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9 October 2008
The political conference season has once more come and gone with a flurry of headline-grabbing soundbites, triumphant speeches and little in the way of substance in terms of policy.

Conference hallAll there main parties were somewhat preoccupied with leadership issues during their conferences.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg were all said to be “on trial” in the run up to their respective conferences and all three came through their key-note addresses with a smile on their face and applause ringing in their ears.

The on-going economic situation also dominated proceedings to the point where other issues were either forgotten or pushed to fringe events and gatherings.

And that is why we’ve really had to scrape around looking for any worthwhile mention of policies, proposals, criticisms and suggestions as regards our current benefits system.

The Government was more content to focus on the bigger pictures – in the case of Labour that was Brown’s leadership credentials and what it could do to restore confidence in the economy. So we really have to make do with the on-going consultation and review of the benefits system as Labour’s contribution.

There was a lot more to digest at the Conservative conference, thanks largely to shadow Work spokesman Chris Grayling. But there was a lot of political rhetoric, little in terms on firm policy proposal and it all had familiar echoes of recent Labour pronouncements.

Grayling told the conference he wanted to end the idea of welfare as an "entitlement" and said the Tories plan increases to the amount of support for the unemployed through a network of "back to work" centres run by private and voluntary bodies.

Those repeatedly refusing job offers would lose benefits for three years.
Describing welfare as a "two-way contract", he said the Tories would transform the level of support available to those out of work.

High quality" help would be offered to people to enable them to look for work and use their existing skills in different areas.

"No one benefits from sitting at home on benefits," he said. "When people get a reasonable job offer, they will be expected to take it. It is much better to be in a job and looking to move on to something else, than sitting at home hoping the right thing will come along."

Further measures would see those on incapacity benefit having to undergo independent medical tests to assess their ability to work. Reform of the welfare system was a key component in addressing Britain's "broken society” – perhaps the central theme of the Tory conference.

All three political parties agree that the economic uncertainty meant reform of the current system was vital as we would need a good quality, well delivered welfare reform helps countries cope with more difficult economic times.

Liberal Democrat work spokeswoman Jenny Willott also made reference to this during her party’s conference, but once there was little in terms of substance.

The Lib Dems have previously stated the current system is unfair and can be discriminatory and how they would take some of the unpredictability and unfairness out, but once again we had little in terms of clear and firm proposals.All there main parties were somewhat preoccupied with leadership issues during their conferences.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg were all said to be “on trial” in the run up to their respective conferences and all three came through their key-note addresses with a smile on their face and applause ringing in their ears.

The on-going economic situation also dominated proceedings to the point where other issues were either forgotten or pushed to fringe events and gatherings.

And that is why we’ve really had to scrape around looking for any worthwhile mention of policies, proposals, criticisms and suggestions as regards our current benefits system.

The Government was more content to focus on the bigger pictures – in the case of Labour that was Brown’s leadership credentials and what it could do to restore confidence in the economy. So we really have to make do with the on-going consultation and review of the benefits system as Labour’s contribution.

There was a lot more to digest at the Conservative conference, thanks largely to shadow Work spokesman Chris Grayling. But there was a lot of political rhetoric, little in terms on firm policy proposal and it all had familiar echoes of recent Labour pronouncements.

Grayling told the conference he wanted to end the idea of welfare as an "entitlement" and said the Tories plan increases to the amount of support for the unemployed through a network of "back to work" centres run by private and voluntary bodies.

Those repeatedly refusing job offers would lose benefits for three years.
Describing welfare as a "two-way contract", he said the Tories would transform the level of support available to those out of work.

High quality" help would be offered to people to enable them to look for work and use their existing skills in different areas.

"No one benefits from sitting at home on benefits," he said. "When people get a reasonable job offer, they will be expected to take it. It is much better to be in a job and looking to move on to something else, than sitting at home hoping the right thing will come along."

Further measures would see those on incapacity benefit having to undergo independent medical tests to assess their ability to work. Reform of the welfare system was a key component in addressing Britain's "broken society” – perhaps the central theme of the Tory conference.

All three political parties agree that the economic uncertainty meant reform of the current system was vital as we would need a good quality, well delivered welfare reform helps countries cope with more difficult economic times.

Liberal Democrat work spokeswoman Jenny Willott also made reference to this during her party’s conference, but once there was little in terms of substance.

The Lib Dems have previously stated the current system is unfair and can be discriminatory and how they would take some of the unpredictability and unfairness out, but once again we had little in terms of clear and firm proposals.