Front page of today's Daily Telegraph reports on a speech David Cameron is going to make next Tuesday. It could be the speech that neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown have ever had the political courage to make. And it may be the speech that persuades many more people (including even Simon Heffer perhaps) that it's time for a Cameron Government. How are we going to reduce the millions of people on benefit, both unemployment and incapacity - and what role is there for the private sector to play in delivering the policy. This is a very controversial territory - and it will not be the first time that David Cameron has ventured into it. He has spoken before about his interest in the Wisconson approach - which may well turn out to be too ruthless for the UK taste, but is in the right general direction.
Whenever I've been accused of being a bit of a wimpish Tory, I like to shift the debate onto this subject (or abortion) where I'm unquestionably a man of the right. I like the idea of anyone wanting to claim unemployment benefit being required to do something for it (after a suitable period of time) - even if it is a job that has only marginal direct benefit to society. I also believe that we should introduce a tough regime in respect of access to incapacity benefit. And I think we should expect single parents to work as soon as the youngest child reaches the official school starting age. This just seems to me to be common sense - and fair to all those who do work, and who have a genuine need of benefit
I note that the Telegraph report refers to David not having ruled out putting a time limit on some benefits. I don't know whether this is true, but I would take some persuading to support this. It seems to me that if someone qualifies for benefit, it should be paid.
In his Saturday Column, Simon Heffer goes too far for me - no surprise there. He blames current high benefit dependency on poor educational standards, on unfettered immigration, and on consistently weak Governments who will not tackle such a difficult problem. I can go along with all this to a degree. But I don't agree with his blaming the Minimum wage. I understand the principle that wages should be based on a contract agreed between employer and employee, depending on what the market dictates, but I do not accept that the minimum wage does the damage he claims - and won't do if it continues to be set at the right level. I would be surprised if any Conservative Government would want to undo this Labour introduction. It doesn't read as if Simon is totally on board, which is a relief because I'm not at all sure a Heffer manifesto would ever win a majority, let alone in 2009.