Following Young Dave’s jolly good interview for the Mail On Sunday, where he blew the dog whistle of unreconstructed intolerance for all he was worth, came the pundits and interest groups. And no interest group is more adept at jumping on the bandwagon of public spending cuts than the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).
More bore from the second floor
And when the TPA fetches up with its well-manicured press release and suitably scary list of Very Big Financial Numbers, you can be sure that whoever they have sent out to bat is more than likely to pull a few short runs even before they have played themselves in. So it is with former ConHome stalwart Jonathan Isaby, who tells that “The nation’s welfare bill currently comes in at about £165 billion a year”.
This is indeed a Very Big And Scary Number. But the generously remunerated and clearly well fed Isaby is not telling the full story. Because not only does that figure include such elements as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), for which claimants have to pass a series of medical examinations, it also includes the state pension, and pension credits.
Whether Isaby and his fellow non-job holders are going after the state pension, or DLA, is not told. But, unless the amount quoted is the actual one that is proposed for reduction, it should not be pitched in the first place. So how is the TPA justifying its support for cuts? As if you need to ask: “Why David Cameron’s welfare plans will mean a fairer deal for taxpayers”. Yes, the title says it all.
As with so much else that emanates from the TPA, it’s all dressed up as being “fair”. Like the flat tax proposal that would go hand-in-hand with slashing the size of the public sector to 1939 levels, that is, before the inception of the NHS. On top of that cut, there would be an ending to free access to education for all – this from a group that wants to pontificate on falling standards in, er, education.
But is there some merit in the proposal to cut housing benefit to under 25s? Ah well. As with so much from the TPA, there is an underlying false assumption here, and that is that this group can always move back in with parents or other immediate family, and that those family members are, by happy coincidence, located in an equally convenient location close to the workplace.
Workplace? Well, yes, as the vast majority of housing benefit claimants are in work. Full time work. You swallowed the line about the feckless and workshy? But you should never take the Dacre press on trust, and far less the TPA. Remember, this is a group that pretends to speak for taxpayers, but in reality takes its orders from its overmonied, greedy and cowardly backers.
And that’s what you need to remember when the TPA talks about “fairness”.
Hang on, the Shelter blog says that the majority of NEW housing benefit claimants are in work - very different. Majority is not defined either, so this statistic could simply mean: 51% of the 5100 new claimants since rules were changed are in work. I'm making up the numbers but Shelter haven't provided any either.
As a lifelong Labour voter, I have been surprised by the visceral reaction to Cameron's speech when it seems like there's a couple of headline facts that can't be ignored. It is bonkers for example that people can claim £20k/yr in housing benefit. It is bonkers that people can leave school and go straight into housing benefit, and get the same as someone who's worked for 20 years.
Cameron did allow for the fact that he was separating out disability benefit and pensions, even though the TPA might not have.
So in other words, if the centre-left want to win this argument, they need more facts and figures rather than calls to emotion...
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