Cameron: We won’t repeat mistakes of 1980’s

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David Cameron has seemingly taken a swipe at the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s government today, without actually directly naming the Former Premier herself. Cameron appeared to repudiate past Conservative government approaches to unemployment by claiming that a Conservative government of today and tomorrow would not ‘stand by and do nothing’ as unemployment rose.

In a clever and typically charismatic speech Cameron identified the fact the even as an economy recovers, the recovery process for those who were left unemployed by the recession takes much longer. He claimed “We know from past experience that when people are laid off in a recession, the impact often lasts past the slump, even into recovery. Cyclical unemployment becomes structural unemployment. There’s a clever term for this – hysteresis – but at its heart it’s a very human story.”

I am unsuprised that Cameron has called the Thatcher government to account for its ‘laisez faire’ attitude to unemployment, after all it is popular to do so. However fundamentally he is playing a very shrewd political game which needs to be understood. By claiming unemployment will be one of his top priorities he is tapping in to the concious of the electorate and painting a very positive, distinctly individual image of himself.

On the one hand his comments today mark a clear break from the party’s Thatcherite past, without going so far as to criticise the Lady herself who is even now held in enormously high regard by grass roots Tories and Shadow Ministers alike, whilst on the other hand his message ties in perfectly to his core campaign message of social responsibility and renewal. The fact remains that many Britons feel that Britain has ‘gone to the dogs’ under New Labour and yearn for the kind of radical social revolution Cameron promises.

I must admit on a purely personal level I do not believe it is the governments primary job to ensure unemployment remains low. I believe that that is up to the individual, the free market and the employers. I believe a governments job is to foster and encourage capitalism, free trade, commerce and investment whilst ensuring taxes, inflation and state intervention remain low. Moderate unemployment for me is more often than not a neccessary evil to be endured to see these primary objectives achieved.

Having said this I do understand and support Camerons desire to move beyond our past and present our future to the public. We have to show that we can adapt our policies to suit the problems which face us now the way we faced them then. Cameron must make Britains broken society his number one priority. He, like Thatcher, needs to take tough decisions to ensure that he can enact his ‘social revolution’ the way she enacted her economic one… even if that means bashing the policies of his party predecessors.

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4 thoughts on “Cameron: We won’t repeat mistakes of 1980’s

  1. I think this is absolutely right. The Conservatives have to show they are concerned about rising unemployment, any other attitude would be intolerable.

    I’d disagree with you over your role for government. I think it becomes an issue of governance when unemployment starts to rise, particularly when it reaches higher levels than normal. Indeed it became an issue for the Thatcher government forcing it to end the strict monetarist policies of the early 1980s. Indeed, high unemployment was a major electoral disadvantage, only cancelled out by the nationalist euphoria surrounding the Falklands.

  2. Of courrse you have to get a disagreement in there somewhere dan lol… however… I would say I said that ‘moderate unemployment’… the likes of which we are seeing now should not be seen as a government priority. Of course if unemployment goes sky high then yes it should become a priority… but that does not mean I feel the government should ‘create’ jobs to fill the gap. Its bad enough having the banks under state control… I wouldnt be happy having most of the population in the employ of the state either! However back on topic… as a general rule mmoderate unemployment would not be a big priority for me

  3. High unemployment is relative. Over the last decade or so we have been used to unemployment of around 1 million. It now stands at 1.8 million, rising by 164,000 in the three months up to the end of August. Relatively, therefore, this is higher unemployment than we are used to. It demands a response, one that Cameron has given.

    I agree with you that public works are probably not the best policy at the moment. A Keynesian re-boot would only increase the public debt and increase tax and mortgage rates in the longer term. In this regard there is some ideological ground opening-up between the government and the Conservatives. Brown is about to announce tax-cuts which will be added to the public debt, whereas Cameron is about to propose smaller cuts targeted at unemployment and with a planned economy to pay for them. It will be interesting to see which approach works.

  4. It’s a simple historical fact that since the Boer War (we are now talking late 1800’s here) government, in one form or another, lightly or not, has taken on the responsibility of regulating the economy sufficiently to ensure unemployment remains low. Not only on a moral point, but logically it makes sense: less people working means a smaller tax base and decreased tax revenues, and more money paid out to those not working, thanks to policies enacted which date back, again to the Boer War.

    Public works would be a foolish way to shore things up. In the long term there is no real gain, because once they cease to be a priority and there’s less funds for them the private sector has to step in any way. Better the private sector and market forces does the job its self, when it is capable. But I think we should acknowledge the government is definitely not powerless when it comes to ensuring the private sector is assisted in every way it can be. I just wonder how much panning Cameron will have to do when it comes to handling the economy; how much it needs; and how much Conservative ideology can stomach?

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