Welfare is fast becoming this parliament’s Ypres Salient – strategically critical,
it is constantly contested. £20bn on social housing, £100bn on out of work benefits and £billions on universal benefits: welfare reform is where spending cuts are most
conspicuous. A rhetorical confrontation is building and various tactical dispositions are being made.
The Staggers’ George Eaton has an analysis that assumes that Labour’s current wedge-strategy
(which I critiqued here) is not working because it is avowedly sectional, privileging
those who might be caricatured as ‘undeserving’. Eaton argues that Labour must ‘launch a defence of the hard pressed majority’; those who work but still stand to lose,
particularly families. Indeed, Westminster’s number-crunchers are briefing that the housing benefit reforms will adversely hit low income earners and force them from their communities, which
totally defeats the coalition’s object.
On the right, Peter Oborne revisits his
disapproval of George Osborne, who he claims has been fiddling benefit fraud figures to
intimate that welfare dependency is cheating. I can’t yet comment on Oborne’s specific accusations, but he’s correct that the high aim to eradicate worklessness and enrich the
poor has been obscured by a Scrooge-like narrative of savings.
If Labour makes a moral case for the hard pressed working majority, the government will have to rethink its strategy – if not on benefits then on tax cuts – because the hard pressed working
majority could determine a working majority in the next parliament.