George Osborne Gets It

This is a truly extraordinary document.

This evening I want to talk about our long term economic goals. I want to argue that fixing our broken society is integral to building a strong economy. Listen to our Prime Minister and you get the impression that social problems and economic problems are entirely separate. One day the Government is talking about knife crime – the next it’s about the banking system. One Minister delivers a speech about school discipline – another has an announcement about the housing market. We need to bring these different threads together. Labour came to power promising to deliver both social justice and economic efficiency. After 11 years, the evidence shows that they have fundamentally failed to deliver on either. We Conservatives understand that they are really two sides of the same coin. Of course we know that you cannot improve social conditions without economic success. But the crucial insight for modern Conservatives is that in the new global economy you cannot have economic success without social success.

Osborne goes on to describe the central importance of open markets and a skilled workforce, which leads him back to the state of society.

We understand that it’s our job to bring about a revolution in our welfare system. Because not only do persistent worklessness and the poverty it brings blight too many people and too many of our communities, they also deprive us of the motivated workforce that our companies need in order to compete. In a global economy that puts a premium on the highly skilled, Britain cannot afford to be held back by the drag anchor of millions of people who lack skills or aspirations. And we recognise that we have to mend Britain’s broken society. Not just because social breakdown causes misery for millions of families, but because we will never achieve the low tax economy that international competitiveness demands unless we reduce the long term demands on the state.

We have pledged to share the proceeds of growth, so that government grows more slowly than the trend rate of the economy over the cycle. That means that government spending will fall as a proportion of GDP. That’s the only way to restore our public finances to health and build the headroom for sustainably lower taxes. Of course we can make Whitehall more efficient and streamlined, and we must. But to get government to live within its means we have to tackle the real drivers of the growing state at source. So those who say that the Conservatives spend too much time talking about society and not enough time talking about the economy don’t understand that this is a false choice. Reducing educational failure, tackling worklessness and poverty, mending our broken society – these are all progressive social goals that we have rightly put at the very centre of our agenda.

I’ll note, briefly, that Osborne — a Conservative — explicitly characterizes his agenda as “progressive,” and he implicitly praises Lord Beveridge. This reminds me of the interesting notion that Grand New Party is more statist than the Cameron Conservatives.

The Osborne speech continues in this vein.

But we won’t make a lasting difference unless we also make Britain more family friendly. Iain Duncan Smith’s Social Justice Policy Group estimated that the cost of family breakdown is now well over £20 billion a year. In fact, I genuinely don’t think we’ll ever get to the heart of the big problems we face, from crime and anti-social behaviour to welfare dependency and educational failure, from debt and drug addiction to entrenched poverty and stalled social mobility, if we don’t do everything we can to support Britain’s families. Of course, every family is different, and every family has different needs and different pressures at different times. So we need a sensible, practical range of family centric policies. For a start, we need to sweep away Labour’s policies that actually make it pay for families to break up.


But of course, there’s more to families than money. It’s a startling fact that parents are more likely to split up in the first year after their child’s birth than at any other time. So we need to provide targeted support to help families cope with the unique stresses and strains of parenthood. We’ve already set out our plans to offer all parents flexible working. And we’ve announced that we will use savings from existing budgets to provide a universal health visiting service, with the health visitor acting as the trusted gateway to other services that a family might need – including relationship support. Supporting families, then, is another Conservative approach that will help us achieve progressive goals where Labour has so clearly failed.

Sorry for the lengthy excerpt. It’s just very cool to see someone so prominent talk about issues that I care about better than I ever could.