In 1997, when Gordon Brown announced the “most radical welfare reforms since the Second World War”, he declared that the unemployed young would be first in the firing line. “How,” he asked, “did a society like ours get itself into a position where we are wasting young people’s talents like this?”
The Chancellor had what he thought was a solution. Under his Welfare-to-Work programme, funded by a £5 billion windfall tax on the privatised utilities, the welfare state would be transformed, making it crystal clear that “staying at home is not an option”.
But, 10 years on, the work ethic that Mr Brown was so confident he could inculcate in the nation’s jobless youth remains elusive. In fact, things have got worse: the phenomenon of Neets (young people “not in education, employment or training”) is on the rise.