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Election Night 2015


Demitri_C
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The Tories’ £12bn of welfare cuts could come back to haunt them.

 


 

By the autumn we will find out how the Tories will make welfare cuts of £12bn a year by 2018. If they go ahead – and there are difficult political choices to be made here – these cuts will amount to one of the defining social policy decisions of the next five years.

The Tories were curiously loathe to explain how they would make these cuts during the election campaign. Either they knew, but were not telling because the truth would scare voters; or they didn’t know, but it didn’t matter because this was only ever a coalition bargaining chip to trade with the Lib Dems.

Ironically, a Conservative majority government may now find itself having to take unpopular choices it perhaps never really expected to have to make.

As we know from this week’s leaked Whitehall documents, when it comes to cuts there is no longer any “low-hanging fruit”. What’s left are in large part harsh cuts hitting middle-income working families: or, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies politely puts it, the “less palatable options”.

What we do know is that the Tories will freeze the level of working-age benefits for two years from next April, disqualify most 18- to 21-year-olds from claiming housing benefit, and reduce the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000. Those three policies, the IFS calculates, will find the Tories about £1.5bn a year.

So where will the remaining £10.5bn come from?

The Tory line throughout the campaign has been: trust us on our track record. We made the cuts before, and we’ll make them again. The coalition did indeed make about £18bn of welfare cuts over the last parliament – but importantly, in view of what they need to achieve over the next five years, very little in the way of savings.

The bulk of the cuts – roughly two thirds – came from below-inflation uprating of benefits; the rest from restricting child benefit for wealthier families and some cuts to child tax credit. The cuts made here were more or less cancelled out by massive overspending on disability benefits and housing benefit.

According to social researcher Declan Gaffney, the net savings from five years of supposed welfare “revolution”, measured against the savings expected in 2010, were about £2bn. Contrary to Tory rhetoric, the coalition track record on finding welfare savings was dismal.

To reach £12bn by 2018, the Tories will not only have to massively increase the pace of welfare cuts made over the past five years, but achieve net savings. They will have to focus on the five big ticket items: tax credits (currently about £30bn a year); housing benefit (£21bn); disability living allowance and personal independence payments (£15bn); incapacity benefits (£14bn); and child benefit (£12bn).

One key area will be incapacity benefit spending. Previous attempts to cut this failed (spending rose at least £3bn above anticipated levels under the coalition): the high number of successful appeals against the notoriously unpopular fit-for-work tests revealed that there were simply not, as the coalition passionately believed, millions of people fraudulently claiming the benefit.

The Department for Work and Pensions believes there is scope for reform, however, and we can expect more drastic measures to try to reduce the numbers claiming employment and support allowance, by moving as many as possible on to the less-well remunerated jobseeker’s allowance.

This will be controversial, and Whitehall has concerns over the ability of the outsourced service (formerly run by Atos, now Maximus) to do this. Savings here will be painful, in human terms, and are far from guaranteed.

Housing benefit will be another target area, but the anticipated increase in spending (up £3bn a year from 2020) will be difficult to reverse given the growth in working households on low or static incomes forced to draw on housing support to meet high rents, particularly in London and the south.

Tax credits and child benefit cuts would appear to be necessary but they will take hundreds if not thousands of pounds a year out of the pockets of many of the middle-England voters that delivered David Cameron the premiership. Cuts to smaller budget items, such as carer’s allowance and statutory maternity pay may deliver marginal savings but at the cost of alienating the same demographic.

The Conservatives will look to a relatively buoyant employment market to reduce spending on unemployment benefit. But this relatively small budget line will do nothing to get them close to the £12bn target. Universal credit will be heralded as a technological fix to benefits spending by increasing the incentives for people on a range of in- and out-of-work benefits to come off the dole or work more hours. But the troubled programme is way off schedule (it may not be working fully until 2017 at the earliest) and there is no hard evidence it will deliver savings.

There will be much emphasis on so-called behavioural change policies, even though they will deliver barely any savings (and may not work even on their own terms). The benefit cap will continue, and there will be the threat of benefit sanctions for alcohol or drug addicted,​ mentally ill, or obese claimants who refuse treatment programmes.

The decision for​ the Tories is how many of these cuts they want to deliver and what the political costs of this will be. There is no coalition partner to blame if they don’t offer up £12bn; but if they take their foot off the welfare cuts pedal the imperatives of ​​deficit reduction mean savings will have to be found from other departmental budgets.

