George Osborne has branded the Tories the “only true party of labour”, pledging to “govern for the many” in his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference, while telling Jeremy Corbyn: “you listen to the few”.
The Chancellor dedicated a large chunk of his speech to attacking Labour’s new leadership, accusing the party of having “completely abandoned” working people.
He told Mr Corbyn: “You head back to the 1980s; we’re heading forward.”
Attempting to capitalise on the public’s lack of trust of Labour’s economic approach, Mr Osborne said the Tories were the party of “builders” on seven occasions.
He said: “Labour have now turned their back on opportunity and aspiration – we’re going to build the share-owning democracy this party has always believed in.
“Labour – the wreckers; we are the builders,” he added. In a clear sign that he will attempt to shift the Tories to the centre of British politics if he replaces Mr Cameron as Prime Minister, Mr Osborne urged colleagues to take advantage of the political ground vacated by Labour’s radical shift to the left.
“To these working people who have been completely abandoned by a party heading off to the fringes of the left let us all here today extend our hand.
“Do you know what the supporters of the new Labour leadership now call anyone who believes in strong national defence, a market economy, and the country living within its means? They call them Tories.
Well, it’s our job to make sure they’re absolutely right. Because we’re now the party of work, the only true party of labour.”
Three policies that show the Tories aren’t the party of the many, whatever Osborne says
1. Cuts to tax credits
The deepest cuts to the welfare budget will hit working people in the form of George Osborne’s decision to cut tax credits, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said.
George Osborne announced the subsidies that prop up low pay will be cut by £4.5bn a year from next April.
He claims his new living wage, which will start at £7.20 in April and rise to £9 by 2020, will cover the cut in working tax credits but the Institute of Fiscal Studies warns the wage rise comes “nowhere near” to compensating for it and warns the move could cost the average low-paid household an average £1,350 a year.
An estimated 3.2 million households with annual incomes of less than £30,000 are set to be hit.
Even some Tory MPs defending small majorities against Labour are urging Mr Osborne to soften the blow on the poorest workers by not implementing the changes on the very poorest, but he again refused to back down when quizzed on the issue this morning.
2. Restrictions will be placed on the ability of workers to take strike action under the Government’s plans for a radical shake-up of trade union laws.
Among the harshest measures in the Trade Union Bill is a proposal to ban workers in key public sectors from striking unless industrial action is supported by at least 40 per cent of all those eligible to vote.
The move means that any worker who abstains in a strike vote or forgets to return their ballot paper will effectively be deemed to be opposing the move.
In other sectors that are not deemed as vital public services, strike action will be curtailed with a new 50 per cent turnout threshold for industrial action to be legal.
Unions will also be forced to go ahead with strike action within four months of the vote to ensure industrial action is “always recent”.
And civil liberty groups have warned that every worker wanting to join a strike picket could be forced to identify themselves to police, carry a letter of authorisation and wear an armband. Human rights groups say this clampdown on workers’ rights to strike equates to a “major attack” on civil liberties in the UK.
3. 1 per cent cap on public sector pay
Mr Osborne announced a further four years of the 1 per cent pay cap on Britain’s 5.7 million public sector workers in his summer budget.
It comes after the Coalition imposed a pay freeze in its first three years in power, followed by a 1 per cent pay cap in 2014/2015.
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