Ed Miliband is under pressure to take a tougher approach to welfare after a survey found that he is not trusted by voters to prevent benefits spending rising out of control.
A YouGov poll for the Labour Uncut blog found that many people blame the last Labour government for the £200bn-a-year bill for welfare and tax credits. Some 44 per cent of people (and 30 per cent of Labour supporters) believe welfare spending is too high, while only 18 per cent think it is too low and 17 per cent say it is about right.
When those who say the welfare bill is too high are asked who they believe is responsible for it, a majority (54 per cent) blame the last Labour government and only 5 per cent the Coalition. Some 31 per cent think the last and present governments are equally responsible and 8 per cent blame neither.
Asked who would do more to prevent welfare spending rising out of control, only 14 per cent of the public name Mr Miliband and 45 per cent opted for David Cameron, while 25 per cent reply “neither.” When asked who they trusted most to create jobs and reduce unemployment, the two leaders are neck and neck. Some 28 per cent trust Mr Miliband, 27 per cent Mr Cameron and 30 per cent neither.
Under Mr Miliband, Labour has toughened its line on social security. The jobless would lose benefits if they refused a government-guaranteed job after two years, or one year for young people. But the Conservatives have branded Labour “the welfare party” after it did not support the Government’s £26,000-a-year cap on benefit claims by a family.
Kevin Meagher, associate editor of Labour Uncut, described the findings as “politically toxic” and said the party needs to “stop this rot in public trust”.
Writing on The Independent’s website, he warned: “This gap goes to the heart of Labour’s credibility as a party of government, so narrowing it must be a strategic priority.”
He conceded that Labour has started to make the case for a tougher approach, but said it did so “intermittently and behind a cupped hand”.
But a Labour source insisted: “People know Labour’s best for jobs and wages – and only more jobs and better wages can bring down the benefits bill. That’s the argument we’re going to win.”
Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said: “The last Labour government led us into an economic crisis and still their ‘something for nothing’ welfare policies amount to the same old Labour spending, borrowing and debt – exactly what got us into the mess in the first place. Yet again, this shows that Ed Miliband is on the wrong side of the argument, while the Conservatives are on the side of hard-working families.”
According to YouGov, when people are asked what is the greatest problem with welfare, 55 per cent say that too much money goes to the wrong people; 26 per cent say politicians and the media distort the truth and 11 per cent think the system is not generous enough to those in need. Asked who does not get a fair deal from welfare, 32 per cent name pensioners, 20 per cent the low paid, 19 per cent the disabled, 10 per cent families with children and 4 per cent the unemployed.
When asked who they trusted to ensure benefits reach the people who really deserve them, 26 per cent name Mr Miliband, 27 per cent Mr Cameron and 31 per cent reply “neither.”
YouGov interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,593 adults online between 30 August and 4 September.
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