Budget: The myth that Osborne’s welfare cuts are wildly popular

So much for the centre ground of politics having shifted irrevocably to the right

Danny Alexander, George Osborne, David Cameron laughin


Chancellor George Osborne will make £12bn in welfare cuts a central plank of his budget speech later today. Despite it being reported this morning that the chancellor plans to ‘slow’ the pace of the cuts, he is hardly taking his foot off the gas – the cuts will simply be carried out over three years instead of two.

The scale and pace of the cuts remain unprecedented. We know at present that Osborne is planning to: lower the benefit cap of £23,000 in London and lower it further in the rest of the country; remove tax credits from around 3.7million working families; disqualify most 18- to 21-year-olds from claiming housing benefit; and freeze the level of working-age benefits for two years from next April.

The scale of the changes will leave the welfare state growing at its slowest pace since 1948 – quite something considering the speed at which Britain’s population is ageing (and is therefore more reliant on social security in some form).

Leave aside for a moment arguments over the morality of taking money away from those with little of it already – all the while cutting inheritance tax for the top 6 per cent (only the top 6 per cent actually pay inheritance tax) – there is a myth doing the rounds that cuts to welfare of this scale are wildly popular.

That’s the Spectator’s James Forsyth, who is by no means exceptional in assuming that it’s a vote winner to bash those on benefits.

Yet a ComRes poll for the Daily Mail, out this morning, reveals the opposite. According to this, six in ten (57 per cent) of Britons oppose the potential £12 billion cuts to welfare spending. And it’s supported by just half (52 per cent) of Conservative supporters, with 43 per cent opposed to it. Just a quarter (24 per cent) of Labour supporters back the cuts.

Meanwhile, according to the same poll, the proposed tax cut for top rate tax payers is the least popular of Osborne’s policies; just a third (33 per cent) of Britons polled say they support cutting the rate from 45p to 40p for those earning over £150,000. Six in ten (61 per cent) oppose the tax cut – even among Conservative supporters 57 per cent are opposed.

As for an inheritance tax cut, slightly over half (53 per cent) support increasing the inheritance tax threshold while 39 per cent oppose it. And raising the threshold for the 20p rate of income tax would be supported by eight in ten (80 per cent) of Britons.

So much, then, for the centre ground of politics having shifted irrevocably to the right.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

16 Responses to “Budget: The myth that Osborne’s welfare cuts are wildly popular”

  1. stevep

    There never has been popular support for reckless welfare cuts. The right wing press attempt to demonise the poor and popularise cuts but aren`t as successful as they think they are.
    The British people are inherently decent and respond to politics that benefit the whole. That`s why they voted for the Attlee Labour government in 1945 after they promised to implement the Beveridge report and end poverty in this country.
    British decency will also see through the smoke and mirrors created to defend and justify attacking the weak, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the disadvantaged.
    British decency will respond to a promised reversal of these unfair cuts and a radical agenda to put British people at the heart of decision-making, backed by a fully-costed progressive taxation policy to fund it.
    Let`s make Britain Great again!

  2. WilliamSSharp

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  3. Matthew Blott

    Don’t assume “British decency will also see through” means voters will come running to a leftwing opposition. Greece’s economy has shrunk by 25 per cent – more than the US during the Depression – and yet 4 in 10 voters endorsed the weekend’s referendum to continue with more of the same. Voters will only leave the Tories if they think another party can be trusted to run the economy.

  4. stevep

    But 6 in 10 Greeks rejected it, which is more important.
    The last election was a fluke result no-one predicted. Much has been said about the economy, but the last Tory-led government were no masters of it.
    In a campaign of blandness and uncertainty It might have been something as prosaic as Better-the-devil-you-know logic that determined the result of the election.
    If unfairness continues and poverty deepens I think the decency of the British people will shine through and we`ll see less support for the right.
    Let`s hope the left are up for it.

  5. Matthew Blott

    It was not a fluke but you can interpret a clear election win for the Tories as you will. If we have to see the economy shrink by a quarter to fulfil your dream then don’t mind if I pass 🙂

  6. treborc

    They do seem to be accepted the Tory ideology, Reeves will be jumping up and down in temper that labour and her in particular did not get a change to cut and cut hard, but better the devil you know

    People may say the middle class are for fairnewss but only after they have what they want

  7. Matt Booth

    The problem is that in the last 5 year we’ve had this horrendous assault on people in this country.

    You see it all over the internet on various websites, including this one, of very right wing people buying the official line hook, line and sinker.

    From people suggesting that since they paid for their own University education, everyone should have to (ignoring the fact that they were priviledged to have been able to do so.).

    People suggesting those on benefits can simply unpoor themselves through the magic of “hard work” ignoring that most of those on benefits are either infirm, elderly or actually working, but not being able to earn enough. But, to these people, anyone on benefits is a feckless twat who should try harder.

    So when these rounds of cuts come, and they say “we’re reducing tax credits” they fucking cheer like apes, ignoring the fact that it does not mean what they think it means. They think it means someone who doesn’t work is going to get the boot up their arse, when really it’s a family with over £1200 less a year to work with.

    They wanted to make work pay, but now people are worse off. A friend of mine will now be £1200 a year worse off. She is a single parent, 3 kids, and works 16 hours a week. If she works more and earns more, she becomes worse off. If she earned another £1000 a year, she’d end up £1600 a year worse off! How does this make any sense?


    It does not help when those idiots go on the TV and flaunt themselve almost boasting about their benefits. How do you think joe bloggs that gets out of his scratcher every morning and goes to work feels about it. When Duncan Smith came to Glasgow Easterhouse years ago it set him of on a mission.


    It was not a fluke at all. Milliband fucked up with his tablet of stone. What a cringe it reminded me of Kinnock. And you the had the pretend leftie SNP being obsessed with welfare and demanding more from the taxpayer. It was a foregone conclusion the Tories would win.

  10. JarrowPete

    So did you bet your mortgage on it then?

  11. JarrowPete

    You fail to see the real issue about “poverty porn”. It’s not about the “idiots” (your word, not mine) you refer to but the tv producers (who are part of the establishment themselves) protecting their own while blaming the working classes on society’s ills. Where are the documentaries about spiv bankers who got us into this horrendous mess in the first place? You have obviously been duped into believing that ALL benefit claimants are spongers.


    You should not assume I have mortgage.


    I did not say that all benefit seekers were spongers. And no one I know of blames benefit seekers for all the so called ills you refer to. What do you mean by ills. The so called spivs you talk about were ok guys when they were drawing in the dosh although we knew they were spivs. So you want to jail them when they fuck up and replace them with honest bankers!

  14. JarrowPete

    “The so-called spivs were ok guys when drawing in the dosh”?? The point is we DIDN’T KNOW they were doing all this roulette bullshit until it all hit the fan and we found out what was really going on. And yes, I would like to see those bankers who manipulated interest rates and committed Corporate fraud jailed because, funny enough, they were actually breaking the law.

  15. JarrowPete

    Grow up. You get my point.

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