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


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

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