As is well documented Glasgow East has one of the highest numbers of unemployment and incapacity benefit subscribers in the UK.
So it may seem strange that James Purnell, the Works and Pension minister, has chosen today to formally release his plans that detail his attempt to curb those numbers by forcing the jobless to work for their dole money and those on incapacity benefit back to work.
Making the unemployed do community service.
Drug addicts will be forced to get treatment or they will lose their benefit.
Any drug addicts who lie about their addiction will be branded fraudsters and made to pay back all their benefits received.
Disability claimants will be pressed into work if at all possible.
Single parents with children aged seven or more will be expected to seek work – not claim benefit.
Hardcore heroin and crack cocaine users could be jailed if they refuse to get treatment while receiving unemployment benefit.
All 2.7million people on the sick will undergo fresh tests by independent doctors rather than their local GP to determine whether they can work. It seems every person in Glasgow East on incapacity benefit will have to get reassessed at Cadogan St.
Incapacity benefit will be scrapped by 2010.
It remains to be seen if these plans will be popular in Glasgow East.
I suspect most people there will agree with the measures outlined for the drug addicts. Drugs have been a blight on their community for too long.
I suspect people will be more concerned at the incapacity benefit being scrapped and those on it being forced to work. There may be some cheats but I would say that most people on that benefit are genuinely unable to work. Few could cheat the system with the regulations currently in place. I remember having to take my very ill father to Cadogan St to prove he was unable to work and the stress it caused him. He died not long after.
In that respect I have complete sympathy with this view from The Times:
A drug aid worker said: “Some of my clients simply aren’t capable of doing a job, any kind of job, no matter how much you try to force them or incentivise them. They’re too far gone; their brains are too damaged by booze or drugs. If you abolish their benefits you condemn them to squalor and great risk.”As another charity worker put it: “You’re talking about a quick fix for half the adult population of Glasgow. It’s madness.”
That is the big problem with the plan. Some people can’t work, will never work again. It may be all their fault through drugs, alcohol or whatever but even if they could get clean their brains are so badly damaged they still could not work. And putting such people under stress to find work is morally reprehensible.
Its a one size fits all solution that just can’t work for the genuinely ill.
Its a idea that Labour have pinched from the Conservatives.
George Osborne, Conservative Shadow Chancellor, said the ideas in the green paper were taken directly from Tory policy papers of just a few months ago, adding: “We regard today as a victory for the centre-right in British politics.”
No wonder John Mason, the SNP candidate, previously commentated that he could see little difference between Labour and the Conservatives. And Labour had the cheek to complain about it!
Glasgow is expected to be a pilot area for the plans. Labour are waiting till after the Glasgow East by-election to confirm this.
Margaret Curran has supported the plan.
The question is why are Labour taking a gamble announcing radical plans that will affect around half the Glasgow East constituency?
If they were so sure of the policy then why not just announce Glasgow as the pilot area now, instead of after the by-election?
It seems to me that Labour already know that Glasgow East will be lost.
If it wasn’t then the policy would have been unveiled the day after the by-election, once they had held Glasgow East.
The Glasgow pilot announcement will be deferred only to avoid a whitewash in the by-election. Gordon Brown will probably survive if the vote is tight. If Labour lost all its votes in one of its safest seats the Prime Minister would be forced out of office by the Labour MPs.
One of the reasons things look so grim for Labour is that it seems the postal votes have been checked. Now the ‘count’ seems to have been leaked.
In the 2005 General election Glasgow East Labour’s postal votes outnumbered the SNP’s by 4 to 1.
If the leaks on Politicalbetting.com and the Herald comments section are true (** I’ve decided that the better choice of action is not to reveal the number posted on the boards myself, but you can easily find them for yourselves! **)
Postal votes had to be applied for on or before the 9th July. They had to be received by the 16th. Early in the campaign then. Momentum for the SNP was just beginning then and the first rather dodgy poll had Labour still holding the lead.
Still close then but the first tremor of the political earthquake has begun.