A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jim on the politics of aspiration

DWP Minister Jim Murphy MP, the faster half of my early morning running partnership at NUS Conferences (in the days when I was thin), has contributed a chapter to a timely pamphlet (downloadable by following this link) launched by the Social Market Foundation yesterday about the Politics of Aspiration.

Speaking at the launch Jim said that the government had made real progress on poverty, but that without public consent we won’t eradicate material, relative and inter-generational poverty. He said we cannot tackle this problem through a ‘call to social solidarity’.

The UK has the second lowest tolerance of redistribution and calling for action on this topic would only reach out to a certain audience. To engage with the public on this need we to change the context of the debate. It needs to be framed around aspiration, because society is increasingly middle class and aspirational and we need to appeal to this "politics of aspiration”.

He said Government has made massive strides on redistribution, despite hostile public opinion. Post-97 we didn’t seek public consent on this matter, we just got on with it but haven’t taken public with us. Live 8 demonstrated that people care about global poverty, but this concern has yet to translate into caring about domestic poverty. Jim also felt that increasing immigration was leading to intolerance of the unemployed. The number of Poles employed in Britain was showing the public that there were jobs available, leading them to the conclusion that Brits on unemployment benefit were lazy.

To get the public on board we need to frame the debate about poverty as one about individuals not being able to succeed unless society succeeds and this problem needs to be tackled for society to succeed. i.e. an individual's success depends on the success of tackling poverty in society. This attitude is driving environmental policy and international policy (e.g. cut emissions for the sake of future generations and intervention in Afghanistan to tackle heroin problem).

He called for Government structure to change, as it is not built to tackle this problem. Institutions designed at a central level lack a community feel, so the welfare state needs to be devolved further. People in local areas know much better than Westminster what works.

He said the Government doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have a lever to micro-manage aspiration. The key way to raise aspiration is to get parents into work. This has a knock on effect on children. The Government also needs to offer more support to those who want to work and match people to jobs.

More compulsion is the way to tackle those who don’t want to work, greater intervention from advisers, more interviews etc. We need to put guarantees in place to ensure that people are better off in work. Periods of long term unemployment creates a scar on your employment record that stays with you.

Good stuff from one of the key players in the up-and-coming generation of middle-ranking Ministers - clear-headed thinking and looking at how the wider country, not just our own people, view tackling the issue, and how to get them to see the merits of Labour's agenda.


Blogger Chris Paul said...

Fair enough Mr Jim. But I rather prefer Bono's rock and roll directness:
I tell America to help combat world poverty not because she SHOULD, but because she CAN.

OWTTE. In other words POWER not GUILT. Flattery not humiliation. Seems like a good plan.

3:53 pm, May 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what's the latest on Penny Thompson?

4:07 pm, May 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yawn.... the 'politics of aspiration' another false dichotomy which I suppose is meant to sit opposite the 'politics of deliberate sabotage of your own life'. hmmmmmm. Anyway, this kind of thinking fails the moment it is exposed to reality, and creating flimsy excuses like 'everyone in britain in middle class now' achieves nor hides a thing.

Aspiration to what exactly? A crippling mortage? A repetitive and low paid service sector job? Becoming a better paid stooge for some bank or organisation that probably deals with arms companies, lends irrespnsibly and provides neither fulfilling work or caters for a genuine social need? People in this country may not like revolution, they may like their change slow - but since the nation state has been redundant for 30 or so years now what Labour offers in terms of reform is always within the boundries of what global capitalism allows - a necessary product of our time. However I beleive that people are smart enough to handle that, and that we should tell them so rathre than all this terminal and obsufocating gibberish about 'aspiration' 'choice' 'buzzword' etc.

As for international poverty, lets just say i found the whole 'makepovertyhistory' campaign a total laugh.. poverty will end when we all die in a nuclear/wmd holoasut fight over the earths dwindling resources (a problem Luke has never adressed in his posts) or when we makecapitalismhistory, charity is a scourge that acts as a safe release valve for peoples guilt, throwing a teaspoon of water on a great big petrol fire rather than actually turning the fire off at source.

As for the unwillingness of the brits to redistribute wealth, if you raise people to fight like vipers and think only of themselves, their desires and consumer goods in a system of late capitalism that has reached the height of its international murder and its decadence amongst the rich then really what else do you expect! The ruling ideology of the day being that of the ruling class and all that if im not mistaken...

7:50 pm, May 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to read about the likes of Jim Murphy continuing to raise the topic of aspiration.

It is something that really get's up the nose of many alleged campaigners (and even a few good-salary earning professionals) in the sector. According to them, we must not encourage the poor or disadvantaged to do aspiration or transformational thoughts or hanker after'middle class', namby-pamby or materialist things. These activists and professionals need the poor or disadvanged to stay that way - without any thought to self-betterment, hopes or aspirations.
Much easier just to go on with the 'blame others' or even 'blame the world' game. An approach that of course also wholly disempowers the poor or diadvantaged from ever doing anything for themselves with a bit of support and encouragement rather than permanent and total dependence on others (like those same activists and professionals).

3:44 pm, May 02, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like I should be offended by that last post, but at the same time am not sure I entirely understand it.

5:34 pm, May 02, 2007


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