Calling George Osborne: let us help you get your numbers right

If you are going to call on progressives for support at least have a basic grasp of the figures

Danny Alexander, George Osborne, David Cameron laughin


Ahead of tonight’s Commons vote on his £12bn package of welfare cuts, the chancellor George Osborne has penned an article for the Guardian calling on ‘progressives’ to stop ‘ignoring’ the public and vote through his reforms.

In a piece entitled ‘Calling all progressives: help us reform the welfare state’, Osborne claims that ‘three in four people’ – including ‘a majority of Labour voters’ – support his planned cuts to social security.

And unfortunately for the left, the chancellor is broadly correct. For while, as I have written previously, the public are opposed to cuts in child tax credits for families with more than two children, there does appear to be majority support for a cutting of benefits more generally – and yes, there is support even among Labour voters.

In this respect, Osborne’s figures are correct. In this respect.

Elsewhere in the piece the chancellor is less accurate. In fact, his claim that his £7.20-an-hour ‘living wage’ will help 2.7 million minimum wage workers is a complete howler. As Osborne puts it:

“That will mean a pay rise of over £5,000 a year in cash terms for the 2.7 million people currently on the minimum wage.”

This is simply untrue; or at least it doesn’t reflect any of the official statistics that I can find. According to the government’s own Low Pay Commission, there are 1.4 million minimum wage jobs in Britain – significantly fewer than the 2.7 million claimed by the chancellor.

Progressives should certainly welcome the chancellor’s pledge to raise the minimum wage, even if they reject the scale of his planned welfare cuts. But calling on progressives for support requires, at a minimum, a basic grasp of the figures.

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

3 Responses to “Calling George Osborne: let us help you get your numbers right”

  1. Sean Garrity

    I don’t think it is just Gideon who needs a basic lesson in maths James.
    If there is as you say a majority of people supporting the cutting of benefits then I would have expected to see a much larger share of the vote in the last election for the Tory party and not the tiny 25% which they actually did get.
    “In this respect” I would say that the larger majority rejected their grind the poor into the ground style of economics.

  2. Toby Hobson

    So the anti austerity argument isn’t resonating Europe wide then? Look to Scotland.. A well presented anti austerity card with good quality delivery from some sincere politicians and the result? New Labour could copy the Tory manifesto word for word and they still wouldn’t get in…. The reason…… Low quality politicians who are ingrained in the Blair/Brown/Mandleson Dont answer a question, avoid straight answers, coached body language strategy etc. It’s false, transparent, old hat and the public has had enough. Let’s get Labour back to a traditional way of doing things .

  3. stevep

    The support for benefit cuts from voters from centre-left voters has been achieving by bombarding and propagandising them with negative views on welfare. Both in the Tory press and on cheap, trashy TV programmes.
    Once a view is accepted, it is difficult to shift.
    Before someone replies with the old chestnut: “surely people think for themselves and make their own minds up”, it needs pointing out that the entire advertising industry wouldn`t exist if that were the case.
    Labour should refute The Tories agenda to decimate the welfare state and clearly explain why it is needed and how it would work and be costed if they were in office.

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