Beyond left and right

The first stage of the National Conversation told us that people want to see the debate on welfare lifted out of the tired left-versus-right argument.

William Beveridge, architect of the Britain’s welfare state and the inspiration for the National Conversation on welfare, could perhaps best be described as a man apart.  A life-long old-fashioned Liberal, Beveridge took an independent view on welfare.

More on Beveridge and his political and social roots in Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s article from The Guardian.

The State of Welfare

As the 70th anniversary of Beveridge approaches, BBC Radio 4 returns to the welfare topic this week.  A new series The State of Welfare – beginning on Tuesday 27 November at 10.00am and then available on the BBC iPlayer – promises to look at the welfare system from both sides, from the point of view of both recipients and contributors.  Worth a listen.

Gagged and bound?

Can we have a National Conversation – or any kind of free and open conversation – when  the press is controlled by the state?

In today’s Telegraph, Fraser Nelson makes a level-headed and compelling defence for a free press.  Killer quote: “…you can’t have a little bit of state control, any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Either the press is free, or it must operate within parameters defined by the state.”

A free for all?

Former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins believes the welfare state subsidises the fat and feckless.  Emily Thornberry MP (Labour Islington South and Finsbury) and Philip Hammond (Conservative MP Runnymede and Weybridge, Secretary of State for Defence) disagree.

Katie Hopkins’s style could be described as abrasive… but has she got a point?

Why did you come along?

“I’m here out of a mix of intrigue and frustration.  And because I love Lego!”

One answer given to York’s One&Other magazine when they asked people why they’d come to ‘Building the Conversation last month.

See the full article – and a quick report on the following evening’s York Conversation, hosted by Claire Fox, here.

Building the Conversation

As we prepare for the next Moot (Tuesday, 7.00pm), we’re looking back at our October activity in York.

Check out the video  – Building the Conversation – to see Andy Chapman explain how we used Lego to get people thinking about the future of welfare, using Lego to express their ideas.

Beyond left and right

Next Tuesday evening at 7.00pm we will hold the next National Conversation Moot – and look for some new ways forward for welfare, beyond left and right.  More details in the coming days…

For now, some interesting thoughts from Tim Stanley in today’s Telegraph about what happens when politics gets bogged down in partisanship.

70 years after Beveridge: 3 Questions

As we approach the seventieth anniversary of the publication of the Beveridge Report, we’ve been asking commentators for their thoughts about Beveridge and his legacy.

Today’s 3 Questions on Beveridge come from Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail.  Thanks to Quentin for his thoughtful contribution.  We are always happy to receive your ideas.  We want to have as broad and informed a conversation as possible.

1) What does the Beveridge Report mean to you?
I associate it with the creation of the original welfare state – something that was based on biting need and, to use the man’s word, squalor. Beveridge is an historical figure and someone I think of with high regard, despite the fact that I consider the modern welfare system to be a disaster. His good intentions have been warped by later welfarians who have devalued the concept by “crying wolf” and over-rewarding the indolent.
2) Are all of Beveridge’s Five Great Evils still relevant today?  Do we face any new ones?
Physical squalor is less evident today. Instead we have a moral or attitudinal squalor. A modern Beveridge might worry about how unkind we are, how angry – the levels of public rage are frightening. Also Beveridge today might worry about stress (related to anger), about family connections (divorce is almost as much of a social ill as non-divorce was), gluttony, anti-spiritualism. These are shortcomings of the soul rather than the more physical pangs Beveridge addressed. I wonder if he might also have worried about over-population.
3) Have we slain the Five Great Evils, or any one of them?
Ignorance has in some ways increased. Squalor, as I have just said in answer 2, is now not so much physical as in attitudes. Disease is, thank goodness, far less bad – though it will never be eradicated. Idleness is, I suspect, far, far worse today. You can blame the telly. You can blame the bloated welfare state. The evil which has abated most is want. Are people in modern Britain really still acutely in want? I guess some are but the scale is nothing to what it was.