Labour's proposals for the unemployed just get better and better, it appears. Listening to Rachel Reeves, it seems that Labour policy is now to require claimants to take numeracy, literacy and IT tests within six weeks of lodging a claim to Jobseekers' Allowance.
Now, I do see the importance to those seeking work of having some basic skills, but what we aren't hearing is the "or else", i.e. what the penalty for failure, either to attend or to reach the standard set, will be, because you just know that there will be - she is, after all, boasting that she'll be tougher on welfare than the Coalition. And is it just another way of picking on migrants, whose English language skills might not be as good as those of the locals?
I'm sure that others, more knowledgeable about the benefits system, will have plenty of grounds to question the efficacy of such a proposal, unless they're Labour activists, of course, in which case they'll clam up, but I want to focus on the impact on the rural unemployed.
One of my local Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidates is forever complaining about local transport provision in small towns and villages. In that it isn't great, we can agree. In terms of what can be done, we differ - at least I presume we differ because she simply complains rather than indicate what might be done. So, how do the rural unemployed get to their local FE college to gain the skills required to meet the standard? Running a car is expensive, buses are scarce, to put it mildly, but Rachel Reeves wants to place an obligation upon unemployed villagers to travel, potentially quite some way, to study.
Of course, you could study remotely, but given that my village has, following an upgrade, got slightly less rubbish broadband access than it had previously, and the fact that you'd need a computer and a landline - not necessarily the prime essentials for a low-income household - it isn't perhaps the slamdunk that it appears at first glance.
It is, in short, another policy dreamt up by urban politicians, who know nothing of rural life, from a political party which, in Suffolk at least, barely shows up on the rural political map.
I look forward to the promotion of this policy by Labour PPCs outside of Ipswich and Waveney. I won't be holding my breath though...