Tories ‘hack at the same people’

According to the newspapers this morning, there is disharmony in the Tory ranks over George Osborne’s speech on cuts yesterday. ‘Sources close to’ Iain Duncan Smith have accused the Chancellor of ‘hacking at the same people’. Nick Clegg also came close to bursting a blood vessel with his condemnation of the idea of further welfare cuts as ‘lopsided and unbalanced’ and a ‘monumental mistake’.

It reminds me of the old adage:  ‘When rogues fall out, truth is revealed, and honest men get justice.’  We can but hope.

Osborne’s speech was extraordinary. It was a long way from the pre-Xmas ‘we’ve turned the corner’ rhetoric. He brought us back to austerity with a bang. Now the job ‘is not even half done’ and 2014 would be the ‘year of hard truths’.

His big message was that the extra £25 billion cuts in the two years after the Election – already agreed by the Coalition – would include at least £12 billion from ‘welfare’. But he offered few examples of where the cuts might come from: in fact he mentioned only two possibilities: cutting housing benefit for the under-25s and charging more rent to higher earners who live in social housing.

On the latter, we have rehearsed before (here and here) the arguments about means-testing social tenants in a great bureaucratic effort to discover the few who earn above £60,000. Oddly, it is not even a welfare cut: people on higher incomes are unlikely to be benefit recipients and, if they decide to move because of their higher rent, they are likely to be replaced by a new tenant who is a benefit recipient (whether in or out of work). So it would have the opposite effect to that he wishes for.

Removing housing benefit from the under 25s would be a punitive and controversial move. Half of the under 25s in receipt of HB have dependent children so it’s not just a matter of believing that a young person should go back home as a consequence. Most graduates begin their working careers in low paid jobs, often in the city they were educated in not their home city. What a dreadful situation they would face: stay in a low paid job without HB or try to get a better paid job, which would trigger having to pay back student loans. It seems particularly cruel.

It is interesting that this announcement about under 25s, together with the strong statement from both Osborne and Cameron that they will retain the ‘triple lock’ for pension payments and all other pensioner benefits – which are hugely expensive commitments – has reignited the debate about inter-generational fairness.

Meanwhile, Bozo himself, the London Mayor, confused everyone by condemning all sides. He said Osborne has got it wrong because he should cut health, schools and international aid instead, but also condemned Clegg as performing ‘a very important ceremonial function as David Cameron’s lapdog-cum phophylactic protection device for all the difficult things Cameron has to do… a kind of lapdog’. Funny but completely meaningless as usual.

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4 Responses to Tories ‘hack at the same people’

  1. Pingback: Squeezing welfare out of the system

  2. Pingback: Squeezing welfare out of the system | Red Brick

  3. I’m prepared to live in hope – awhile anyway given some straws in the wind. The IDS v Osborne tension has been well known for some time (more IMO to do with Cabinet power struggles than ‘fairness’ or policy efficacy). The other straws include a sense of an emerging more popular doubting of what Osborne is all about.

    He is the Chancellor who promised that the deficit and recovery would all be addressed by 2015. Yet now he says that the job is ‘not even half done’. He spoke in the recent Reuters interview of the deficit being addressed by 2018… but that Austerity would be advisable after then. Meantime there is the likes of the grossly costly vanity project HS2. Welfare has already been clobbered. Even with the popular vilification of benefit recipients (and special shame on Channel 4 for the deplorable ‘Benefits Street’) there comes a point when that same populist opinion feels ‘its just not fair’ to pile more cuts on benefit recipients to make room for tax cuts for the better off. In addition many people even in work are experiencing the reality of a ‘recovery’ that is likes of zero hours contacts, part-time work and the cost of living.

    I’m willing to hope that these are drivers for a change in the tide of electoral opinion. Osborne may have miscalculated in his proclaiming of more and more cuts and everlasting austerity… after all, part of the final demise of a certain lady came about when she opined she intended to ‘go on and on’.
    Twitter: @EdwardHarkins

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