So you've been whingeing that Blair isn't radical. Will you back him when he hits your wallet?

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The Independent Online
Tomorrow Tony Blair starts to take his "hard choices" about welfare directly to the voters. Dare he withdraw, or tax, the benefits paid to the Middle Englanders he wooed last May?

The Prime Minister might be emboldened to learn that there is enthusiastic support for some of his more radical proposals even among those who stand to lose out from reform.

One such voter, Philip Circus, has already paid what he considers to be a "vast amount" in tax and national insurance contributions to help pay for the Welfare State. As a barrister and legal consultant he makes over pounds 140,000 a year and lives in a pounds 700,000 home in the Surrey commuter belt.

But the former Conservative parliamentary candidate and councillor is prepared to forgo the welfare benefits for which he has paid - provided that that his tax liability and NI contributions are not increased.

"The burden on the Welfare State is so colossal that we have got to be much more selective about who the benefit goes to. I think middle-class people have got to bite the bullet and face the fact that a lot of benefit will not go to them," he said. "The alternative is for tax and national insurance contributions to be massively increased, and I am not prepared to countenance that."

He admires Tony Blair's "courageous" shake-up of the Welfare State and believes that the Conservatives would not have been allowed by the public to carry out such a reform programme.

"Maybe, paradoxically, it is only a Labour government that could have done this. I am not a natural Labour Party supporter but I thoroughly support Tony Blair and a lot of what he is doing."

Mr Circus said that although he would like to have a basic state pension, he believed that it may have to be denied to the wealthy.

Mr Circus and his wife Gaenor, 36, do not have children but he feels child benefit for the middle classes is not appropriate. "A very large number of people are getting benefits they don't need," he said. "Benefits that are designed to provide a welfare platform should not be paid to people who don't need them."

The cases of single parents should be carefully judged on their merits, he said.

"It would be wrong to target all single parents as undeserving but I do believe that there are some that are. I have met single parents who have actually boasted about their ability to get state handouts as the basis for bringing up their children. It can't be right."

He is a supporter of the NHS but believes it should prioritise those people "who cannot get private health care on reasonable terms" and where possible the middle-classes should make provision for their own care.

"I'm trying to be realistic and look to my own long-term best interests. I am not being totally unselfish; I know that if we don't tackle this I would end up paying 60p in the pound rather than 40p."

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