Thursday, 9 September 2010

Nick Clegg, Generational Failure and Looking Young People in the Eye

Nick Clegg made a speech this morning in which he set out one of the strategic aims of the coalition Government. He said that he wanted to achieve a ‘horizon shift’ which he defined as focusing on long-term goals rather than short-term issues, to build a ‘fairer and more prosperous future’. He then went on to say that one the aims of his speech today was to ‘argue for justice between generations and warn that we are in danger of failing the next generation.’

I have to say I was genuinely quite interested in what he had to say on this issue. One of the hardest hit groups in this recession are young people. Youth unemployment in Scotland is currently running at 19.4% which is higher than for any other age group. So I believe that the Government should be putting more emphasis on what’s happening to young people in this economic crisis and that there should be an emphasis on avoiding ‘failing the next generation’

So what did Clegg actually say on this issue. Well here it is:

‘The Prime Minister and I are from the same generation. And frankly, we know that both our generation - and the one before us - got it wrong. We have run up debts, despoiled the planet and allowed too many of our institutions to wither. For us, the longer-term view we are adopting in government will help to wipe the slate clean, and ensure that future generations can thrive, without being burdened with the dead weight of our debt, and our failings.

We are absolutely determined that we will be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say we did the best we could for them, even if this means taking some difficult, unpopular decisions today.’

I have to say I am quite disappointed by this. Nick Clegg seems to have completely missed the point that there are young people who need the Government’s help and support now. Instead he is holding up some lofty ideal of ‘I’m doing it for the children’ as a justification for making dramatic public spending cuts and for his Government’s obsession with the deficit.

One of the first cuts this Government made when they came to power was the Future Jobs Fund. They scrapped this initiative overnight as part of their £6 billion ‘efficiency’ savings which they had promised before the election would only come from money that was being wasted.

This scheme was helping young people who would otherwise be out of work find a job. It was giving them experience of the labour market, giving them training and paying the minimum wage. But now it is gone.

I can’t help but be annoyed at Nick Clegg’s view of his obligations to the next generation and I can’t help but think that this ‘horizon shift’ and focus on the long-term conveniently lets him forget those who are being hurt today by the Government’s political decisions.

I think to be able to look the young people of Scotland in the eye Nick Clegg will have to do better than empty words.

Helen Martin- STUC

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