It seems that the Conservative approach to dealing with Neets (Not in education, employment or training) is to eradicate the need for such a title with David Cameron claiming, ‘Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits.’ adding, ‘We’ve got to offer them something better than that.’. So what will DC be offering our Neets? Removal of benefits if not in employment, education or training for the under-25s, a move that may seem appealing to the Tory faithful but has seen calls of ‘slavery’ from critics. Whilst this may seem like a tough approach, especially with Labour claiming they will introduce a living wage, it cannot be argued that any government would not want to tackle unemployment, even more so with regards to young people of which nearly half in the UK do not have a job.
There is no doubt both the Labour and Conservatives want to get people back in to work, the problem for voters and Neets is what approach serves themselves and the country best. The Conservatives can claim that they are serving the country’s economic interest best by forcing people to look for and get work or stop being a drain on the taxpayer’s purse. However this has a ‘big brother’ feel to it in which the state keeps their watchful eye on you until you start paying your taxes, an intrusion into the citizen’s privacy and personal freedom. Labour, on the other hand, look like they are going to win votes by offering a living wage, similar to the minimum wage that was introduced under Tony Blair’s government, which is basically about one more Pound an hour. Indeed who wouldn’t be excited about a wage increase? But then where will the money come from? I hear a Tory backbencher shumbling (shouting and mumbling, a key skill in the Houses of Parliament) ‘more borrowing and more debt, we’ll be back again to clear up their mess!’. To win votes the Labour Party also need to address its poor reputation on economic issues recently; they cannot be seen to just throw money at the problem.
The situation, as I see it, seems to be that Labour need to get tough with the economy and the Tories need to get soft with welfare. Are we then to choose between the two? What of the person who believes that the living wage would make getting into work more appealing but also believes the current situation for young people leaving school is reasonably accurately described by DC? This opinion it would seem is either irrelevant or hidden in the UKIP manifesto (doubtfully). So perhaps the Labour and Conservatives should look over each other shoulders and take a bit of what people like and put forward a combined policy. A policy that offers those who are willing to work a decent wage and those who refuse (but can) not a penny seems both logical and fair.