Monday, 7 January 2013
The season of goodwill is over. Most politicians are back at work. It’s a sure sign when the sniffer dogs do their check of the Assembly estate that our public representatives are shortly to be back in the fold.
But its not the Assembly that will be the centre of attention tomorrow but the Commons. And many Welsh voters will have cause for concern with the outcome of a Common’s debate. The real end of the seasonal cheer surely comes with tomorrow’s debate on welfare.
More particularly the discussion will centre on the Chancellor’s proposals to put a 1% cap on increases state benefits these next three years. The debate is about passing a law to this effect.
A new law is not necessary. The Chancellor can vary benefits as he sees fit in his budgets. So why clog up parliament with an unnecessary act of Parliament, you may well ask.
Well the answer is simple, he hopes to wrong foot Labour by this approach.
Osborne’s logic is straight forward. Welfare claimants have been demonised by the tabloids over the years and therefor are seen as feckless layabouts. They’re all scumbags. Any party seen helping them need to have their heads examined.
So the Chancellor thinks that he’s in the happiest of political situations, win win. He cuts the deficit on the backs of the poor and at the same time makes Labour unpopular.
Indeed the latest polls would seem to back the strategy.
More people on being asked had sympathy with the Conservative argument that it was unfair for benefits to rise by more than 1% when wages were rising at less than inflation (50%) than had sympathy with the Labour argument that increasing benefits by less than inflation was unfair on the many families in work that relied on benefits to make ends meet (34%).
On attitudes towards benefits for those out of work, 28% thought the government was too harsh, but a massive 47% thought the government should be harsher and do more to force people to work.
There you have it not much goodwill amongst those polled towards those out of work. But the government are sure it reflects the nations attitude.
Now in order to justify their partisan stand the coalition have wrapped themselves in the blanket of fairness. We’re all in this together, we’ve all got to tighten our belts. If those in work have seen their living standards go down. According to the government only right that those drawing benefits should also suffer.
But hold on. Even those that have only a rudimentary grasp of sums will realise that a percentage rise of 1% on unemployment pay of £71 a week gives an increase of 71p. Average weekly earnings of nearly £500 would give an additional £5. Giving them 7 times more than those on unemployment. Where’s the fairness in that?
When Beveridge wrote his report it was in the war when the country was really in it together. Now despite austerity those fortunate enough to be in jobs have a resentment of claimants. But when they themselves are affected they may react differently.
And that’s what Labour are banking on. The cuts in child benefit and other in work benefits will affect the “strivers”.
And rather than looking for scapegoats they’ll point the finger of blame at the Chancellor.
Whichever way you look at it the results will be bleak new Year to many a Welsh family.