Islands of success in a collectivist sea

The centre-right think tank Reform has launched a report arguing the harm Labour’s greater public spending is having upon the poorer parts of the United Kingdom. This imbalance is feeding economic and demograhic changes that could become a self-perpetuating cycle of ever-growing dependency. However, it highlights how a number of cities (Leeds, Liverpoool, Manchester and Newcastle) are bucking these regional trends creating “islands of success”. It strongly advocates a dual approach of lower tax and slower public expedniture growth – full report here. Interestingly, the SNP seems to have already got the message, the Sunday Times reports leaked plans to make inroads to the business community with proposals for radical reductions in Scottish business rates. This would be the latest initiative of a reinvigorated SNP under the leadership of Alex Salmond that has already seen them overtake the Labour Party in the opinion polls.

  • abucs

    i humbly submit that the welfare system has been with us for decades and there is still poor people.

    I warrent it will be with us for decades yet and there will still be poor people.

    Of all the billions of pounds that has been spent, it could of transformed the education and health sectors or created whole new industries led by the people ‘of these islands’ for the betterment of all.

    Materially it has lifted up the bottom but it has also fed the bottom line of a rise in the cost of living. Houses, rents, milk, labour costs etc causing an increase in the pressure on the amount of work demanded in order to just get by (against the increasing competition of the cheaper third world countries) and the number of children people can have and still be ‘somewhere in the middle’.

    It has also made people dependant on the welfare state and taken away the resiliance and togetherness of the family unit and community to the detriment of society. People now concentrate on their individual rights and state entitlements rather than their community/family contributions and deserved rewards.

    I started out on the left side of politics but i think it’s a myth to create a garden of Eden where no-one has to worry.

    If God had to scrap it in the end, we might have to as well.

  • Garibaldy

    What is most interesting about this – one of a number of similar arguments that have been made regularly over the past number of months – is what it reveals about the real agenda of prominent sections of Conservative opinion. We hear rhetoric about public services etc, but in reality we see that the deep hostility of such people to the welfare state and state involvment in the economy remains as deep as ever. They are waging an ideological battle on these grounds while mouthing plaititudes out of the other sides of their mouths.

    Leopards and spots.

  • Garibaldy

    On the SNP, haven’t they been talking about dropping business costs for ages, usually citing the free state as an example to follow.

    I don’t think it can be seen as part of a rejection of the welfare state by the SNP

  • Garibaldy


    Note how many more poor people there were, and how much poorer they were, before the welfare state.

  • abucs

    i am sensitive to your comments Garibaldy.
    And i don’t want to come over as some sort of uncaring monster.

    But i honestly ask if we are better people now with our tv’s and sound systems and mobile phones and cars etc.

    Yes, materially, there are less poor people with the welfare state. I agree.

    An open question – Is the sum of human worth dependant on how rich we are ?

    Just off to get some take-away now.


  • Garibaldy


    I agree entirely that humans are more than the sum of their material possessions. But, I think it’s unarguable that generally access to opportunity, education, leisure, even health are linked to income. Class is not the only thing that determines people’s behaviour and lifestyle. But it is I would say the major thing. Except where something like sectarianism can get in the way of course.

  • abucs

    Garibaldy, i agree with all of that, especially in the western world.

    I have recently relocated to Asia. I am currently in Australia but intend to reside mostly in the Philippines where i have spent a great deal of time.

    In Asia the families are larger and rely more on eachother. Like the dwindling rural areas of Ireland people there are family orientated and learn to amuse themselves. They learn musical instruments and sing and get involved much more in community events. Their leisure time is well taken care of without spending huge amounts of money.

    Its true that for local costs education and health are expensive and this is where i think the west should concentrate its money / wealth (while it still has it).

    But so much of welfare is spent on crap and encouraging unsustainable behaviour and separate living IMHO.

    Take care.

  • Evil Sawmill

    Did anyone read the Economist this week?

    The article outlines the success of the “welfare to work” scheme in the US. The scheme removed the entitlement to welfare, even for single mothers. After 5 years on welfare the payments would stop. Instead of the lefty predictions of millions falling below the poverty line and starving to death, the millions actually went back to work.

    Although some are not that better compared to when on welfare, others have been able to work their way up the social ladder by becoming nurses and teachers through in-job government training schemes.

    It is a wonderful example of how a practical, conservative policy can impact on lives, compared to the old lefty these-people-can’t-help-themselves-so-the-government-has-to nonsense.

  • Garibaldy


    Thanks for that article. Interesting stuff, if somewhat flawed. No anlysis of the potential social costs regarding absent parents who can’t afford childcare in ghettoes, for example. No-one on the left believes in keeping people on welfare for the sake of it. Socialists believe in giving people the dignity of work, and in its absence, to ensure a decent standard of living. Things like the new deal in Britain (which has lots of problems) have these goals.


    I agree that community spirit is vital, although surely it is the Thatcherite belief that there is no such thing as society that encourages individualism. At one level, the shift from collective to individual bargaining and the erosion of union rights was a deliberate one to break the very sense of communal solidarity whose loss you are lamenting. There are problems with the welfare state, but they can be tackled while maintaining the vision which inspired it.


  • slug

    I think there is a distinction between public expenditure and public investment.

    Investment in education, transport infrastructure, and research capabilities, are things that make Northern Ireland employees more productive and better jobs and better pay.

    Better jobs and better pay will bring people back and further expand the economy.

    The Republic’s economy isn’t just down to Company Tax, it couldn’t be that simple. It was a well educated workforce and an elastic supply of skilled young workers.

    We need to recognise that for all the talk of our wonderful grammar schools, our education system fails far too many people.

    Look at the level of “sickness” in our employment data. You will find that this is the real reason unemployment doesn’t look too bad. In fact these people usually aren’t really sick, but the benefits system generates them. Its a problem shared by other UK regions. This “sickness” is always found in deprived areas, where people are caught in a cycle of low education, low aspiration low attainment, and low employment.

    A combination of substantially better education and lower availability of sickness benefit would certainly help more than a corporation tax cut.

  • slug

    By the way, Hain is right to worry about wasteful duplication in the education system. If we can amalgamate schools, or share sites, we can cut out a lot of waste and refocus that on actual education rather than buildings and admin.

  • kensei

    “The article outlines the success of the “welfare to work” scheme in the US. The scheme removed the entitlement to welfare, even for single mothers. After 5 years on welfare the payments would stop. Instead of the lefty predictions of millions falling below the poverty line and starving to death, the millions actually went back to work.”

    Of course, that article doesn’t comment if people’s standard of living has improved, or if the people working have to take multiple jobs just to stay afloat or the impact on families of single parents (or even two parents) having to work a lot of hours or any other social impact or what happens if there is a recession or how wages have stayed static in real terms for an awful long time unless you are way up the scale. It doesn’t say a lot of things.

    What it says is that welfare claims have went down since the entitlement went.

    Hold the press, people.

  • kensei

    Oh, and it doesn’t mention the huge amount of debt modern societies labour under, either.

  • aquifer

    Plenty of perverse incentives about. People doing the double displacing honest workers, families being paid to split up, people paid to imagine themselves into sickness. Young people regarding parenthood as a shortcut to adult status.

    Joseph Rowntree Foundation

    For me the question is the state of Social Capital, the connections and beliefs that protect communities from degradation by labour, drugs, and sex markets, or which support the development of young people capable of succeeding as social adults and parents.

  • slug

    These ideas on how to revive the UKs regions, contained in the Reform report, are precisely the sort of issues that unionist intellectuals and unionist politicians should be discussing. So I register my discontent that so little discussion is happening from DUP politicians on the topics raised by this thread.

  • fair_deal


    That is somewhat unfair slug. The DUP has been calling for a reduction in our inflated public sector for some time. Perhaps you missed this:

  • slug

    FD: Yes, Robinson has been making some contribution to this. And I don’t mean to single out the DUP. The lack of a local focus on these issues is a problem. Obviously devolution must be on a firm foundation and the DUP are making sure of that – ok. It just gets frustrating that we still aren’t at the point where we can really focus on the debate about the UK and the economic development of its regions.