Dan McCurry discusses Anneliese Dodds' Pre-Summer Economic Statement Speech.
The striking moment was when she mentioned that the government have reintroduced the Sanctions system, a punishment regime for benefit claimants, which purportedly aims to force them to prove they are actively seeking work. Anneliese considers this a misguided moment to punish the unemployed as each job opening has eight applicants.
I work as a solicitor advising suspects in police stations. The job involves a private consultation with my client to decide whether or not to answer questions in the police interview. Whenever an officer shows me the consultation room, they always point out the big red button that I should press if I get attacked by my client. This emergency alarm would cause the police to rush in mob-handed and save me. I used to laugh because the clients never attack solicitors but do attack the police.
In fifteen years of advising, I’ve never pressed that button, but in the first year of the sanctions regime, I pressed it on three separate occasions out of fear of imminent violent attack from an irate client. On each occasion, they were shouting the word “Sanctions” as part of their stamping violent rage.
Anneliese Dodds is right to argue that policy must first concentrate on the immediate prospect of unemployment because the government’s promised building program is either much further down the road or still little more than an announcement that has been previously announced and still not happened.
She also went to some lengths to explain that economic policy is more than just economics, but is personal. It is about the permanent scarring effect on people’s lives. An economic shock for industry can be a far bigger event to an ordinary person, if they never recover.
For those people, the sanctions regime doesn’t merely put pressure on them to find work, it seeks to humiliate. It rubs the nose in the dirt of those whose confidence is shattered, skills lost, or whose talents and abilities were never discovered, due to events knocking them down at a vulnerable time of their lives.
The Future Jobs Fun was a policy following the 2008 crisis, whereby Gordon Brown promised each young person who had never worked, six months of employment at minimum wage. It was made possible because the government paid the wages which incentivised companies to provide the work. It meant those young people gained experience and a CV. They got used to having money to spend rather than vegetating their youth away. It was a success.
This speech by Labour’s shadow chancellor demonstrates that Labour is shaping up as a credible government in waiting. The government would be wise to listen to the advice from Anneliese Dodds.
Dan McCurry is the chair of the Labour Party Economic Society and works as a criminal defence solicitor in East London. He was a founding writer on LabourList and is the chair of Tower Hamlets CoOp.
The Labour Party Economic Society has an upcoming event with Jonathan Portes on the 23rd July 2020. To find out more go to: Jonathan Portes - Immigration policy at a time of mass unemployment?
He tweets at @dan_mccurry