Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/204/8488
Baby Bonds: Labour's election gimmick
NEW LABOUR have launched the big idea for its second term. Now we are to get "baby bonds". At an estimated annual cost of £480 million, the government will open a trust fund for new babies of £250 to £500, depending on how 'poor' you are.
They'll add £100 at key stages and match any contribution the family put in. At age 18, the young person will get about £3,000. The government says this is a "long-term policy to address social exclusion and the gap between rich and poor."
Presumably young people who've grown up on poverty-stricken estates, gone to sink schools and with no prospect of decent employment, will get their £3,000 and set their sights on a glowing future. Somehow I doubt it.
The money will probably be spent on alleviating the extra hardships created by the government - paying tuition fees or compensating for reduced benefits.
The wealth gap has grown since Labour came to power. 100,000 extra children have been thrown into poverty. A few thousand pounds will do nothing.
Working-class people fought for the Welfare State and always saved for their future through National Insurance.
Baby bonds show the ideological shift inside New Labour. Instead of the collective response to human need through public provision which will be democratically decided and held accountable, we are all to take individual responsibility.
Stakeholder pensions, health insurance, baby bonds, New Labour's message is the same. It's up to each of us as individuals to look after our own futures.
Who's to say that in 18 years time, when these baby bonds start to mature, they won't be spent on keeping yourself alive through unemployment or sickness, instead of receiving state benefit?
Many people will see baby bonds as an electioneering gimmick, not a serious attempt to eradicate poverty and support families.
We don't need gimmicks, we need jobs on a decent minimum wage, affordable quality housing, a fully funded health service, free education and cheap good quality child care.
To provide these things New Labour would have to break with big business and its patchwork ideology - baby bonds come much cheaper.
In The Socialist 4 May 2001: