Was Osborne’s aim to stop Labour doing this again?
For me the above Labour PEB was by far the best piece of campaigning by any party at the election. It was designed to sow doubts about what a Tory government would do by focussing on key issues that affect middle income voters. The child credit was its first main point.
If there was a single reason why Labour recovered so well in the closing days campaign it was because they got this message over.
In an absolutely must-read feature in this week’s Spectator James Forsyth looks at the role of Osborne and how cutting benefits like this was the first stage of his strategy to secure an overall majority at the next election.
He writes: “…During the election campaign, nearly every Tory candidate despaired at how so many families on Â£50,000 a year were voting Labour to protect their Â£545 child tax credit â€” despite the overall cost of a Labour government to them being far higher than that. Osborneâ€™s Budget dealt with this directly. Within two years, no family earning Â£30,000 a year or more and with one child will receive tax credits. That class of wavering Labour voters, so irritatingly prevalent in marginal seats, will be no more.
Labour may well pledge to restore the tax credits. But theyâ€™d also have to explain how theyâ€™ll pay for it â€” and Osborne plans to make sure that they do. In the same way that Brown and Balls translated every proposed Tory tax cut into the number of nurses and teachers that would have to be laid off to fund it, the Tories will claim that every Labour move will lead to a rise in tax..”
Later on Forsyth writes: “..During the coalition negotiations, he told Tories who were jittery about governing with the Liberal Democrats that only from inside government could the Tories tilt the country in their direction. The argument was that the coalition was a necessary stepping stone on the way to a Tory majority. To him, that has always been the prize…”
It’s an interesting concept – take away a popular benefit that Labour threatened would happen in the hope that this takes away a key part of Labour’s armoury.
What’s intriguing is how being in government, if only in coalition, was to central to Osborne’s plan. No wonder they were ready to offer so much to the Lib Dems.