Tory welfare reform, or social Blitz Krieg?

I was struck by George Osborne’s announcement on benefits cuts, but having moved out into the sticks whilst Slugger Central has a new back wall put to it, I missed the opportunity to blog it. Lee beat me to it, and made on of the points I would have made:

The idea of capping the welfare levels is an interesting one that has a basis in the principle of fairness.  However, you do wonder if it is a means of exporting the unemployed from nice Tory areas of London etc.

Precisely. Though this one was absent from the talking point in Birmingham and did not excite the same amount of attention amongst the liberal chattering classes. Of course, I see the fairness problem it is trying to address.

But it remains to be seen whether it does anything other than push poorer families further into the ghetto society Mr Cameron was supposed to be getting rid of. Of course, it could have the effect of forcing a cap on rental prices for larger properties. In which case, job jobbed.

But I somehow doubt that was the core reasoning. Lee goes on to ask why the Chancellor rather than IDS made the announcement. Well, I doubt either of these two measures was what IDS had in mind when he produced his great welfare reforms. It may well have been Osborne’s neo Thatcherite price for those expensive measures.

One of the more prominent [local – in deference to Briso’s remark below] Conservative candidates in the last General Election, Ian Parsley (there’s also an interesting contextual post which may explain his divergent thinking on his blog) is none to pleased with the curbing of Child Benefit. Not on the fairness principle, but on the basis that the Conservatives blatantly campaigned on the universality priniciple just a few months ago:

“Strictly, the Party Leadership will argue that it has not broken its manifesto pledges because it has not cut or removed child benefits, but rather removed it from a minority of the population. However, for most people that is just semantics. As a candidate in the last General Election I understood the Conservatives’ position to be retention of child benefits as is, and campaigned on that basis – and I suspect the voting public would agree with my understanding.

“I would add that that was also my understanding of Liberal Democrat policy.

“The removal of child benefits from any section of the population may be popular in the short term, but it is against the principle of universality of welfare which Conservatives argued for during the election campaign, and which I believe most Conservatives support. It is an essential principle of the welfare state that everyone has a stake within it.

So was this the first of (many?) Osborne Treasury coups? It seems to me he is one of the most under estimated operators in the Cabinet, as much by party colleagues as by a Labour opposition which may find it more difficult to counter his ground shifting tactics than they currently think.

This is the beginning of the end of the ‘phoney war’… It remains to be seen whether the CSR is the beginning of a Tory Blitz Krieg…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty