Tax credits and the Tory press: Then and now

Michael Harris /   November 11, 2015 at 10:05 PM 2,857 views


Daily Mail, 8th July 2015 (‘Budget makes Britain a better place to work’):

“[T]his was a virtuoso Budget. It was more than a masterclass in wrong-footing opponents – more, even, than the continuation of five years’ work to repair the public finances, free at last from obstruction by the Lib Dems. This first all-Conservative package since 1996 was nothing less than a blueprint for transforming Britain into a better, more prosperous country – of self-reliant families, rescued from welfare dependency to enjoy the dignity and rewards of work. …[T]he guiding theme of the Chancellor’s measures – making work pay – shines through with perfect clarity. …Inevitably, the Left howls against the lower welfare caps and moves to unravel Gordon Brown’s tax credits. Yet these labyrinthine subsidies for low wages were unsustainable from the start. …Something had to be done to save us from ruin. It is much to Mr Osborne’s credit that he’s done it so skilfully.”

Daily Mail, 28th October 2015 (‘Meddling peers and a dire threat to Britain’):

“What a mess! Less than six months ago, the Tories were elected on a promise to control spending and start paying off Britain’s mountainous debts. Yet on Monday, they fell at the first hurdle. The truth is that no party emerges well from the Lords’ decision to overrule the will of the elected Commons and reject George Osborne’s cuts in tax credits. Indeed, this sorry saga exposes the entire political class at its most shabby, dysfunctional and dishonest. …[But] the Tories cannot escape their share of the blame for this week’s fiasco. Throughout the election campaign, they were asked (not least by this paper) where they would find the £12 billion of welfare cuts their manifesto promised. But again and again, they refused to say – while twice, David Cameron specifically ruled out any cuts in tax credits. …As for Mr Osborne, he provided the Upper House with another reason to make trouble. This was when he tried to sneak his cuts through by means of a Statutory Instrument, giving Parliament no proper chance to debate or amend them, while constantly repeating the highly dubious assertion that they would leave most families better off.”

Leo McKinstry, Daily Express, 9th July 2015 (‘Osborne shows the way to national prosperity’):

“[T]hanks to Osborne’s courage, the current Government has emerged as the true supporter of working people. …[A]t the start of a full five-year term, Osborne had a unique opportunity to banish Labour’s ruinous, debt-laden legacy and make Britain more competitive. Central to that goal is the reduction in benefits and taxes. …Osborne also revealed far-reaching reforms of Gordon Brown’s £30 billion tax credit system, which had ended up providing perverse incentives for low pay, sinking productivity and unaffordable large families. What was once intended as a minor top-up to family incomes has become a vast subsidy for relative poverty and irresponsibility. …Still clinging on to the ideology of welfare entitlement Labour fails to see how Osborne has transformed the political landscape. The socialists are the outdated reactionaries whereas the Tories are the real party of progress.”

Daily Express, 5th November 2015 (‘U-turn on junior doctors, tax credits & MPs pay – are Tories now completely out of touch?’)

“Jeremy Hunt’s dramatic U-turn on Junior Doctor’s pay today is just the latest humbling climb-down for David Cameron’s Government – an administration which is looking increasingly out-of-touch with Britain’s electorate. In recent months the Cabinet has reversed or significantly altered TEN other proposals on key issues after realising they had catastrophically mis-read the public mood. The cabinet’s heavy bias towards Eton and Oxbridge makes them easy targets for critics who claim they belong to a privileged class which has little or nothing in common with Britain’s rank and file. And, despite their stunning election victory in May, the embarrassing series of Tory U-turns since then do seem to bear the hallmark of arrogant ministers who are increasingly out-of-touch with voters.”

Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of The Sun, 26th October 2015:

Tom Newton Dunn, 8th July 2015:

The Times, 9th July 2015 (‘Higher wages and welfare cuts in Britain’s new deal’):

“Mr Osborne’s budget was a political tour de force and economically essential. In the 19 years since the last Conservative budget the cost of welfare has spun out of control. Tax credits intended for the worst-off are paid to 90 per cent of families. Working-age welfare alone accounts for 13 per cent of public spending. …Spending as a share of GDP fell under the coalition. It must keep falling if Britain is ever to return to surplus and pay down a suffocating £1.5 trillion national debt. That is why dodging the £12 billion in welfare cuts that were a central component of this budget was never an option. There will be hard-pressed working people who are worse off as a result, but the way to help them in the long run is to make work abundant and to make it pay.”

The Sunday Times, 8th November 2015 (‘Another fine mess, George?’)

“This has been an accident-prone government, with more unnecessary slip-ups in its first six months than in almost the whole of the coalition that preceded it. …When, during the election campaign, the Tories unveiled a populist manifesto full of old party tunes — right-to-buy for housing association tenants, a £1m inheritance tax threshold and £12bn of unspecified welfare cuts — our assumption was that much of this election fodder would be bargained away once post-election coalition negotiations got going. Instead the Tories, as surprised as anybody by their majority, found themselves lumbered with their manifesto promises. …Mr Osborne is faced with the task of cutting £12bn from working-age welfare, some of it from the “hard-working families” that the government says it wants to champion. It is a mess. Cutting tax credits while allowing the well-off to pass on many hundreds of thousands of pounds of unearned wealth to their children will never look good. …The Tories should have quietly buried their manifesto, safe in the knowledge that most voters are aware that politicians make promises they will never be able to keep. As it is, it has become a millstone around the government’s neck.”

Daily Telegraph, 9th July 2015 (‘The Budget that shows the Conservatives are the real workers’ party’):

“When George Osborne delivered his first Budget, a little over five years ago, he stood in the shadow of one of his predecessors. Gordon Brown’s economic policies and the crisis they helped cause defined the early days of the last government. …The scale of that task left the Chancellor with little scope to dismantle the overweening state that Mr Brown built, the pervasive and pernicious welfare system that left so many people reliant on – or expectant of – money from the state. Yesterday, Mr Osborne finally emerged from that shadow, delivering a Budget that means British politics will increasingly be conducted on his terms, and not Mr Brown’s. Mr Brown conceived an economy where the state was intimately involved in the labour market, often destructively. He took money in tax to fund lavish welfare payments that reduced the incentive for some to work, and left some who did work dependent on handouts. Mr Osborne has now begun to correct that historic mistake. Contrary to the protests of an increasingly irrelevant Labour Party, his gradual reductions in tax credits are fair – fair to the taxpayers who have funded them, and fair to those who receive them: they will now be properly rewarded for their efforts, thanks to lower taxes and the new living wage.”

Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph, 5th November 2015 (‘Why does George Osborne have it in for the workers?’):

“The Chancellor has run out of good options. He must now either abandon his plans to find £12 billion of savings by targeting the working poor – or stick to his guns, and destroy the Conservatives’ claim to being the new “workers’ party”. …Tax credits have certainly grown out of control, but taking money away from millions of working families already on the breadline has proved politically horrific. These are the people doing everything the Tories have asked of them, and can’t now understand why they are being penalised. …No moral thread runs through his plans for working tax credit cuts. For most who claim them, the £9 an hour living wage will not repair the damage. Not only does it punish the strivers, but it’s not even needed to balance the books. …Yet again, we can see the Chancellor’s biggest political weakness – he is so clever that he’s downright stupid. …But there is another way. He could abandon his plans to take support away from workers. …In five years’ time, Osborne wants a budget surplus of £10 billion. He should settle for a slightly lower figure, and admit that he was wrong to seek so much in welfare cuts. Economically, this would be a pinprick. He would lose face, perhaps, but he could save the Conservative Party’s reputation for being on the side of the strivers.”

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