Iain Duncan Smith: "This is our warning... the crisis is coming."
In an interview for The Spectator, one of the Conservative Party’s true Conservatives gives a detailed account of the state we’re in. When the coalition was formed more than a year ago, His Grace said that only three agendas really mattered: addressing the fiscal deficit and national debt; welfare reform to make work pay; and education reform to liberate schools and raise standards. While His Grace would prefer to see John Redwood at the Treasury, it is a source of comfort that both Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove are implementing truly Conservative reforms which will endure.
IDS says Britain is ‘in the last-chance saloon’. O, how His Grace loathes that hackneyed phrase of the way-out Wild West. We’ve been in it so many times that the last-chance saloon is at least the last bar 10: it is a tired wolf-crying political cliché designed to induce urgency and invariably linked to raiding our bank accounts. That aside, it is heartening that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a military man, approaches his task like a no-nonsense sheriff. It is reported that when he moved into his office he replaced the abstract ‘Cool Britannia’ paintings of his predecessor with scenes of the Duke of Malborough’s victories: ‘When a group of officials came to visit him just after he changed the decor, they told him it felt like the Ministry of Defence. "That’s right," he replied. "I want you to know that from now on, this is the war room."’
He describes the recent riots as gang-driven, but incited by groups like the Socialist Workers Party. Well, if that’s the case, they should be closed down and the ringleaders given four years like the Facebook Two. If only because these gangs ‘will try to do it again’, he prophesies, which is why David Cameron sees August 2011 like George W Bush saw September 11th 2001 – a game-changing, pivotal, crucial turning point. With up to 200 gangs in London, IDS advocates a US approach: ‘to offer gang members education and protection. Those who refuse are told there will be no hiding place.’
His Grace isn’t sure why we need to import and idea from the USA when it’s really common sense to your average Brit: fix the education system – get them young – and you’ve got them for life. The old Jesuit adage predates any Boston initiative. But outside of school is the more intractable problem of family breakdown. This is a difficult one, not least because the state has spent decades undermining the traditional family by downgrading marriage, sidelining fatherhood, subsidising single parenthood, and being ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ of whatever lifestyle happens to take your fancy. And now we read that IDS is ‘looking at a plan to intervene in 120,000 families who cause the greatest problems’. His Grace can hardly wait to hear what this intervention will be, for the state already offers ‘remedial education, work programmes, job interviews (and) drug addiction rehab’. There’s not a lot of point in getting young people off drugs and coaching them in job interviews when 154 per cent of job vacancies are filled by immigrants. The despair simply drives them back to drugs. You have to instil hope that education will lead to training and that training will result in gainful employment.
IDS is a Christian, and his mission is evangelical: he sees things rather as Margaret Thatcher saw them – as a battle between good and evil, and the problem is sin. Of course, he can’t easily say so because all hell would break loose. But he is intent on renewing society, and you do that by renewing the heart of man, and that is easier the earlier you captivate the heart. And he is adamant that ‘It cannot be the government doing this!’:
“The government can check the signals, but most of the intervention is done by the voluntary sector, private organisations, people who have proven programmes that work. You don’t want some official trying to descend from on high and intervene. We’ve been doing that for years, and it’s all gone wrong. I’m talking about intervention, but on a programme based around local communities. Government doesn’t do this. It can pave the way, set up the structures.”The initiatives are cross-party, and it is a joy to see fellow Christian Frank Field onboard. IDS says: “...we care more about our society than we do for the political party. I don’t care if I’m attacked for it. I want to get Britain right — to me that’s more important than actually having a political spitting match." And therein lies the problem, because David Cameron has to concern himself with political spitting matches as well as hold a coalition together. And the Liberal Democrats are not overly keen on supporting marriage or addressing these pressing social problems with Conservative remedies.
And it is difficult to see what may be done about youth unemployment when immigration reduces the prospects of British workers. The latest figures suggest that not only have immigrants taken all the jobs created in Britain since David Cameron became Prime Minister, but they have pushed nearly 100,000 British people out of the workplace and on to benefits. Unemployment among those aged 16-24 has jumped 15,000 to 949,000.
With almost a million unemployed young people - and five of them chasing every vacancy - it is simply not possible to address the deep-seated issues as long as the Government is restricted by the EU and bound by the ECHR. Parliament does not control our national borders, and neither can it legislate for British workers to be given British jobs. Before Jesus preached, he made sure his audience was well fed: it is very difficult to renew hearts on an empty belly.