by Daphne Liddle
TORY LEADER David Cameron must be feeling very confident of victory in the next general election because he and his team announced a series of measures aimed to lower working class living standards while giving generous tax cuts to bosses.
These include massive job cuts, a freeze on public sector pay, cuts in welfare provision and raising the pension age to 66 while reducing corporation tax and eliminating all taxes on new businesses for the first two years. In addition the Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act.
The proposals show that he is following the traditional free market economic policies favoured by Thatcher of massive cuts in tax and public spending.
These are the opposite of the Keynesian policies put forward by Gordon Brown at the Labour Party conference just a week ago, of sustaining public spending to create jobs and keep money circulating to keep the capitalist markets rolling.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne on Tuesday denied the Tories were taking a risk with his plans to freeze public sector pay, cut tax credits for higher earners and raise the retirement age.
He argued that drastic measures were needed to pay off the huge Government debt incurred by Labour’s bailing out the banks in the great banking collapse last year, repeating the mantra: “We’re all in it together” — except of course employers who, having done very well over the last decade with Brown as Chancellor and the Prime Minister, can expect to do even better under Cameron and Osborne.
“I don’t think of it as a gamble,” he told the BBC Radio Four Today programme. “Whoever wins the election is going to have to take these choices, anyone who tells you otherwise is frankly lying to you.”
He was asking the public to “accept” that measures such as a one-year pay freeze for most public sector workers were needed.”
Osborne said he would be seeking to find “more value for money” in the NHS. Other cash-saving measures would include reducing Whitehall costs by a third (more civil servants losing their jobs), axing child trust funds and cutting middle income tax credits.
But he said he would, for now, keep Labour’s plan to introduce a 50 per cent tax rate on the very rich.
Raising the pension age during a recession will simply raise the number of young people unemployed.
On Monday Cameron announced plans to force thousands of claimants off incapacity benefit and on to job seekers’ allowance, claiming that many would be able to do some sort of work.
He obviously has not noticed that Labour has just done exactly such an audit of incapacity benefit claimants as it abolished the benefit and introduced “employment support allowance”.
All it did — as countless other such audits have done in the past — is to put thousands of sick and disabled people through humiliating and painful examinations, carried out by private agencies who do not use medically qualified examiners — to discover that the vast majority of claimants are quite genuine. Those who “passed” the test are now on income support.
But Cameron’s plan to force them on to job seekers allowance would cost them a fall in benefit rate of at least £25 a week.
And though many would be very willing to get a job they could do, their chances of finding one in a recession, when there are dozens of applicants for every job, are very low.
The Tories’ old bogey of a split on Europe faithfully reared its head as Cameron backed off from his pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it had already been signed before he came to power.
This deeply angered the Eurosceptic backbenchers who were demanding a referendum come what may.
And the Tories also split over Cameron’s proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act when two leading Tory thinkers — former Shadow Cabinet adviser Jesse Norman and writer Peter Oborne — argued in a pamphlet published by the human rights group Liberty that the Human Rights Act is a part of Churchill’s legacy.
They call on them to reclaim “their historic position” as the party of British liberty and the rule of law. Cameron pledged to repeal the act and replace it with a bill of rights in 2006 amid claims it was preventing the deportation of high-profile foreign terrorist suspects.
The former Tory chancellor, Ken Clarke, described the plan as “xenophobic and legal nonsense”.
The Tory party conference has opened yet more clear water between their policies and Labour’s — giving Labour a real chance of recovery in the polls and a dire warning to workers to campaign hard against a Tory win, and this includes not standing fringe candidates who would split the Labour vote and let the Tories in.