Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"A Dismantling of Much of Labour's Welfare State."

You only have to look at how the newspapers which support the Tories have reacted to Osborne's budget to see what he has done which pleases them. The notion that he is hitting the rich the hardest is not the impression which papers like the Daily Express have taken from this budget.


GEORGE Osborne took his axe to benefits with a vengeance yesterday to stamp out Britain’s something-for-nothing welfare culture.

The Chancellor slashed housing, disability and single parent benefits as well as payments to pregnant women and new mothers in a bid to curb the spiralling welfare bill.

His tough measures are aimed at driving more people back to work rather than relying on the state for handouts.
They will slash Britain’s bloated welfare bill by £11billion a year within four years.
The things which excite the average Daily Express reader have nothing to do with balancing the books, it's yet another attack - just as Thatcher famously did - on "social security scroungers".

The Daily Mail are excited enough by this budget to call it "a dismantling of much of Labour’s welfare state".

There's no-one who will ever be able to convince me that this is not something which the Tories have always wanted to do.

And, of course, one of the prices that the Liberals are having to pay for power is the fact that they are now having to publicly align themselves behind a Vat rise which they campaigned against. Watching Shirley Williams last night on Newsnight, I actually had a residue of sympathy watching her make arguments which it was hard to believe her heart was really behind.

We now have this strange political picture here in Britain where both the Tories and the Liberals are making the case for Osborne and Labour are left as the sole voice of opposition.

And the Liberals appear silly to me as they pretend that they believe this budget is designed to make the rich pay for the deficit. One only has to pick up any right wing newspaper to see what the Tory base think is so marvelous about Osborne's butchery.


But, just as Shirley Williams appeared forced and somewhat uncomfortable making the case for the budget, the same is not true of Nick Clegg who actually believes in this nonsense.

And, he has left himself open to the wrath of his party by agreeing to what is essentially a Tory wish list to slash state spending. The claim that this budget fairly distributes the pain - or, indeed, that it is in any way "progressive" is exposed as a lie by the fact that £8 billion will be raised through taxation and £11 billion through cuts in benefits. In other words, this budget will hit hardest those who have the least, whilst taking much less from those earning enough not to need any kind of benefits. Most of us will hardly be seriously affected, but those with very little will face devastating cuts to their benefits.

Already some Liberal Democrats are speaking out.

But Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, suggested he would not vote for the Budget in the Commons because of the VAT rise – a move he had campaigned against in last month's election. "I am not at all happy," he said, warning that the rise would hit the low paid the hardest.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the party's former leader, said: "Liberal Democrats, and I don't mind admitting this, are a bit nervous about a rise in VAT, because it's a regressive tax ... that's why the increase in the level at which people begin to pay tax is so important." Benjamin Ramm, editor of The Liberal magazine, added: "This VAT rise is a tax on the poor to absolve the sins of the rich."

And unions spoke out against what they see as Osborne "declaring war" on public services.
"This is the most draconian Budget in decades." Derek Simpson, Unite's joint general secretary, said: "Today the mask slipped to reveal this Government for what it is – Tory slashers of services and friends of the rich and powerful."
And Steve Richards finds that Osborne's budget "veered more towards the reactionary, at times dangerously so."

Osborne did what he did because the dismantling of the state is at the heart of all Tory beliefs, and he is using the economic crisis to push through extreme right wing policies.

Margaret Thatcher famously argued in the 1980s that there was no alternative to her policies. Osborne did not repeat the phrase, but "unavoidable" has precisely the same meaning and serves the same purpose.

Such an assertion is nonsense, as the US administration indicates with its more expansionist policies.

There was nothing "unavoidable" about this budget, and the people it takes aim at - those with the least surviving on benefits - are exactly the same people who Thatcher set her sights on.

The people who will ultimately pay for this will be the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg might be a progressive when it comes to social policies, but he is rather right wing when it comes to economic policies.

He's certainly more right wing on those matters than most of the people who voted Lib Dem.
Those who argue that Clegg is a patsy mis-read what is happening. He was fully involved in the discussions that led up to yesterday's speech and believes in the package as a whole.
Clegg is a believer in this budget, and sat beside Osborne whilst Osborne claimed that this budget was "progressive". Somewhere down the line, I feel sure that the Liberal Democrats will pay a terrible price for that.

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