David Cameron on welfare: An unusual sort of speech


It's an unusual sort of speech.

This morning David Cameron says, in effect: "I'm in charge of the country. I have already promised radical welfare cuts which have yet to be implemented or examined for their impact but here's the sort of thing I'd want to do in three years time if you re-elect me without the need to rely on those pesky Liberals - but don't push me on the details yet."

So, why is he doing it?

There will be many theories, but here's just a few. It cheers up Tories in the week they're being asked to stomach Lib Dem plans to reform the Lords without a referendum; it gives Conservatives a way to highlight what they'd do if only they could; it helps get the Tory press back on side after the so-called omnishambles Budget and it poses real problems for Labour just as the housing benefit cap did.

There is, though, one reason above all others which the Westminster village too easily forgets and is the key to all the rest - it's popular.

A recent YouGov poll for Prospect magazine suggested a startling 74% of the public - including 59% of Labour voters and 51% of those on the lowest incomes (below £10,000) - thought that welfare payments should be cut. The most popular cuts are for, you guessed it, the unemployed and never-married single parents. The least popular cuts are for the elderly.

The prime minister is using his position to spark a debate which he already knows he's won. Asked about the specifics he will, no doubt, do as Iain Duncan Smith did this morning and say "these are the details... that's the challenge... we'll have to be careful ...etc"

One important note. David Cameron was careful to say - in the advance text we've seen so far - that he'd keep his promise to pensioners not to means-test their benefits, but Iain Duncan Smith made it absolutely clear that that promise lasts just for this Parliament - in other words not for the period the speech is talking about.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 518.


    No need to fear trapped in village, dependent on weekly or harvest share-out

    National Equal Income would need 'approvals' (colleges, supervisors, employers, accountants, etc), but creative elasticity both needed and possible esp for the younger and the dissatisfied

    One thing to take risks of 'less', to pursue dreams: quite another to feel excluded though willing

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    516 Sorry AFA - got bored. I suspect we could live comfortably together in a small village that either could leave when pissed off. At national level - forget it. As I have already observed somethings dont scale and when it comes to the state - less is more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    feedback @509
    "the last 60 years"

    To be 'sweeping': we lived off the land, by favour of lords, by rent of land, ever more inter-dependent, 'insured' by community (whether from tithes, charities, subscriptions, taxes or protected savings)

    Now, we 'live off our share of currency', however bargained or husbanded

    But 'undemocratic rules' play tricks, not least in licences to print debt

    Your move

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    Andy @510
    "the left"?

    Claire is looking for a home, not an indoctrination!

    Just as a house needs SOUND bricks, civilisation needs sound people
    Understanding & accepting logical conditions for VIABLE democracy
    NOT divided & ruled by Fear & Greed

    If all others agreed, would you demand special reward?

    Why represent Full Employment as "no effort"?

    Why pretend OK for 51% to enslave 49%, or worse?

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    The rates are not as good as David Cameron and co would have us beleave for most people

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    Claire @508
    "How at state level?"
    For democracy, ONLY "at state level"

    How: by discussion, understanding, agreement

    Equal distribution of income (nothing simpler)

    Unequal homes at unequal rents (free choice)

    WWII: health improved, with food-rationing

    No need for or point in 'evictions or vandalism'

    Let castle-rents rise gently, full only at death

    WE have hands & stones: for homes, the will

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Perhaps another consideration which has not been addressed is alternative sources of power, if we could do this then oil (with affects bills, travel and food prices). Could ease costs to make transitions and reforms smoother. This would go a long way to easing people’s burdens and reliance on welfare. The collapse began with high oil prices and people not affording to live and pay mortgages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.


    505- It is a dream and impossible"

    It's what the left does best.

    Dream those impossible dreams. Harmless enough until their promises of "good times for ever with no effort" persuade people to vote for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    AFA - families are rarely 'equal' but good families do their best to look after each other. In the last 60 years we have replaced families & communities with a centralised state. However the state is a poor parent and mutually supportive society requires reciprocity that doesnt scale. Its just no good to expect workers to keep paying for failed banks, failed govts and a failed welfare state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    505- How can equality be implemented? Let’s start at the very bottom of what would be problematic. How can this be done on a state level? Just look at housing -one person is not going to feel it fair that others have a better house. We can’t just tear everything down and start again; we do not have the resources. It is a dream and impossible

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    Claire, unless prices fall and debt is written of we will have a 50year recession - so I hope it happens soon so you can buy a house. Unless headline taxes fall to a level that makes sense and tax law is massively simplified avoidance will simply continue as those that can opt out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    feedbackloop- I have my deposit ready and am just waiting for house prices to fall to a level I can afford. But can the economy afford it? Massive debt will be incurred by those repossessions and the banks will face another crisis as a result. The only way forward is growth, creating more jobs and tax evasion to be addressed to offset costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    feedback @503
    rhetorical @498

    In genuine democracy, the 'flaws' would be 'individual / sporadic'

    What we have is institutionalised corruption, dictated by inequality

    You say "equality tried", even that "plenty" have tried, when the reality is NEVER tried at state level (though commonly successful in families & firms)

    Did you hear clownish 'Reith' assertion on 'trial' of straight banking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    #494 I also don't agree with the word 'purely'. These are not my words.

    But it's interesting to recall how the rest of the world views Europe, especially since Sarkozy tried unsuccessfully begging the Chinese for aid and, I understand, the Chinese are pulling out of European debt markets. If so the mechanism by which the Chinese lent European consumers to buy their goods is breaking down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    496 Clair - part of that recipe ie the fall in house prices is essential to recovery. At present they are being inflated away by robbing savers. They should have crashed with the debt written off.

    AFA - where to start on democratic flaws in 200 chrs

    AFA - plenty have tried 'equality' above all else at the state level - all sacrificed liberty and wound up with repressive murderous elites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    #494 I don't think there is a single first cause, or even just one crisis.

    The eurozone is a cause and a crisis of itself. In most Southern European states low productivity, tax evasion, political corruption, and excessive public and private sector debt pre-date the UK/US banking crisis. EU political institutions are unable to manage a single interest and exchange rate for divergent economies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Steve @497
    Good to hear!

    Yes, advocating a dream

    Rather than accepting nightmare

    I think we have debated before. You would not be the one to sabotage the agreement of all others of goodwill

    Until we have tried equality, we'll never know whether 'bad apples' necessarily numerous & unmanageable

    Sure, we have to 'carry' children etc

    Most of us have something, mind &/or strength, to give

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    I understand Dave left out of his speech the idea about regional variation in benefits, which was originally it it. How long before it is suggested regional levels of pensions? an equally bad idea.
    But how about regional levels of tax allowance??? Where will it stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    494 Bryers - good to see you back. Germany can afford their welfare state principally because the southern european states cannot. The lowered EU exchange rate & high german credit ratings this provides gives their productive economy a huge headwind. Sweeden's boom is on the back of massive market friendly reforms. Lesson if you cannot afford your welfare state you are forced to scale it back.


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