Could the Tax Credit Cuts be this Government’s Poll Tax?

It’s going to be interesting to see how the impending cuts to tax credits impact on the Tories. David Davis has raised concerns that this may well be this government’s poll tax, in reference to the damage done to the Thatcher Government following its introduction in 1989.

On Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning show, David Cameron rejected any suggestion that he would re-visit the plan, and today Andrew Neil interviewed Conservative ministers Matt Hancock and David Gauke, both of whom struggled to defend the cuts, which are estimated to result in a loss of £1300 for some of Britain’s poorest workers. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt even went so far as to say that the cuts were an important cultural change that would encourage people to work as hard as the Americans and the Chinese!

Labour MP Frank Field, who is on the right of the party and is very highly regarded by the Tories for his work on welfare, was particularly scathing when the announcement was made. He said:

“In the long run up to the general election and after the general election, the Chancellor said the Tory party were the party of strivers and we were the party of welfare. And what’s amazing for me is that I don’t think we’ve had a more astute political chancellor in my lifetime and yet by centring the biggest cuts of all on tax credits, he actually blows up that image about the Tory party as the party of strivers. So that for example, if he wins today, over three million people will be worse off by £1200 a pound a year – some much more than that.”

All of this is taking place against a backdrop of George Osborne pinching those policies from Labour’s 2015 manifesto (I’ve written about this before here) that create the illusion of a Tory party tacking towards the centre. This morning’s announcement at the Conservative Party’s annual conference that Lord Adonis was resigning the Labour whip in the Lords to head up an infrastructure commission, an initiative initially proposed by Labour, and the announcement on business rates in England are just two examples of where Osborne has cherry-picked the content of Miliband’s doomed offer to the country in the spring.

But will these announcements by the Tories be enough to draw the sting from the negativity surrounding the tax credit cuts? I certainly don’t think so. Those announcements are the stuff of Westminster Village conversation. The Sun who are no friend of the Labour party, have even begun a campaign to overturn (or at least cushion the blow of) the cuts and when people begin to feel their impact in their pockets there will surely be consequences at the ballot box. Luckily for George, the heir apparent, the big one isn’t until 2020, hence his eagerness to act now. It’s just a shame they hadn’t been more open when asked prior to this year’s election. It’s not as if they weren’t asked, as Andrew Neill made clear to Matt Hancock.

  • aquifer

    Big impact locally due to low wages. Would the DUP dare vote for it?

  • “Could the Tax Credit Cuts be this Government’s Poll Tax?”

    Yet another question to which the answer is “No.”

  • mickfealty

    Tories themselves calculate not. Thanks to fixed term parliaments, they have a long time now before they have to face the electorate.

    More directly to your point, Thatcher’s poll tax unified the poor and the middle class, whereas Osborne is planning the old divide and rule thing between what he’s defining as the deserving and undeserving poor.

    They are counting on Corbyn and McDonnell getting their Labour movement out onto the streets where the Conservatives had them for a chunk of the 80s whilst they de-industrialised Britain.

    Judging by Corbyn’s crib-from-a-blog speech, there simply won’t be any one at the dispatch box to call them on it. NHS employees are getting caned as are the poor, and Labour are planning a protest in place of a functional opposition.

    Meanwhile Osborne is fast tracking the US model of healthcare, schools, local democracy and much else besides. AKA, making hay whilst the sun shines.

    [Expect the 35-40% US turnout and popular involvement in representative democracy that goes along with it too.]

  • AndyB

    I’m going to roll in behind Mick and Pete for one simple reason.

    The vast majority of those affected by the tax credit cuts could not be persuaded to vote Tory in the first place.

    And, much as politicians love to call the UK a Christian country, there are insufficient numbers of Christians who are willing to stand up and vote against the Tories due to their treatment of the poor.

    Short version is that there aren’t many votes to lose from this (or other) policies.

  • 23×7

    Crikey are you still banging on about Corbyn using someone else’s words?

  • 23×7

    No this will not be the tories poll tax because the majority of the electorate is now largely docile and, as has been said elsewhere, this will not impact many tory voters. The biggest risk to the tories at present will be their family feud over Europe and another crash either triggered by an EU exit or elsewhere.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    your headline was my very thought listening to D Cam this morning on the Today programme (and Gideon yesterday). It’s his Flashman risk-taking side – and this one might really backfire on him. People can buy a benefits-cutting narrative if they imagine it’s happening to the undeserving (it isn’t, btw, but anyway); but hitting low paid workers whom they’re supposed to be championing … they’re going to need a VERY buoyant economy to get away with this; the Labour shambles will help them too.

    But it’s at best very risky politically. It’s not just the people you hit, it’s the people they know and influence. More importantly, the measure is wrong in itself – we can all agree with wanting to transition away from the “low pay + tax credits” system to one of higher pay and fewer tax credits. But that’s a big tanker to turn around and it needs to be done gradually without hitting people who are doing all the right things. The Tories have simply sacrificed those people without regard for their welfare by withdrawing benefits without employers raising wages.

    You can’t make sudden shifts like that as a state – that’s where the state becomes an arbitrary, unreliable presence and denies people the ability to plan their lives based on predictable incomes. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • mickfealty

    He hasn’t gone away you know?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    probably right, unfortunately. But I do just wonder about the Nuneatons of this world and the impact on less well off swing voters and their extended families and friends of this. Could just change the mood. Unfortunately Labour aren’t really poised to capitalise.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    spot on Mick – no accident this is being done early in the parliament.

    And look at what they got away with over the last 5 years: basically 3 years of utter incompetence and public failure 2010-13, masked by a final two years in which the much delayed recovery finally emerged (in spite of, not because of, Tory policy in the opinion of most macro-economists – But what people saw on election day was, predictably, things going relatively well at the time and prospects fairly good too. We in the British public will have to take a lot of punishment now for the next 2-3 years as a result of how we let them off in 2015. They know they can get away with virtually anything.

  • chrisjones2

    They dont have a choice really. It will happen anyway and the chance to mitigate it seems to have been lost