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How will the Tories sell more welfare cuts?

19 February 2013

19 February 2013

David Cameron is making noises about further welfare cuts as he tours India, reports the FT’s Kiran Stacey. This isn’t surprising: the PM has got a gaggle of Cabinet ministers pecking at him and squawking about cutting DWP spending even more in order to protect policing and defence in the 2015/16 spending review, which will be settled in the next few months. But are we going to see the same pattern of decision-making and the same rhetoric on welfare spending as has emerged for previous budgets and autumn statements? This is how it has worked recently:

      1. Spending decisions approach.
      2. Nick Clegg (or an acolyte) says he’s blocked further cuts to the welfare budget. Iain Duncan Smith makes a similar noise.
      3. The Treasury (or sometimes even the PM) starts flying kites on welfare cuts.
      4. The Lib Dems say they won’t accept a deal without the rich taking another hit, namely through a mansion or wealth tax.
      5. A complex deal avoiding both of the above but involving welfare cuts is wrought.
      6. Ministers start talking about ‘strivers’ vs ‘scroungers’ to provoke Labour.

It was interesting to watch how the Liberal Democrats changed stance from their wealth-tax-or-no-cuts starting point in the summer to an Autumn Statement in December which included the decoupling of benefit rises from inflation, but no wealth tax, and no mansion tax. Danny Alexander was even less compromising when talking to the FT last week about the 2015/16 spending review, saying he believed welfare cuts had gone far enough. He didn’t even appear to be offering a deal. Nick Clegg has his party’s spring conference in a few weeks’ time, where he will doubtless be asked similar questions.

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We could well see a similar journey to that outlined above, with the eventual spending review settlement containing further welfare cuts. In that case, George Osborne, ever the political strategist, will use this as an opportunity to flush out Labour on where it stands on welfare policy. That’s fair enough, as Tim Montgomerie observed in yesterday’s Times, it would be nice to know how the party would cope with the current economic climate, or indeed the post-2015 climate which will hardly be a sunlit upland either. But perhaps the debate could be a little less crude than it was at the time of the autumn statement.

The Tories made this about hard-working households vs sofa loafers with drawn curtains. An easy image to sell, sure, but the public didn’t really seem to buy it. YouGov polling after the Autumn Statement found 33 per cent of voters said it was right that benefits should only increase by 1 per cent each year, and 35 per cent saying benefits should have been increased in line with inflation or more. The gap widened a little when MPs came to vote on the measure in January, with 45 per cent backing the limit and 35 per cent rejecting it. But at that point Labour also managed to creep ahead of the Tories when it came to who voters trusted more on welfare, with 30 per cent saying they’d trust Labour and 22 per cent saying Conservative. There was also a fascinating backlash from across the commentariat and then from Tory MPs themselves against the rhetoric and images employed. So much for flushing out the opposition.

The problem was that the distinction wasn’t so much about workers vs shirkers or whatever stereotypes spinners preferred, but public sector vs the rest as the benefits uprating bill applied to working households. The awkward point for Labour (apart from the fact that Liam Byrne had used that same workers/shirkers dichotomy) was actually that it supported the government’s limit on public sector pay, but not a similar policy for benefits. Jonathan outlined this here.

So when the next round of cuts is agreed, and the Tories want to really fight Labour on welfare, they’ll need to work out a more nuanced attack line. In the meantime, we can watch the two Coalition parties travelling a familiar road as they negotiate the next round of cuts.


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Show comments
  • treborc1

    Same way Liam Byrne did to day make up silly stories about making jobs if people did not find them, labour would only allow JSA for two years. Expand the public service jobs again, since labour find it hard to make private sector jobs, or of course workfare, work for benefits

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    Not just Britain which has let Public Sector Wages outstrip Private Sector

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-02-19/explaining-revolting-labor-conditions-south-africa

    • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

      Considering most people’s wages are between £10,000 and £20,000, and are falling, the Public Sector workforce are likely the only people with spending power, and thus the only thing preventing the UK from shrinking even more.
      It might help if the government did not destroy jobs with its taxpayer sponging slavery/corp welfare program.

  • Roy

    Non too soon, the welfare budget should be hammered like every thing else. How the politicians can keep a straight face when so much is given away and wasted. The third world has had its millions without a whimper, the EU has had its massive contribution. The UN will be receiving its deplorably wicked amount to its corrupted regime.

    • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

      How’s about cutting all taxpayer subsidies to Notwork Fail and the rest of Britain’s third world public transport system? I say strip them of all state funding.
      Also, no more capital projects like Crossrail, and close all embassies and foreign diplomatic trips and replace them with Skype video-conferencing.

