time. So all he's doing with this disgusting, desperate attempt to grab a few Mail-reader votes in marginals is setting a tone of contempt for the poor that the Tories will seize on, and thereby triangulate their own position to somewhere even more loathsome. God help the poor if Cameron gets in.
It's absolutely staggering that our useless excuse for a leader managed to deliver this "policy" with a straight face. It seems unlikely that the British electorate has ever had its collective intelligence insulted so brazenly and comprehensively at any previous time in history.
Personally, I blame Carla Lane.