Cameron spoke this morning of a “one nation” Toryism but he will know his £12bn of cuts will disproportionately hit the poor, young sick and​ disabled. The cuts will deliver more pain, fear and instability to those they affect. We can expect a rise in child poverty, a further decline in living standards for all but the most well-off, and more stupendous rises in productivity in the food bank sector.

A majority gives the Tories a mandate to begin seriously dismantling the welfare state, but Cameron – if not all of his party – will know this carries a political cost. Deliver social security cuts on this scale and many of those who voted for him yesterday may be surprised to find that it is they, and not the mythical scroungers and shirkers of Tory demagoguery, who will lose out.

 

Add in to that the idea of in-work conditionality for Universal Credit recipients that do not increase the part-time hours they work or the rate of pay they receive pilots of which are currently underway (the conditionality applies for earnings below £230 per week, it would appear) - see Universal Credit (Work-Related Requirements) In Work Pilot Scheme and Amendment Regulations 2015.

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I feel sorry for the people who can't help themselves, in a compassionate society they get looked after, but in the next 5 years they will most likely die, and that in the eyes of the conservatives is fair enough. Sickening.

 

I think they'll be dead by the end of the month once the evil tories close all hospitals, stop all benefits and then round up the poor and needy and bulldoze them into mass graves. That's how it works isn't it? 

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I've heard on TV a few times now this idea that labour wasn't far enough to the left for Scotland and was too far left for the rest of the UK.

That sounds like absolute shirt to me.

Where is this coming from?, if anything I think labour aren't left enough for the UK and lost votes because of losing their identity as a left/centre-left party?

Am I going crazy?

 

I think if Labour went further left they'd probably lose more votes. This country won't vote in a left wing government, in my opinion. 

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Welcome to The Conservative Government.

Please keep quiet while we allow the corrupt bankers and mega-corporate tycoons to make the rules. Yes we will disregard the working class and demonise the vulnerable and the only thing we will do our best to conserve is the rich staying rich!

 

There must be a lot of rich people in the UK if they keep voting Conservative? You are right about the bankers though, they never existed between 1997-2010!

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Welcome to The Conservative Government.

Please keep quiet while we allow the corrupt bankers and mega-corporate tycoons to make the rules. Yes we will disregard the working class and demonise the vulnerable and the only thing we will do our best to conserve is the rich staying rich!

Labour did so well controlling corrupt bankers though didn't they...

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Labour would need two things to win the next election - I think they'd need to move a little further left in order to fully distinguish themselves from the Tory party and take the middle ground - but what they need more than anything else is a tabloid newspaper on their side.

 

Eh, the Mirror not tabloid?

 

Labour will win the next Election I'm fairly sure unless Gove suddenly outs himself as a secret Labour member (yes I know) and they appoint him leader. 10 years of pretty much Tory government, that should be a lock for Labour surely.

 

Just thinking about it, what was the poorer achievement, Cameron not winning a majority in 2010 when up against Brown who most despised and the economic collapse or Milliband getting annihilated in this election, I'd still say 2010 tbh especially given how long Labour had been in poor.

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Labour would need two things to win the next election - I think they'd need to move a little further left

 

I'd like to think so but I am not so sure. Labour preached in this election, not enough though in my opinion, about the working poor, about people on zero hours contracts, about the state of the NHS, about the fact food banks have gone from 40 odd to 500+ in the last five years, about the poor state of adult social care, about wanting to raise the minimum wage. Even those that don't follow politics would have been seeing for months the issues in A and E and a tiny bit of research would have told them that under the Tories the NHS always goes into decline.

The Tories have 12 billion of unfunded cuts in welfare that they were pushed on but wouldn't give an answer to.

That is just a small snap shot of what was on offer. In the end though, as we have seen on here, people chose the fact that they individually had a couple of quid more in their own pockets and chose the party they felt that would continue to be the case under either knowingly, but didn't give a f*ck, or too ignorant to realize that it would continue to come at the cost of our public services being decimated and those already with the least getting a kicking.

Edited by markavfc40
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YLN's excellent post and the article in the Guardian is exactly what I meant by some voters not really understanding the whole package they have voted for.

There are going to be a lot of households with £40-70k incomes who have been duped into thinking they are middle class enough to be voting Tory. With the cost of living these days, a household income in that range makes them upper working class at best.

