Object 27

Politics

2028, London, England

Excerpt from BBC Question Time, February 27th, 2028:

Amelia Sheratt: "My question is very simple. Everyone said I should study something useful at university like medicine or law or programming so I could get a job. So I studied Engineering, I figured the world will always need people to build bridges and roads. But last year, my firm started getting undercut by the Gujarati on our cheaper business, and by the amplified teams on the high end.

“I was last in, so I was the first out. So when you give people like me your Real Work entitlement card which is supposed to make us 'get a job' or 'retrain' while being forced to take cheap mimic scripting training work to get welfare... it makes me think you're plain stupid. I did everything I was supposed to, and what did you do, Minister? You haven't held a job in your life. I read up on you: Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, a marketing job for a year, assistant to a member of parliament, councillor. How are you going to get us all back into work?"

Minister of Work, Alice Ravi: "Well, I'm very sorry that you feel that way, Amelia, because I genuinely believe that this government is putting forth a very robust strategy to reduce unemployment. We were left with well over 10 percent unemployment from the previous coalition and —"

Amelia: "That's what you —"

Alice: "No, you had your turn, let me finish. We had more than 10 percent coming in, and at the rate of job growth we had back then, we weren't even going to dent that in at least a decade. Employers and job creators told us they wanted people with more experience and a stronger work ethic, and that's why we introduced our 'Real Work' scheme: to help give people like you a lift back up into proper work. That's why we were elected."

Amelia: "That's what you always say, it was the other lot's fault. But your party was in power just three years ago! And I don't see how cutting our benefits and making us work for free is going to lift us up. That doesn't grow jobs, it does the opposite!"

Moderator: "I'm sorry, Amelia, but we need to take another question. I have Brian Martin representing the South Shields Students' Group."

Brian Martin: "I'd like to ask the Minister whether she thinks we can learn from the rest of the world [interrupted by applause]. Countries in Northern Europe are adopting the basic minimum income, we're getting outgunned by the recompetitive states in Southeast Asia and South America, and some of our best and brightest are leaving the country just when we need them the most. Maybe we should see what’s working there?"

Alice: "That's a great question, Brian. But I'm not sure that you can take the lessons from other countries and apply them to our own. Britain is a unique country. I don't think the solution is to provide even more handouts to people like they're doing in Norway or Sweden — I think we have to go our own way, and that's by encouraging people to get experience and to do real work, by matching them up with available positions in British companies."

Brian: "Well, my Group isn't finding your answers very convincing, I'm afraid — we really don't want to be forced to perform grunt work, and you aren’t providing useful training or education. I can tell you that 5,000 people have just pledged their time towards opposition missions in the past minute."

Alice: "I'm sorry to hear that. But this country can't afford to pay for people's flights of fancy."

Moderator: "I have some news — we have a new snapshot in from our researchers. For those of you who aren't getting the Sopol AR cast, our debate has been causing some waves across the country. The Northern Co-op has announced a new fund for providing local health and transport services, set up specifically to bypass the national government, and they've already received the equivalent of £9.6 million in the past hour. Let's get the co-op on the line."

Northern Co-op: "Thank you. Half of the £9.6 million came from direct pledges, and the other half is from delegated future consumption preferences towards our own startups. This fund is aimed at young people looking for microfinance — exactly the sort of people the government is neglecting. We intend to provide the services and support that this government has abandoned, and we'll do it in a more democratic and more responsive way than the government will. "

Moderator: "Thanks. Before you answer, Ms. Ravi, I want to get another question in."

Adam Bharwani: "Well, first, I completely disagree with the previous speaker. I'm sure it seems very impressive to click a button or blink a link or whatever it is people call it these days, and move around millions of pounds in a minute, but it's hardly what I'd call a considered action. Young people don't realise that we can't afford to lavish money on their risky Sopol schemes, selling toys and trinkets to each other by giving them a guaranteed income. That money would come straight from our pensions and our healthcare, and it'd mean even longer waits for operations. I had to wait three months for my stem cell therapy! I think the Minister is spot on for putting these kids in their place."

Alice: "I'm glad to hear a voice of reason! Of course, the NHS is one of our top priorities and we're working very closely with the unions to ensure that we can continue to offer a high level of care. We have an ageing population in Britain, and they need and deserve the very best treatments we can afford — and I hope that younger generations understand that this will benefit them in the long term as well. But we also want to support good business ideas, and that's why we've assembled a team of top regional commissioners, businesspeople, and experts who will assess and provide funding to innovative and strategic startups."

Moderator: "I’ll remind the audience that you should pose questions, not statements. One response from the floor, from Katie Silva."

Katie Silva: "I'm sorry, Minister, but we really don't need any more so-called experts who get to award millions to their chums. I agree with a lot of the government's policies, particularly on energy independence, but I don't see how you can rule out a basic minimum income while also finding the money to spread around to pet projects. That's our money, and we need it to put a roof over our heads. What makes you think you know how to spend it better than we do? This isn't the 20th century, we have the information and we have the ratings systems to understand what to do."

Moderator: "Just a quick reply please, Minister."

Alice: "I absolutely respect that view, Katie, and I'm glad you can get behind our goals on energy independence. We were elected on that platform, just as we were on our promise to get the best experts to commission the best projects that will help our country — that's how the government works, and it's what makes our country so strong. I hope you will continue to give me just as much robust feedback in the coming months!"

Moderator: "Thank you Minister Alice Ravi for joining us tonight, along with those who've been following live. Our next live event will be in 50 minutes, with the country's leading Ethics Delegate, Zoe Clarke."