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Gove and IDS represent the best of the Coalition

Department leaders In the last 24 hours we have seen the best of the new Coalition government. Yesterday it was Michael Gove's day in the spotlight and he unveiled his school reforms. Today it's Iain Duncan Smith's day in Andy Coulson's grid and the BBC is leading on his plans to fix the "bust" welfare state.

WelfareReform Mr Duncan Smith, the Work & Pensions Secretary, is apparently considering linking the retirement age to life expectancy. More immediately he is to propose a radical reform of the benefits system that will make it financially worthwhile to work. The disincentives to work are so penal, he tells The Guardian, that many people on benefits regard those who take up job offers as "bloody morons":

"The present benefits system is so complex and unfair that no one understands it. It leads at the bottom end to one of the most regressive tax and benefit withdrawal rates that it is possible to imagine. We ask people to go to work for the first time and then tell them to pay back 70%, 80% and 90% back to the state. These are levels none of the wealthiest bankers are asked to pay – they are moaning at 50%. If you are unemployed, and you come from a family that is unemployed, all you can see when you think about work is risk. It is a real risk because for all the efforts you make the rewards are very minimal and in some cases none at all. Socially, everyone says: 'You are a bloody moron – why are you doing this? You don't have to do this.' So taking responsibility is a real risk for you."

He continues: "I did not come into this department to cheesepare. I came into this department to reform."

SchoolsReform Over the last 24 hours the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has been setting out his plans to give schools more freedom from central control by encouraging them to become Academies. Writing for The Sun he sets out the benefits of Academy status:

"They will be able to set their own curriculum, pay good teachers more, have longer school days and control the cash currently spent on their behalf by local government."

In the remainder of the article Mr Gove sets out other ideas:

  • An invitation to parents, faith groups, voluntary organisations and education-focused businesses to set up new schools "with smaller class sizes";
  • Closure of expensive education quangoes;
  • New rights for teachers to confiscate mobile phones and pornography and for headteachers to expel pupils without being over-ruled;
  • Extra funding for poor pupils (the so-called pupil premium); and
  • A re-write of the curriculum so that teachers can focus on the basics.

There are many other good things about the Coalition... John Hayes' plans for skills and apprenticeships... the Pickles/Clark decentralisation agenda... Nick Herbert's police and prison reforms... George Osborne's ambition to simplify and cut corporation tax... but, for me, for now, the welfare and school reforms are compassionate, Cameroonian conservatism at its best.

Tim Montgomerie


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