  • Daniel Maris

    The only welfare cuts I am interested in are the structural ones we need. For instance, never again should a woman with 11 children expect the state to bring them up and provide her with specialist housing.

    We need a raft of measures to prevent teenage pregnancies and ensure no one gets a council flat on the back of a single parent pregnancy.

    We need a conveyor belt from school to work.

    We need to transform welfare for most people into work provision.

    In other words we need to have a sustained programme of welfare dependency reduction.

    • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

      Corporate Welfare schemes (which is what Workfare actually is) which put people out of jobs and dump costs on the taxpayer are not the answer.
      Making abortion easier would solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies (which have always existed, btw, its just that the children died in the past so no one knew they existed).
      Here’s a solution: Parents who have failed to set up a Student Bank Account and UK Passport for their offspring by age 15, should be fined £1000, then a further £5000 if they continue to fail to do so. Or, better still, make teachers the referees for bank accounts, thus eliminating control-freak parents and hermit mothers (who are known to create NEETS) from the equation.

  • paulus

    I didn’t realise the government were in the business of welfare cuts, I thought the government were trying to help people out of welfare poverty.

    labelling people for being poor is not conservative, eradicating poverty is. Importing millions of people to do jobs that people in this country can do is wrong. If we need to incentisive people through the tax system, this is what needs to be done. No one should pay tax before they can afford to do so, money needed: to eat, to heat your home, to clothe your children should not be taxed. Find me one conservative who believes it and ill tell you they are not conservative.

    We will not accept the brick bats and insults the socialists throw at us without a fight. What neds to be done must be done

    • LB

      I thought the government were trying to help people out of welfare poverty.

      ===========

      None of them are. They are just in the business of trying to keep a pensions Ponzi going. That just drives people into poverty and destitution.

      • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

        Most of the welfare budget is pensions, but the oldies vote and the greedy Baby Boomers will happily throw future generations under the bus, so what we get is a relentless assault on the young and disabled.
        Its disgusting, and utterly shameless.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Hedges/100001511186412 Charles Hedges

      I hope you will reveal how silkcushioned Mark Hoban is trying to help anyone except himself and his boss.

  • http://twitter.com/PhilKean1 @PhilKean1

    .
    But before they cut benefits further, they will probably think up another way to hammer responsible NET taxpayers –

    – in order to demonstrate to Liberal and Labour supporters that the middle classes – (who are responsible, work hard, pay high taxes and never took a penny from the state during Labour’s years of excess) – are bearing their fair share a disproportionately higher burden.

    So far we have seen Cameron’s Liberals increasing taxes on already high tax-paying parents earning over £50,000 pa by removing their meagre child tax allowance.
    What about forcing the parents in that same income group to pay a tax on the schooling that their children receive from the state?

    I mean, who knows WHAT this present bunch will do?
    .

    • Colonel Mustard

      What actual justification beyond bribery is there for someone who earns over £50,000 and has children to be paid a “meagre” taxpayer funded subsidy for that personal choice? Why should people earning almost twice the average salary expect the taxes from those who aren’t be used to fund their children?

      • http://twitter.com/PhilKean1 @PhilKean1

        How do NET taxpaying fathers, supporting a stay-at-home mum and 3 kids, who has, say, £15,000 taken in tax each year, and is then taxed an EXTRA £1500 per year by having his child tax break removed – being funded by the taxpayer?

        This mindless war against NET taxpaying families will be Britain’s undoing.
        .

        • Colonel Mustard

          But it is not a “child tax break” it is a funded subsidy. It is not being “taken away” as additional tax but just no longer being given. You need to blame Brown for the complexity of the tax “give and take” in this country which has so distorted the debate. Who you blame for the increasing hysterical and shrill obsession with children I have no idea. If you can’t afford to bring up children properly with a £50k salary then don’t have them, but don’t expect other taxpayers to foot the bill for your life choices. Your children already enjoy education and health service privileges paid for in part by single or childless taxpayers who do not present such a burden to the state budget so stop whinging and forego those foreign holidays!

          • http://twitter.com/PhilKean1 @PhilKean1

            .
            Oh, I see. This is about naked discrimination and exploitation.

            Those who pay their way should be increasingly penalised, and those who receive more from the state than they pay – if they pay ANYTHING at all – are to be excused their responsibilities.

            I can’t argue against someone who has that mentality.
            .

            • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

              But stay at home mums don’t pay their way, in many cases they are workshy. A mother whose offspring are in their teens who stays at home is a parasite and likely a hermit who wants permanent dominion over her kids.

        • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

          Or perhaps the lazy stay-at-home mum could perhaps stop being a hermit and go out and GET A JOB, especially if her kids are in their teens and thus would actually be better off without the emasculating influence of a controlling, infantilising mum. You ignore the fact that it’s stay-at-home mums who create NEETS.

    • Andy

      Personally I would abolish child benefit.

  • Smithersjones2013

    In the meantime, we can watch the two Coalition parties travelling a familiar road as they negotiate the next round of cuts.

    Oh no lets not. I don’t think I can stand anymore of the hysterical Libdems infantile posturing. Why don’t they do the decent thing and bring down this shambles of a government and bring forward the pain and suffering of the Miliband years so that we can sooner get over it and so the electorate have no illusions about how bankrupt and corrupt the Labour party is.

    Of course, such a course has the added bonus that we will be rid of the Cameroons as well and if the Tories have any sense they will copy the way Labour purged themselves of the Cameroons ideological forefathers the Blairites and purge the Cameroons once and for all.

    • Russell

      I think a better solution would be for UKIP to take a huge portion of the conservatives votes causing them to lose Eastleigh and then to trounce Lib/Lab/Con in the EU MEP elections.
      Perhaps then the tories might get a bit of a clue as to why they are fast losing support, and change their policies. Please don’t wish for Miliband and the incompetent crooks back in, I don’t think the country could stand 5 years more of labour.

    • Makroon

      A kind of anarcho-iconoclast strategy is it ?
      In their 13 years stretch, Labour succeeded in corrupting most areas of the public sector. Red has made it clear what he sees as the next target – the private sector.
      By the time he has finished legislating for strict salary controls and zero bonuses, buttressed by Len McCluskeys on every board, mansion and wealth taxes etc. your fantasy ‘UKIP inheritance’ will amount to nothing much at all.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Absolutely correct. Another stint of Labour will see us well into a new East Germany and the make up of the opposition party will no longer matter at all.

  • http://twitter.com/eric144144 Eric Smith

    They could get dirty little new Labour welfare rat James Purnell back into the BBC. Done

    • HooksLaw

      Purnell is ‘rejoining’ the BBC – says it all.

      £295k when an MP earns 65k… nice work if you can get it.

      Certainly makes you think 2ce about opposing higher taxes on the ‘rich’. We must hope of course that Purnell’s arrangements are conventional and he not being paid as a corporate entity or via some other cosy BBC scam.

      • DWWolds

        What did he earn last time he was at the BBC?

        • HooksLaw

          I give up how much?

      • Makroon

        Cameron could easily have vetoed this, (and got rid of Patten) …. if he had wanted to.

        • HooksLaw

          Huh? How could Cameron have vetoed a BBC appointment? Let alone ‘easily’.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          Purnell left politics in 2010 and is currently a senior producer at
          production company Rare Day and an adviser at Boston Consulting Group.

          He previously worked for the BBC from 1995 to 1997 under former director general John Birt as head of corporate planning………As a student he worked in the summer holidays as a researcher to Tony Blair from 1989 to 1992. After graduating he worked as a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research before moving to the BBC to become Head of Corporate Planning. In 1997 Purnell returned to work as a special adviser at Number 10 until 2001

          • Andy

            There you have it: He has never done a days work in his life.

        • Colonel Mustard

          One of the poorest strategic decisions of this government was its failure to purge lefties and Labour placemen from the establishment. How deliberate this was or whether the Lib Dems were a factor remains to be seen but it effectively resulted in two opposition parties, one inside parliament and one outside in the public sector and NGOs. When New Labour came to power their placemen programme was prolific and far reaching so even a balancing might have been expected from Cameron. Instead he seemed to want to preserve Labour’s fifth column within government and it has caused him no end of problems.

      • 2trueblue

        Then the BBC claims that it is not biased?????? You just could not make it up.