As YLN put it, they think they are closer to the rich than the poor and they aren't. The squeeze is going to surprise more than a few.

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Welcome to The Conservative Government.

Please keep quiet while we allow the corrupt bankers and mega-corporate tycoons to make the rules. Yes we will disregard the working class and demonise the vulnerable and the only thing we will do our best to conserve is the rich staying rich!

Labour did so well controlling corrupt bankers though didn't they...

'Those lot were a bunch of words removed so it doesn't matter if this lot are as well'

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You see, what happened at this election – this supposedly cataclysmic shock – was supposed to happen all along. The government, while embarking on a series of horribly divisive, almost entirely unnecessary economic policies, had experienced no disasters. The Prime Minister’s approval ratings remained good; at times, remarkably good. Those of the opposition leader were, thanks to his palpable lack of gravitas and the toxic reputation of his party (blamed both for Iraq, entirely justifiably; and the 2008 financial crash, rather less justifiably) poor: at times, extraordinarily so given dramatically rising food bank use, rising inequality, and a prolonged fall in living standards unparalleled since the Second World War. Most of this directly affected those who would, surely, represent Miliband’s core constituency – yet any sense of cut-through remained elusive.

 

Then consider that, for reasons I set out last month, the nature of Britain’s electoral system has made it impossible for any party standing on anything resembling a truly radical, progressive agenda to get anywhere near winning an election since 1979 (in fact, since 1974): with the early 1980s split on the left meaning that, in effect, the entire voting system was dragged ever further to the right, a self-perpetuating process which is still ongoing and shows no signs of slowing down. And above all, on by far the most important indicator of any party’s readiness for government – economic competence – the Tories had remained well ahead of Labour ever since the crash; considerably because of the latter’s extraordinary failure to challenge a narrative about ‘austerity’ which isn’t only misleading – but is fallacious and increasingly dangerous to Britain’s medium and long term future.

 

This narrative, parroted relentlessly by the increasingly hysterical Tory press, the BBC, and both the Tories and Lib Dems, meant that when Miliband said perfectly reasonably that no, Labour had not over-spent before the crash, most viewers were horrified. How could they trust someone so irresponsible, not even prepared to apologise; who’d been part of a government which, so everyone insisted, had ‘run out of money’?

 

Never mind that no country in charge of its own money supply can ever run out of money (it simply prints more); never mind that Britain wasn’t even remotely imperilled in the manner of southern European countries trapped in the euro zone and crucially, without control of their money supply or economic policy; never mind that the effect of coalition-imposed austerity was simply to remove huge amounts of liquidity from the system, grind the economy to a dead halt, and it only began to recover when those policies were significantly ameliorated; never mind that almost all macro-economists around the world (notably the Nobel Prize Winner, Paul Krugman; the Merton College, Oxford Professor, Simon Wren-Lewis; and even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) itself) had rejected austerity as a busted flush; never mind that not Labour, but the coalition, had doubled the national debt, and left it massively more exposed to an increasingly possible second crash; never mind that the economy had been growing rapidly when Gordon Brown was forced out of office; never mind that borrowing costs are historically low, and inflation is at zero; never mind that the welfare state itself had been built by the postwar Labour government at a time the country was technically bankrupt (so it simply borrowed instead, investing in infrastructure and setting a course for the Keynesian consensus); never mind that the now immortalised Liam Byrne note was a playful aside to his successor in the manner of long established Treasury traditions; never mind that, mindbogglingly, the Tories were proposing a more extreme version of the very policy which had failed so completely in the first place… none of this mattered.

 

If a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth. Thus both coalition partners asserted that Labour’s much more balanced approach to deficit reduction would “pass our debts on to our children and grandchildren”, even when Tory policy will, by preventing growth or re-balancing, actually do that very thing; both continued to espouse the risible nonsense that Britain’s debt (which remember, they had doubled) was somehow comparable to a credit card debt, or that running a country is akin to running a household budget.

