Tax credits: Tone-deaf Tories living up to their worst stereotypes

David Cameron's 'delight' at tax credit cuts is inappropriate and insensitive


At yesterday’s PMQs, a triumphant David Cameron told Jeremy Corbyn he was ‘delighted’ to be cutting tax credits.

These are cuts that his own MPs have criticised for their harshness, their honing in on the working poor. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned that some working families with low incomes will be left up to £1,000 a year worse off.

But leaving aside the economics of the decision for a minute, isn’t it strange that the prime minister is ‘delighted’ about these cuts? ‘Delight’ is not a word which belongs in a conversation about austerity measures.

It is symptomatic of the growing arrogance of the Tories; since the election they have stopped even trying to be sensitive to the fact that many of their decisions are controversial.

At the last PMQs, the Conservatives caused outrage when they appeared to laugh at a question read out by Jeremy Corbyn about the housing crisis.

Corbyn said: “I’ve had 3,500 questions from housing in the last few days, and I just want to say this, a question from Matthew,” before having to pause due to the volume of laughter from the benches and add:

“This might be funny to some members but it’s not funny to Matthew or many others.”

If the Tories weren’t actually laughing at the thought of homeless people – whether they were laughing at Corbyn, or his approach, or whatever – their conduct was remarkably tone-deaf. It made for a miserable spectacle in which the government lived up, on national television, to all the crudest stereotypes about them; a line of mostly white men unable to stop their braying long enough to listen to the thoughts of the people their policies affect.

Iain Duncan Smith is one of the worst culprits for this: think back to his now infamous ‘fist pump’ at the announcement of the new national living wage, delivered amid many other plans for cuts, including to tax credits. (The IFS is certain that the living wage will not make up for the other changes).

Or think back even further to 8 May, when the DWP secretary told the BBC how much he was looking forward to welfare reforms.

Whatever one’s economic philosophy, it’s clear that welfare reforms and cuts cause a lot of pain and anxiety, in the short term at the very least. As the Tories implement these changes, they should remember the importance of appearing just a little bit gracious.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.