David Maddox: 'Naivety, born of ideology, is concerning some'

ONE of the strange aspects of the Coalition's drive for reforming welfare has been the general reluctance to talk about the workshy. .

Politicians, including ones with reforming zeal like the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, are reluctant to characterise the long-term unemployed like that, insisting it is just "the few" while most of the others really want help.

But politicians know that most of the public, who work long hours for a living and see 1 in every 4 of their taxes spent on welfare, believe there are many thousands of people out there who would rather watch Jeremy Kyle than actually make a contribution to society. Mr Duncan Smith decided to tap into this sentiment by essentially promising to turf these ne'erdowells off their sofas and get them working or lose their benefits.

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There's no doubt too that it fits into his admirable belief in the work ethic. But it is possible there is a certain degree of naivety around the proposal and that, as with the hastily put together child benefit changes, the nuts and bolts of it have not been thought through.

While the unions have taken a blanket opposition to every coalition change of welfare, in this case they may have a point. It is easy to see how a sudden source of cheap labour could be quite tempting for local authorities trying to cut costs.

And it is this naivety, born out of ideology, which is concerning some in the Coalition. It was why the Labour MP Frank Field, now a coalition adviser, was sidelined by Tony Blair. What he said sounded good, but it came unstuck when the realities were applied.