I’m instinctively well disposed to James Purnell’s attempts to bolster public support for the welfare state. But I can’t help noticing that he sounds quite muddled on the subject.
In his Times article (paywall) on Wednesday the former Work and Pensions Secretary spoke of his desire to “go back to Beveridge” and the principle that “everyone would put something in, and everyone would get something out”.
But then he comes out with this:
“I have never bought the argument that universal benefits bind the middle classes in. It feels too much like taxing with one hand to give back with another.”
But the case for all those middle class perks like child benefit (which are paid for through general taxation) is that they help to build that ethos of everyone putting in and everyone getting out. The argument is that if welfare is only used by the poor or unfortunate general public support for the system will dwindle.