Now that the Tories have at least agreed within their own party that they can find £10 billion of further cuts to the welfare budget, they are starting to ramp up the rhetoric on why it’s fair to do this, and how they can achieve it. Yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne said this:
‘Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits? When we say we’re all in this together, we speak for that worker. We speak all those who want to work hard and get on.’
Today, David Cameron described the sort of person that he thinks the Conservatives don’t speak for as he fleshed out some of his thoughts on where the next round of welfare cuts might fall. He said:
‘But the point I’d make is this: we do send some strange, strange signals in the benefit system If you’re a young person, you leave college, you get a job, you’re often having to live at home – often into your thirties, because you can’t afford a flat – and yet if you’re out of work you are able to claim housing benefit and get a flat. So you’re able to live separately from your parents, while the working person isn’t able to. Now is that fair, I’d ask?’
The Prime Minister makes a compelling point. A welfare state under which people out of work are better off and have more choices than those in work is a failing system. But there is one flaw to his argument that I find extremely difficult to believe he hasn’t grasped yet.