Friday 31 August 2018

Frank Field - an odd fish but perhaps a great one?

So, whilst I can be thankful that Mr Field has resigned from Labour and kept the anti-Semitism stories in the papers, it does not stop him being a strange man indeed.

There is a common thing in the House of Parliament that anyone who has served a long-time is judged to be an elder statesman, no matter what there record. Even Dennis Skinner and Bill Cash get treated as living saints - god forbid even Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Field has had as his cause for many a year the welfare state and needs of those who use it. It is truly an honourable endeavour - one that he shares with Iain Duncan-Smith.

Yet Mr Field, for a Labour politician has some odd views indeed. he is anti-immigration and pro-brexit. He admitted to admiring Margaret Thatcher. In this way he is perhaps a glorious, champion of the real working class - which is why he stands out so badly now in the Islington middle-classs communist phase that Labour is going through.

Even more interesting for Mr Field, is that Blair challenged him to think the unthinkable. So unthinkable were his recommendations on welfare that Blair fired him with no intention of listening to him anymore. David Cameron, in his Blair copying ways, hired Field to show he was inclusive. With the same result, his ideas got him fired by Cameron too.

So whilst Field will be celebrated as this great thinker, the truth is he is a man unable to persuade the Government to enact his reforms - so perhaps a failure. But here are his main 5 ideas:

- Scrap means testing for benefits as it does not stack up on a cost/benefit analysis
- Use non-state Friendly societies to get people to work together to improve their lot and reduce the role of the state
- Reduce non-contributory benefits that encourage idleness
- Use different measures to assess life chances to channel funding support to the most underprivileged families
- Increase sure start centre support to help the worst of families bring up their kids

When you look at that, no wonder Brown hated him as Brown wanted everyone on the teat of the state to generate the welfare vote and Cameron was non-plused with ideas about increasing spending during the austerity years.

However, all of those ideas are good ones and better that what we have now - damn shame his career will be remembered only for it ineffectiveness and for the fact he himself nominated Jeremy Corbyn!


Electro-Kevin said...

It is Parliament that is the failure, not Field.

I agree with all his reforms (as above.)

Not only are the wrong behaviours rewarded but (worse) the right ones are punished.

Getting to work, for example. Taxed to the hilt in very many ways.

Nick Drew said...

classic case of eigensinnig, I'm afraid

most people deeply suspicious of that

John McCain likewise

CityUnslicker said...

Nick true enough, still somewhat a shame that someone was asked, twice to fix the welfare system - both times ignored. Now we have universal tax credits, a poor answer to what has become an unmanageable beast.

Raedwald said...

Reminds you of the advice of Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon of the IEA, doesn't it? Both strongly critical of every bit of Labour state enslavement of the working class since the 1911 National Insurance Act.

The truth is that Labour has always hated and feared the working class. And hated and feared those who endeavour to allow that troublesome, disobedient, patriotic and smart population cohort to stand on its own feet. I too put Field up there with Harris and Sheldon.

Bill Quango MP said...

I'm with Tony and Dave on this. And Gordon too.

There are absolubtely zero votes in attempting to reform the welfare system.
There are votes in giving people free stuff.

Any attempt to reform a system this big, this old, and this complex, and so full of anomalies and exceptions can only successfully be done by either a baby bite at a time. Or running a parallel system that takes over on the day the old system is switched off.

The first method is virtually pointless for government. Only the largest and most obvious and easiest areas can be changed. Tax credits for those on £100k. Brown's ludicrous £250 for every child born after 'x'

There is little saving to be had here. Only the most faddish and obviously insane can be tackled within the life of a parliament. And win no votes anyway.

The second would require the most patient and long term, committed, universally agreed between all parties, two decade long, big funding, unwavering decision to persevere.
It would cost a fortune. Would take many parliaments to complete. And would , if it was to be worthwhile, have many more losers than winners.

And every snag along the way, as with universal credit, would be reported as a 'whaa! whaa ! calamity' by the media.

And all just for the good of the nation. Who is interested in that?

Cameron, committing to IDS, which deserves praise for both, was also severely constrained by the Treasury. And suffered the temper tantrums from the quiet man who saw his grandiose plans being scaled back. And the timescale for implementation brought forward, with all the associated problems that would bring.

There are no votes in universal credit. Not ever from those who have to implement it.
There are plenty of lost votes in it.

Tony Harrison said...

I've respected Frank Field for a long time, an acknowledged expert on our welfare system and one of the more honest, able MPs. Any anyone who's fired by both Blair and Cameron can't be all bad.

Thud said...

He was my M.P. for a few years until recently, the heart of his constituency was old hard core labour the type whose views would terrify the metro elite.

dearieme said...

It's bloody rude to compare Field, broadly a Good Thing, to that odious wee turd John McCain.

Anonymous said...

I work with UC claimants and in many cases it is better than the system it replaces. It is also deeply mired in social engineering, especially for single people under 34.

The "nudge" department at the DWP has been working overtime with some of the twists and turns and the final UC system is not yet in place.

Is it wrong? Is it right? Who knows but don't underestimate the State's ability to control the populace with their actual tax and spend policies.

Wildgoose said...

The whole of economics can be summed up using just two words: "Incentives Matter". This applies just as much to the Benefit System as it does to the wider economy. The real skill is to have incentives aligned to the betterment of society as a whole.

Electro-Kevin said...

Now here really is an odd fish. It had me in tears of laughter. See if little 'un gets her bike. Careful not to play too loud in the office.

Nick Drew said...

Oh look ...

What Frank Field and John McCain have in common

Now where did they get that from ..?

Anonymous said...

There is a hint of a cultural issue here. There are those that prefer the Anglo-Saxon adversarial model in business, politics and other aspects of life. There are those that prefer a collaborative approach - typically European.

Brexit could be seen as a clash of cultures in the same way as Trump's dislike of McCain might be cultural or Field's dislike of Corbyn.

Which a person prefers might be an indication of their cultural leanings - culture being used in its anthropological sense.