They still don’t get it, do they?

I WAS reminded by one of my own correspondents to write something about this rather embarrassing faux-pas by the Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley.

Andrew’s Marie Antionette moment was expressed thus:

Interestingly on many counts, recession can be good for us. People tend to smoke less, drink less alcohol, eat less rich food and spend time at home with their families.

Actually, no. Recession is not good for us. Even when the economy’s doing well, life is very, very difficult for an awful lot of people – people in full-time employment who are managing, somehow, to keep up with mortgage payments and bring up a family. So when those jobs, those homes and those families are threatened, it probably doesn’t come as much comfort that people have less cash for fags, booze and nice food. Does Lansley actually think that unemployment is enjoyable? An opportunity to spend more time with your family? I don’t know if Andrew or anyone close to him has ever experienced real, hopeless unemployment. I doubt it somehow.

But it’s interesting, isn’t it, how those who don’t fear for the security of their own jobs are complacent about recessions. Take George Monbiot. On 9 October 2007 he wrote an article headed “Bring on the recession”, in which he said:

I hope that the recession now being forecast by some economists materialises… I recognise that recession causes hardship. Like everyone I am aware that it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes. I do not dismiss these impacts or the harm they inflict… A recession in the rich nations might be the only hope we have of buying the time we need to prevent runaway climate change.

I expect a well-paid journalist like George Monbiot will never want for freelance work in these environmentally-aware times. So why should he fret over the fate of a few million people less fortunate than him?

I prefer the reliable sense and wisdom of the incompartable David Aaronovitch, who is one of the few columnists in Britain who can be bothered to grasp the enormity of the personal disaster that unempoloyment is. In today’s column in The Times, he wrote:

Employment is the key question: the need to keep people at work and earning, rather than to allow unemployment, and all its attendant moral, social and fiscal hazards, to soar. The habit of worklessness is one of the most debilitating vices that any people can acquire. Some of us have forgotten this.

I sympathise with Andrew Lansley to a certain extent. He’s not the first politician to have written something on his blog only to regret it later (ahem). But he clearly meant what he said, even though he regretted writing it. And I’m sorry to go on about it, but it is in the same league as Norman Lamont telling the Commons that “unemployment is a price well worth paying”.

It’s not. And if the Tories still don’t get that, they don’t deserve to be in government.



Filed under Blogging, Conservative Party, Economy

15 responses to “They still don’t get it, do they?

  1. richard

    So what he’s basically saying is that everyone should stop being so bloody miserable?

    Clearly only a cretin would say such a thing…

  2. You can add Polly Toynbee to that list of out-of-touch commentators.

    From today’s Guardian column:

    “Even if unemployment reaches 3 million, that still leaves 90% in secure jobs. Most people will suffer not at all in this recession: on the contrary they will do well as prices fall and the real value of their earnings rises.”

    Would she have written that were the Tories in power? Would she [bleep].

  3. Amused/Disgusted Bystander

    Spare us the faux shock.

    The number of “neets” has risen after 11 years of Labour throwing money at education, and those figures are before this recession kicks in. Thereby you have either failed in the task of helping the weakest and most vulnerable, or as a party you are complicit in increasing the number of people who had no hope when times are good. What will the recession bring for them?

  4. Evan Price

    Tom, what do you say about the plan to raise VAT to 18.5 % in 2011-12?

  5. John Smith

    You think smoking less, drinking less and eating healthier is bad? You wouldn’t encourage people to spend more time with their families?

    Not everything is black and white.

    Recession is bad, terrible even for many, and we all want to be out the other side as soon as possible.

    And no, I’m not especially secure in my job and I don’t have the savings to ride it out should I lose it.

  6. Correct. People don’t “enjoy” unemployment at all. They tend to spend the entire time eaten up with worry, and arguing with their spouse. It’s no accident that the all-time high for divorce was in 1993, 12 months after the early 90’s recession was deepest (it takes at least 12 months to divorce from the point you decide to). Families break up over money.

    I sincerely hope that all the Darling measures work. If necessary we should throw the kitchen sink at it, because the social ill-effects of recession cost the Treasury tons more than the tax cuts announced.

  7. Recession not good for us? I can’t wait. I’d particularly like to see a show called “Downsize, Downsize, Downsize” where City high flyer types, down on their luck, are forced to choose more humble abodes due to their reduced circumstances. You know, enters dingy flat, sniffs, and the presenter says: “Has it got the damp factor?”

  8. Stu

    Unemployment isn’t the drag it used to be, you know. At least, not according to Polly Toynbee today… If we’re trading quotes, of course:

    “Even if unemployment reaches 3 million, that still leaves 90% in secure jobs. Most people will suffer not at all in this recession: on the contrary they will do well as prices fall and the real value of their earnings rises.”

    But, of course Mr Harris, you know best, I’m sure…

  9. Andrew F

    The alcohol thing is what gets me. Why is this generation of politicians so insistent that stopping me from having a few JD and cokes on a Saturday night is worthy of any price?

    I like getting drunk every now and then. Got it? Okay. Now, Tories, follow my vote-winning instructions:

    1. Leave me alone.
    2. Raise my parents taxes. We honestly don’t need all this money.
    3. Go rebuild my school.
    4. A hospital would be good, too.


  10. madasafish

    Lansley is a muppet.

    Unemploymenyt is only good for politicians. Personal unemployment.
    As I suspect he may soon find out.

    Award for “left and right foot in mouth”

  11. Johnny Norfolk

    My word Tom. I see no answers to the various comments about Browns Borrowing Boom, but you rake up this piece by Lansley. You can see what he means like the report that peoples diet were more healthy during the war. It does not mean we want wars. So just try and think out of the box. Ooops Labour dont do that.

  12. Johnny, just consider, honestly, how you would have reacted if Lansley’s comments had been made by a Labour minister.

  13. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom ok in black and white terms they are stupid comments, However I can see what he was getting at. However he is not in government and there are far more things that concern me about Labour than this and it should concern you as well. Any comment about the 18.5%.

  14. Barry Primrose McLeish

    This reminds me of my favourite Aaronovitch quote. I’m old enough to remember why it’s important, too.

    !A couple of months ago I was being harangued for Blairishness by an old comrade of mine from the Campaign Against Youth Unemployment. I clean forgot to ask him to explain why he wasn’t still campaigning against youth unemployment.”

  15. Paul Williams

    Regarding not deserving to be in Government, is this story true from the New York Times, that Brown has sold out Tibet, Tom?

    China has given more money to the IMF in exchange for Britain to change it’s position on the status of Tibet, as documented on this site as well

    An utterly shameful, cynical and disgraceful act, that’s, quite frankly, made me bloody angry this morning.

    Where’s your moral compass now?

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