On a recent R5 phone-in, Frank Field was identified by callers of all persuasions as the only Westminster politician everyone felt they could actually trust. Not surprising: coming from the left he has uniquely earned a reputation for intelligence, experience, and most of all, telling it like it is. Especially when it comes to welfare reform (OK, he threw a wobbly when Tony refused to promote him in 1998, but did anyone imagine Tone really wanted to think the unthinkable on welfare reform?).
So given our debate about poverty, it's useful to read Frank's summary reform package set out in today's Sunday Times. He'd like to see four key reforms:
- welfare benefits to be time limited, as under Clinton's reforms in the US
- authority over welfare spending to be localised- closer to the coal face (again cf US)
- incapacity benefit to be decided by local officials, not doctors, but current recipients to retain benefit for a year after finding paid work
- immigration to be tightly controlled so more jobs can go to current welfare recipients already here
Which all sounds eminently sensible.
PS Talking of people nobody would trust, it's good to see the egregious Frank Luntz is still in biz. He's been running another of his ludicrously spun focus groups- this time for the Sunday Telegraph's First Anniversary Cameron Souvenir Edition. We'll say no more.