 

The press, run by barons who benefit enormously from the continuous upward funneling of wealth to the super-rich, and who would be personally impacted by a mansion tax, the return of the 50p tax rate, and especially the removal of the absurd protection of non-doms, hammered the message home again and again: Labour would endanger everything. A shockingly economically illiterate public (so illiterate that this itself poses an increasing threat to public policy, and certainly to the UK’s fiscal health) would inevitably acquiesce: despite policies which do most of them ongoing financial and social harm. And once the ‘danger’ posed by a party with the brass neck to have huge numbers of MPs democratically elected by Scottish voters was thrown into a wholly disingenuous, toxic mix, the die was cast: with public minds panicked into nonsensical comparisons with the 1970s, told that Nicola Sturgeon would ‘drag’ Miliband to the left… despite the SNP actually standing for slower, more drawn out austerity than Labour.

 

opendemocacy

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Nothing fills me with greater satisfaction than to see the liberal left crying, swearing, abusing and acting like complete children (so no different to pre-election then) after the conclusion to this latest general election. On VillaTalk, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in colleges, universities and workplaces across the UK.

 

"WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! THE NHS WILL BE DESTROYED! THE POOR PEOPLE WILL BE BEHEADED! WE ALL NEED TO MOVE ABROAD! WHY DIDN'T RUSSELL BRAND SAVE US?" (repeat ad nauseum)

 

Until the liberal left add more than a dash of realism to their arguments, the silent majority will continue doing what it does best. Ignoring the name-calling, ignoring the hate-filled, ideological abuse dished out to anyone who 'admits' to voting Conservative, sorry the nasty Tories, and voting in the best interests of this country.

 

For what it's worth, I have a plethora of working-class mates and not a single one votes for Labour or the Liberal Democrats. The one friend I know who is a staunch Labour voter went to Handsworth Grammar School.

 

But carry on, it's highly amusing...

 

 

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YLN's excellent post and the article in the Guardian is exactly what I meant by some voters not really understanding the whole package they have voted for.

There are going to be a lot of households with £40-70k incomes who have been duped into thinking they are middle class enough to be voting Tory. With the cost of living these days, a household income in that range makes them upper working class at best.

As YLN put it, they think they are closer to the rich than the poor and they aren't. The squeeze is going to surprise more than a few.

I and I'm sure many other Tory voters know exactly what to expect, but think the squeeze is necessary. The economy blew up because it was built on money that never existed and governments overspent too. The answer in my opinion unfortunately is and has been austerity as well as better bank regulation, amongst other economic policies. I genuinely don't understand how people are totally anti-austerity, it just seems unrealistic to me. I'm sure many in the centre made their decisive vote based on who they think is more competent with economic matters. I mean the shadow chancellor didn't even get voted in his own seat.

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YLN's excellent post and the article in the Guardian is exactly what I meant by some voters not really understanding the whole package they have voted for.

That's not the voters' fault.

Not necessarily saying it is mate, it's what I have said before - it's a brilliant swindle by the Tory party and a fantastic campaign.

It doesn't make the point any less valid though, people have been duped and the Tories have taken advantage of those voting on one or two core issues.

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YLN's excellent post and the article in the Guardian is exactly what I meant by some voters not really understanding the whole package they have voted for.

There are going to be a lot of households with £40-70k incomes who have been duped into thinking they are middle class enough to be voting Tory. With the cost of living these days, a household income in that range makes them upper working class at best.

As YLN put it, they think they are closer to the rich than the poor and they aren't. The squeeze is going to surprise more than a few.

I and I'm sure many other Tory voters know exactly what to expect, but think the squeeze is necessary. The economy blew up because it was built on money that never existed and governments overspent too. The answer in my opinion unfortunately is and has been austerity as well as better bank regulation, amongst other economic policies. I genuinely don't understand how people are totally anti-austerity, it just seems unrealistic to me. I'm sure many in the centre made their decisive vote based on who they think is more competent with economic matters. I mean the shadow chancellor didn't even get voted in his own seat.

This is how I see it as well, seems to be based purely off ideology rather than economic sense IMO.

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YLN's excellent post and the article in the Guardian is exactly what I meant by some voters not really understanding the whole package they have voted for.

That's not the voters' fault.
Not necessarily saying it is mate, it's what I have said before - it's a brilliant swindle by the Tory party and a fantastic campaign.

It doesn't make the point any less valid though, people have been duped and the Tories have taken advantage of those voting on one or two core issues.

Is it not possible that people haven't been "duped" and just don't agree with your opinions and have made a sensible and informed decision on their own that has brought then to vote Tory?

Why is it that the people who voted Tory (more than any other party) are the ones who have been duped and not you?

Its a very high and mighty point of view I must say.

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