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Osborne sets clear welfare challenge to Labour – and his coalition partners

6 January 2014

We already knew that the Chancellor would focus on welfare as a field ripe for further cuts in his speech in Birmingham today. When he delivered that speech, George Osborne announced that the Treasury’s current forecasts suggest that £12 billion of further welfare cuts are needed in the first two years of the next Parliament, and framed this as a challenge to all parties not to let voters down by refusing to cut benefits. He said:

‘So when you see people on the telly who say that welfare can’t be cut anymore – or, even worse, promising they will reverse the changes we’ve already made and increase housing benefit – ask yourself this: way public services would they cut instead? What taxes they would put up in their place? Or would they borrow and spend more, and risk our country’s economic stability again?

‘This is what I mean when I say Britain has a choice. The truth is there are no easy options here, and if we are to fix our country’s problems, and not leave our debts to our children to pay off, then cutting the welfare bill further is the kind of decision we need to make.’

Osborne is setting up a choice between politicians cutting back welfare or making ‘hardworking families’ suffer through tax rises and hits on sacred cows such as the NHS. He is challenging not just Labour but also the Lib Dems to say how they would plug the gap in any other way. Nick Clegg has his monthly press conference in just over half an hour, and while in the past he has said that welfare cannot be cut further without politicians also reforming pensionable-age benefits, he also didn’t rule out further cuts when he last took questions from journalists. It will be interesting to see whether he now feels he must agree with Osborne that this is the only choice facing politicians.

But of course the primary target of this choice that Osborne has set up is Labour. While Ed Miliband wants to talk about the cost of living or the ‘cost of Cameron’ as Labour MPs have started calling it, Osborne wants to make the 2015 election debate about the cost of shying away from cutting the welfare bill again.

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  • Monkey_Bach

    What Osborne suggests is factually impossible.

    However, from an anti-Tory point of view, I applaud Gideon for coming out of the closet and giving the country a glimpse of the kind of dystopia he would see created if the a chance. (He won’t be.) This intervention has been extremely helpful to every other political party (bar UKIP which isn’t a serious political party) because Osborne has chosen to frame the election in terms of injustice and inhumanity (Tory) versus fairness and humanity (everybody else bar UKIP). Poor George is in for a rude awakening when he finally discovers that most British citizens are much better people than he gives them credit for.

    But then I suppose he knows no better.

    (Many of Osborne’s behaviours and traits border on the psychopathic.)

  • HookesLaw

    Osborne is right about a dangerous level of complacency. Growth has returned and everyone will want to spend it.
    Its the national past time.
    Sensible people should support this policy if the country is to make progress. As it is we can well imagine all the siren spending policies that Labour will bribe us all with.

    • Monkey_Bach

      It’s not “past time” but “pastime”.

      I wish you right-wingers were better educated and could spell.

  • Iain Hill

    What a spiteful, selfish view of the world. Instead, let us restore benefits to the level and coverage which a civilised society expects, and let us raise taxes sufficiently to pay for this. I for one am willing to pay, rather than be associated with this shameful 19th century philosophy

    • Count Dooku

      Right a cheque to HMRC then. I’m sure they will welcome your donation.

    • DWWolds

      Before making suggestions like that you should look at what is happening in France.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Personally I was buoyed up by Osborne’s rant since now people can see him and his Conservative colleagues as they are and for what they are. If this dreadful nonsense doesn’t repel sane and humane floating voters I really don’t know what will.

      Good on you George!

  • Colonel Mustard

    But their answer, like Mao’s, is to stereotype and target leftist hate groups and propose to tax them” jusqu’à ce que les pépins grincent” (© Hollande), like “bankers”, or the “rich”, or “mansions”, or even “wealthy pensioners”. That is what you get when you let the left manipulate the language and define the narrative and the party that should be offering an alternative even signs up to the scam. And it comes on the very successful establishment of the politics of envy and grievance into almost every aspect of our national life, favouring the chippy over those who just get on with it.

    We now have, repeatedly in almost every BBC news broadcast, a “cost of living crisis” (© Miliband & Balls). A magnificent “heads we win, tails you lose” sleight of hand turning the inevitable consequences of Labour’s pernicious economic legacy into a Tory crime.

    Compare and contrast that bit of inventive conniving with the concept of an “immigration crisis”, something we really do have but which is also now the target of Orwellian doublespeak to make sure that soundbite is never uttered by the BBC.

    • HookesLaw

      All the more reason to support the Conservative Party.

      • Barakzai

        Cameron’s no slouch at manipulating the English language himself (cf ‘marriage’).

        • HookesLaw

          You can’t stay aeway from homosexuality can you?

          • Barakzai

            Me? You really are a knee-jerk respondent and, often enough, simply a myopic jerk in defence of Cameron.

      • Colonel Mustard

        It’s not about supporting the Conservative Party. It’s about the Conservative Party actually fielding a cogent conservative narrative and being able to challenge the left’s dominance of soundbites. They either can’t do it or won’t do it.

        Plus the fact that the BBC will pick up and run with every soundbite Labour produce, without challenge and as thought it is gospel (e.g. “granny tax”, “bedroom tax”) whereas any Conservative soundbite will be subject to continuous challenge and ridicule from the moment it is first uttered.

        • HookesLaw

          The present Conservative Party is the same Conservative Party its always been and in being that it is pointedly not the Labour Party.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Well, if you mean it contains the same sort of wet grandees doing more damage to their own party than the opposition I’d have to agree with you. The same sort of idiots who stabbed Thatcher in the back are now busy sawing through the tree branch they are all sitting on.

            The best thing any real conservatives in the party could do now is to jump ship to UKIP rather than go down with it.

    • Barakzai

      Apropros the BBC’s leftism, I thought Osborne did a good job this morning on ‘Today’ in deflecting the egregious Justin Webb’s tabloidish question ‘When will the feel-good factor return?’ With the dreary Evan Davis on an expensive jolly in Nigeria fatuously asking whether some local actress was famous or not, I gave up on ‘Today’ and switched to Radio Ga-Ga.

    • Mynydd

      Your are behind the times “cost of living crisis” is now “cost of Cameron crisis”

  • AnotherDave

    One interesting tidbit from the recent Ashcroft poll was that Labour’s support is higher amongst working voters, than non-working voters.

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