    • Roy

      The BBC should be discontinued as a public funded broadcaster period. Let people pay for what they want to see. It is a complete scandal the British people are being force fed with this left wing corrupted media machine. One problem is the way this administration gained power by disavowing its conservative base by the false premise that all would vote for a new party with middle ground thinking. They then have to continue on the road that is not at all giving them a smooth ride. Deservedly it is a wretched partnership. The free enterprise system is what should be shouted from the roof tops, it is nothing to be ashamed of. The left would have us believe it is this that has caused all the problems, yet when it is scrutinized the culture of big government running the country on regulations and high taxes is what the trouble is.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatcheriteLee Thatcherite Lee

    Isabel, your analysis of those two YouGov polls is flawed because you’ve made a false comparison.
    The first YouGov poll you mention gave three options between the two options you mention but also gave the third option that you failed to take into account and that was no increase at all which produced figures of 19% which gives an overall figure from the three options of 52% opposing an above 1% increase.
    The second YouGov poll however only gave two options beween support or oppose the 1% increase which produced the figures you mentioned but the first poll would suggest that some of those who said they opposed the 1% increase did so because they didn’t want to see any increase.
    You cannot compare two polls where one has three options and the other only gives two options. That’s a false comparison.
    I would apprecitate a reply.

    • Russell

      What did you really expect from a journalist who writes almost every article with strong criticism of a) The Tories and b) The coalition.
      I really can’t understand why she is on the speccie staff list as the Mirror with MuckGuire is definitely more suitable for her labour leanings,

      • telemachus

        A balanced judgement is what I want from a journalist
        I can point to a dozen posts well to the right of Melanie Phillips
        I guess you would wish to employ Tommy Robinson

        • Colonel Mustard

          Well, you admire and promote Stalin as a role model so are hardly in a position to judge extremism objectively. And a review of your comments suggests that you do not reflect the balanced judgement you supposedly want from a journalist. But then we all understand how socialists operate – what they want and what they are prepared to deliver are most often poles apart.

          • telemachus

            The goal of an egalitarian society is all

            • Colonel Mustard

              Impossible. The best you will achieve is a miserable society at war within itself with an exploitative, privileged elite. It has been tried and everywhere it has been tried it has failed, resulting in far more misery than the society replaced.

              • telemachus

                If it has failed it is because of revanchist external forces
                We need to move to the concept of international reasonableness

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  So the Soviet Union collapsed (if it has collapsed to use the Team Telemachus argument) because…… This should really give us all a laugh.

    • 2trueblue

      Come on, the poor girl just can’t do the sums.

      • telemachus

        Never a day goes by without pickup of her posts in the daily prints
        Her specific posts are the most common in the top ten reports from other media in the Independent/i

        • Andy

          The Independent ? You only read that Fascist rag The Guardian.

          • telemachus

            I read them all even the Sun
            Know your enemies

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    How can you impose welfare cuts to save taxpayer funds when the BBC can use taxpayer funds to pay £295,000 pa to the former Culture Secretary ? There is either an Economic Crisis requiring control and reductions in Public Spending or there is not.

    • dalai guevara

      I know what – let’s just hand out RBS shares to the public to obfuscate the fact that the board continues to asset-strip the bank by upholding annual bonus payments. I think you will find that £295k won’t even cover the graduate bonus pot.

      • Chris lancashire

        I think you are confusing the sale of assets (asset stripping) with overpaying on the Overheads – Labour continually does the same.

        • dalai guevara

          Who is Mr Labour? We have not been introduced…

          When there is no money in the pot, and the banks make no profit, how are bonuses paid for? You know exactly what my point is.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Yeah right, as if you would be perfectly happy if banks made massive profits and then paid bonuses to those who had earned them. You would simply find something else to bleat about like excessive profits achieved through the exploitation of customers etc etc.

            • dalai guevara

              Erhm…if the banks were privately owned, who cares. Let the shareholders decide.
              Now that most banks and building societies are in the public hand, it’s a different story.

      • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

        It would have been far wiser to give money to the public than bail-out the banks. Instead Mervyn (and inevitably Goldman Sachs’ little toe-licking servant Mark Carney) has given them massive, obscene welfare handouts.
        Under no circumstances should the taxpayer pay for banker’s bonuses. These bankers are, like all human beings, easily replaceable and expendable.

    • Ron Todd

      The BBC has a fixed amount of funding. If they choose to spend it on salaries not programmes it does not affect the rest of the states budget.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        Too true. The Government guaranteed the BBC a fixed level of funding to 2017 unlike the British Army

    • LB

      Or there is fiddling whilst everything burns.

    • Andy

      Ah yes but he was a former Labour Culture Secretary and therefore must be employed by the BBC.

    • http://twitter.com/Relugus Gary Wintle

      Riddle me this: Why is IDS reducing the number of jobs and forcing the taxpayer to pay people’s wages?
      The Workfare scheme is a Corporate Welfare scam which replaces proper jobs which help the economy with non-jobs which increase the deficit by dumping the cost of wages on the Taxpayer.
      This appears to be Tory policy; make the taxpayer pay all the costs while corporations cream off the profits.

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