Thursday, 2 September 2010

SDLP's handout addiction

At Unionist Lite O’Neill looks at possible nationalist responses to the government’s deficit plans.  His assessment is that Plaid Cymru and Sinn Féin are beyond help in their analyses, but there is a chance that the SNP and SDLP could, to some degree, embrace opportunities to promote leaner enterprise economies for their respective regions.

The SNP’s ’pork barrel’ tactics are, at least partially, a separatist irritant aimed at London.  So Salmond’s party has a decent opportunity to tacitly accept that Scotland’s economy will benefit from substantial rebalancing.  Although the SDLP has shown signs of original thinking on growth, its dependency culture is more deeply ingrained.

Take Alex Attwood’s  response to proposed coalition welfare reform and its effects on Northern Ireland, where we have the highest level of economic inactivity in the UK.

The government’s view, which will be developed in a report by Ian Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice, launched today in Belfast, is that welfare dependency drives poverty and, therefore, it must be made worth claimants' while to get off benefits and into work.  The Social Development Minister’s view is that Northern Ireland is so dependent on welfare provision it should be exempt from any reform!

In other words, our addiction to benefits is so bad that measures designed to combat that addiction must not apply.  It is a remarkably hopeless philosophy, indicative of a mindset which the SDLP should ditch.


K D Tennent said...

I think there is a real danger though, that central government is also not thinking about what can replace the benefit culture. I agree with its replacement, but we need to be clear about what is intended - or else the poor may simply turn to crime, or in NI's case, political crime/violence. We need some sort of social entrepenurship scheme or similar, perhaps combined with assisted emigration.

IJP said...

I agree with much of that, K D, but nevertheless Owen's point stands. We most certainly cannot just leave things the way they are.

At the launch today, Margaret Ritchie provided evidence of what Owen suggests on both counts - she was thoughtful and for the most part sensible, but there was still the underlying idea that we shouldn't make too much effort people getting off benefits because there wasn't enough work here anyway (indeed, implicitly, that others aren't giving us enough work).

The notion that we should create our own work, and/or that actually there has been quite a lot of work out there for the past five years or so and we still had very high economic inactivity rates (and *immigration*) seems somewhat lost amid the excuses for inaction.

K D Tennent said...

Couldn't agree more - the quicker the dependency culture comes to an end, the better. The NI government needs to accept this and take positive action by looking at what can replace it.