Chris Neal explains how the reports of the Centre for Social Justice and Conservative Party policy are converging in a direction which tends towards Cobdenism: people having more to do with one another and the government less.
The Centre for Social Justice’s 2007 “Breakthrough Britain” report identifies five pathways to poverty: family breakdown, economic dependency and worklessness, educational failure, addiction and serious personal debt. This seminal work has led to the development of over 190 policies to reverse social breakdown.
The CSJ’s influence at the 2009 Conservative Party Conference was evident with their policy recommendations influencing much of the modern Conservative approach unveiled in Manchester. Decentralisation, Social Action, Accountability, Housing, Welfare Reform, Family, Law and Order, Schools, Skills, Re-training, Apprenticeships were among the topics on the main agenda for this Conference and it was clear that Breakthrough Britain had permeated Conservative Policy on each. Iain Duncan Smith has shown great courage in tackling issues of social justice head on with his team at the CSJ and was rightly acknowledged by David Cameron who said about IDS in his Conference speech “I am proud to announce today that if we win the election he will be responsible in government for bringing together all our work to help mend the broken society.”
David Cameron vowed to devolve power to communities in his landmark speech to the Open University on 26th May 2009 and this again was underlined in Manchester. Empowering local people and communities to take control or as Iain Duncan Smith puts it “Our approach is based on the belief that people must take responsibility for their own choices but that government has a responsibility to help people make the right choices.”
This all makes great reading and when combined with Tory promises to sweep aside great swathes of bureaucracy and quangocracy would have been music to the ears of ‘Manchester Liberals’ such as Richard Cobden. But are we ready for this as a Nation? Has society become too reliant on economic dependency and worklessness after 12 years of top down government? Are some of the poorest Britons now so emasculated and devoid of aspiration that they won’t be able to adapt to a less intrusive state, one that encourages enterprise and personal choice?
The modern Conservative message makes a lot of sense and could doubtless see the revival of our Nation’s fortunes. Prosperity based on production rather than spiraling debt and replacing a culture of instant gratification with one of hard work and thrift. A Government committed to rewarding social responsibility, families, savings and enterprise. Government can create the framework but unless corporately we embrace the opportunities on offer all the elegant oratory heard at the Conservative Conference and the profoundly accurate conclusions made by the Centre for Social Justice will amount to nothing.
David Cameron in his Conference speech on Thursday 8th October spoke about opportunity “I know how lucky I’ve been to have the chances I had. And I know there are children growing up in Britain today who will never know the love of a father. Who are born in homes that hold them back. Who go to schools that keep them back. Children who will never start a business, never raise a family, never see the world. Children who will live the life they’re given, not the life they want. That is what I want to change. I want every child to have the chances I had.”
Opportunity has been missing for the poorest in society and they need more than a lottery ticket to escape poverty. I am not talking just about the children growing up now but the preceding generation, the so-called NEETS and NINJA’s. They are entrenched in economic dependency with no motivation to work as frequently they are better off financially by staying on benefits. Many aren’t interested in working even when offered the opportunity, as the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. Well they certainly know how to drink but they have never been led to water! What would happen if real opportunity came crashing in on their lives? Opportunity in the form of skills training, mentoring and micro venture funding. The opportunity to begin apprenticeships without formal qualifications. Opportunities that can build respect, self esteem and encourage ambition. Some would respond and through hard work begin to benefit from the change in their circumstances, in turn maybe their success would rub off on others.
Top down state solutions do not work as public servants have to tick boxes for ministers and are not free to react to individual needs. Those of us in the business community however are unencumbered by bureaucracy therefore allowed to think laterally and react appropriately to individual needs. Stop for a moment to consider your own situation and how you might be able to contribute. I was inspired by the Get Britain Working Campaign to set up local Job Clubs and can testify first hand the good that comes from people getting alongside one another when facing the difficulties bequeathed by unemployment. I have introduced a second strand to the Clubs where those prepared to start their own ventures have the opportunity to be mentored and even funded by members of our local business community. Mentoring in itself is socially cohesive creating friendships between people whose paths would not otherwise have crossed. This is more a case of leading someone to water and having a drink with him! Could you start a Job Club in your community or support budding entrepreneurs?
We assume Great Nation stature in times of adversity and maybe this deep recession will manifest the legendary but dormant British qualities of cooperation, courage, determination and hard work to overcome looming economic and social bankruptcy. David Cameron’s vision of a modern Conservative Britain deserves to succeed and we must take responsibility to make it happen.
I would enjoy hearing from anyone who might consider forming a Job Club: please use our contact form.