Sunday, 4 April 2010

Dole queue to end!

The proclamation this week by Gordon Brown that the dole queue may be about to vanish as signing on, along with the other government agencies’ and business, goes online, woefully doesn't suggest that unemployment itself is about to vanish. But it does give tongue to a different way of picturing the condition of joblessness.
The dole queue is the most apparent visual symbol of the long-standing economic scar of unemployment. From the introduction of unemployment benefit itself 100 years ago, to the dole queues of the 30s through to the Tories’ Labour Isn’t Working advertising campaign in 1979, the image of glum-looking people standing in a line waiting to sign on is etched deep in the collective consciousness. Dole queues have fuelled working-class anger and political activism for a century. Now they seem to be doomed.

No one will mourn the end of the dole queue. Nevertheless, the dole queue has been a catalyst for all kinds of cultural and political activity since the opening of the first Labour Exchanges in February 1910. The idea of the dole itself has also gone through a number of transformations in the collective imagination, variously as a legitimate citizen’s right, a state manifestation of charity, or for the conservatively inclined, an inexhaustible treat for so-called scroungers and welfare cheats.

No comments:

The Socialist Way

Blog Archive