Tories fear return of nasty party in attacks on welfare 'scroungers'

Backlash against ads grows as benefits cap passed in Commons

Rhetoric about benefit “scroungers” and “skivers” used by the Conservatives will be toned down after a backlash from their own ministers and MPs, who fear the attacks could revive the Tories’ image as “the nasty party”.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has joined the criticism of the language used by Conservative Campaign HQ and the Chancellor George Osborne. Mr Duncan Smith was appalled by a Tory online advert last month showing a man on a sofa, asking whether the Government should support "hard-working families or people who won't work".

Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who starts work this month as the Tories' election campaign chief, joined Mr Duncan Smith in warning the party not to repeat the ad. Today the Tories ran a different ad, attacking Labour and saying they were "standing up for hard-working people".

MPs have voted to give a second reading to the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill by 324 votes to 268, a government majority of 56. The measure will limit the rise in most state benefits and tax credits to one per cent for the next three years. The Commons rejected a Labour amendment opposing the measure by 328 votes to 262.

One Tory minister told The Independent: "We've not got the language right at Conservative HQ and the Treasury. Some people who lose their jobs and many people on tax credits, are strivers not scroungers. Young people looking hard for their first job are not skivers; there is a danger we may make them feel like parasites, and that we look like the nasty party. The message should be that we are making work pay."

Martin Vickers, Tory MP for Cleethorpes, where 500 jobs will be lost when the Kimberly-Clark nappy firm closes a plant, said: "I support the Bill but we must not tar everyone with the same brush. Some people in my constituency who will be on benefits for a few months; in no sense will they be scroungers." Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes, said: "We have to be very careful about the language that we use … I don't feel it's right to use words like skivers. It might rhyme with strivers but it doesn't mean that it's the right word to use for people on benefits."

Some Liberal Democrat backbenchers voted against the Bill, even though it was backed by Nick Clegg. John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington, said: "I find it objectionable that the Tories are using 'skivers versus strivers' rhetoric to justify a cut to seven million working families."

Sarah Teather, a former education minister, told the Commons that using "the language of shirkers and strivers will have long-term impacts on public attitudes". They were joined by David Ward of Bradford East and Julian Huppert of Cambridge.

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, said: "I'm very uncomfortable with some of the language being used by our coalition partners, attacking people out of work... That … is completely unacceptable."

Labour adopted the high-risk strategy of opposing the measure but claims public opinion is shifting its way because two-thirds of those affected by the below-inflation rises are low-paid people in work.

Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "They know this is a strivers' tax pure and simple and they're now desperate to hide it."

*l David Cameron and Nick Clegg are set to publish a dossier detailing progress on 480 pledges made by the coalition Government, which will acknowledge that some more than 70 targets have been missed, according to reports. The Daily Telegraph reported that the document will confirm that the coalition has failed to meet pledges in areas ranging from pensions and road-building to criminal justice, and said its publication appeared to have been delayed amid fears that it would overshadow any favourable coverage of the coalition's mid-term review.

Cameron loses second minister in two days

David Cameron's attempt to start the new year on a positive footing suffered another setback tonight when a second minister resigned from his Government.

Lord Marland of Odstock, a junior trade minister at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, is the second Conservative minister to leave the Government in as many days. It follows the surprise resignation on Monday of Lord Strathclyde as Leader of the House of Lords, which marred a relaunch of the Coalition.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Lord Marland will be stepping down as a minister in order to focus on his role in trade promotion." The former Conservative Party treasurer will continue to act as the Prime Minister's trade envoy, and will lead delegations of businessmen on foreign trips.

Andrew Grice

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own