To say that the Conservatives’ efforts to drive the economically inactive back to work are looking increasingly desperate would be a monumental understatement.

The Tories, having deprived companies and other employers the length and breadth of the UK of crucial skills and labour in recent years through their hard Brexit, have been making a great deal of noise again about forcing people back into work.

This seems to be a central plank of their economic plan. Of course, to call it a “plan” would definitely be to attach some kind of rationality to a hotch-potch of ideologically driven policies that have caused huge damage to the UK economy and will continue to do so if they continue.

The Conservatives have been wielding the proverbial stick at the economically inactive with threats and actions to cut benefits for a long, long time now.

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They have sometimes dressed up their dog-whistle politics on this front as a carrot, but the stick has always been there for those the Tories apparently think are defying them by being inactive.

The UK undoubtedly has a big problem when it comes to the labour market.

However, this has been created not by the economically inactive, a huge number of whom have very good reasons for not working, but by the Conservatives themselves.

The Tories’ idea that they can replace what has been lost in terms of skills and labour because of the ending of free movement of people between the UK and European Economic Area by driving those who are not currently employed into the workforce is fantasy.

It is difficult to tell whether or not they know this.

They might be taking the view that their hostile attitude towards the economically inactive, which often appears to amount to an attempt to demonise large sections of this group, is popular among their supporters.

There are, of course, plenty of echoes of Margaret Thatcher in the current approach.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak went really over the top on the issue last week, declaring he was on a “moral mission”.

A recent poll by The Herald and the Institute of Directors in Scotland revealed Scottish business leaders overwhelmingly believe Brexit has hindered the economy north of the Border.

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Asked for their views on whether Brexit had hindered or helped the Scottish economy, or neither, 101 of 133 respondents, 76%, said it had been a hindrance. Only 4% believed it had helped, and 20% opted for “neither”.

One respondent said: “Brexit is a real and ongoing issue for Scottish companies operating in Europe. It has affected every facet of business from bidding for contracts to importing and exporting through to hiring staff.”

Another respondent declared the UK Government “makes our whole country a laughing stock” on this issue.

The UK Government press release last week outlining the Tories’ latest welfare moves declared: “The Prime Minister has outlined a package of sweeping reforms to put work at the heart of welfare and deliver on his ‘moral mission’ to give everyone who is able to work the best possible chance of staying in, or returning to work… “The Prime Minister announced that the disability benefits system is set to be reformed to ensure it’s more accurately targeted at those who need it most and delivers the right kind of support for people with disabilities and health conditions.”

It declared that “a consultation on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be published in the coming days which will explore changes to the eligibility criteria, assessment process and types of support that can be offered so the system is better targeted towards individual needs and more closely linked to a person’s condition rather than the current ‘one size fits all’ approach”.

The language used was in places somewhat remarkable, even by the Tories’ usual cold standards when it comes to welfare.

The press release declared that the consultation “comes as many more working-age people are being awarded PIP for mental health conditions than when it was first introduced over a decade ago”, and referred to “concerns that the assessment process is significantly easier to game by individuals who seek to exploit the system”.

It observed “there are more than 450,000 people who have been unemployed for six months and well over a quarter of a million who have been unemployed for 12 months”.

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And, in a true Tory style which shows that it is always the stick rather than the carrot that is really at play in the Conservatives’ welfare reform, the press release added: “We will legislate in the next parliament to change the rules so that anyone who has been on benefits for 12 months and doesn’t comply with conditions set by their work coach – including accepting available work - will have their unemployment claim closed and their benefits removed entirely.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Victoria Atkins said: “We are seeking the advice of those who understand the system best so we can break down these unnecessary barriers to work. Through tailored care and reasonable adjustments, we can build a healthier workforce for a healthier economy.”

Maybe the Tories should have thought of a “healthier economy” before they removed a crucial source of skills and labour with their hard Brexit.

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It would be fair to characterise the economy of Britain, to use the Conservatives’ own language in their announcement of their latest savage welfare reforms, as needing a “sick-note” as result of what the Tories themselves have done to the labour market.

Perhaps it is worth noting that the large amounts of money Tory politicians are being paid to govern are not under any threat as a result of the damage they have caused to the labour market, and of course to the economy and living standards.

Maybe Mr Sunak should think about the morality of that.