5 Dec 2012

Osborne: we are not even a third of the way into age of austerity

To the eternal back-of-the-car question “are we nearly there yet?” George Osborne said “it’s a hard road but we’re getting there.” Some might interpret his statement as the equivalent of  shouting at the travel-sick kids: “nowhere near, sorry.”

This should’ve been the half-way point in the austerity journey but a five hour car journey that was never going to be fun has turned into an 8 hour car journey with no guarantee of a very nice holiday destination at the end of it.

George Osborne hopes that he’s helped to neutralise the impact of missed targets by taking a pot shot at welfare.

Tories say privately they think that this is a winning way to get swing voters who resent the “shirkers,” people “with the curtains drawn all day,” as George Osborne put it at the Tory Conference, people “asleep” when the neighbours go to work, he repeated today.

Leaving aside whether that’s a vote-winner/accurate, the working age benefits capped at 1 per cent for three years include not just job seekers allowance but tax credits and other benefits that often go to in-work families.

It’ll be interesting to see how that real terms cut translates for them when the number crunchers put it through their machines.

Mr Osborne thinks “welfarism” in general has got a bad name and he’s relishing a Brownian/Ballsian style political battle-line on this. He hopes to push it to a vote before Christmas, putting it up to Labour to support or oppose his 1 per cent cap for three years.

Some say they think if the public believes there are more years of cutting to be done they’ll be inclined to trust the Tories more to do it.

You have to say there are more in the former category though, and the timescale for economic turnaround presented by George Osborne today is a far cry from the one he’d hoped for and which he presented to Tory MPs in 2010 showing economics and Tory political fortunes working together in happy harmony.

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