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.