Conservative modernisers have attacked George Osborne’s controversial decision to make the unemployed wait for seven days before they can claim benefits.
Bright Blue, a think-tank which supports David Cameron’s drive to rid the Conservatives of their “nasty party” image, warned that the Government’s latest crackdown could damage the party.
Ryan Shorthouse, Bright Blue director, said: “The continuous clampdown on benefits by the Conservatives could eventually backfire. There may come a tipping point when voters become suspicious of why the Tories keep targeting unemployment support, especially when bigger savings can be found from ending unnecessary benefits to wealthier pensioners such as free TV licences and winter fuel payments.”
Mr Shorthouse added: “Reducing the amount of benefits people receive when they first lose their job seems particularly unkind, especially when under the new universal credit some claimants may have to wait a month before eventually getting their benefits. A compassionate Conservative Party should be supporting those facing difficult circumstances, especially when we know the overwhelming majority are trying hard to better the situation for themselves and their families.”
His views are understood to be shared privately by some Tory MPs, who oppose what Labour has called the Chancellor’s divisive “scroungers vs strivers” agenda.
As The Independent revealed, charities have warned that the seven-day wait for jobseeker’s allowance will force some unemployed people to turn to payday lenders or food banks.
Today Mr Osborne denied that the £11.5bn cuts had been “loaded on the poor”. He defended the seven-day rule, saying the £260m-a-year saving would be ploughed back into jobcentres to help people into work.
“There are lots of other countries in the world – compassionate countries – who do this. What I’m saying is that the first thing that happens is you should be looking to get yourself back to work of course; not the first thing you should do is go to the jobcentre and sign on,” he said.