Editorial: A nation more divided

A tax handout to the rich and cuts for the poorest makes a mockery of 'all in it together'

Share
Related Topics

The bedroom tax came into effect last week, along with cuts in council tax benefit and, yesterday, the cut in the top rate of income tax, which the Labour Party has called the "tax cut for millionaires". The timing of these changes is bad for the Government, as the contrast between the burden of deficit reduction being borne by the poorest and a tax handout to anyone earning more than £150,000 a year makes a mockery of its claim that we are "all in it together".

The Independent on Sunday knows, of course, that other tax changes, and the withdrawal of child benefit from the better-off, mean that the richest 10 per cent are – just – bearing the heaviest burden as a share of their income. But a 1 per cent drop in income means something very different to someone on £150,000 a year and to someone trying to live, as Conservative ministers claim they could, on £53 a week.

There are, as we report today, other ways too in which the burden of austerity is unfairly spread. Figures requested by Yvette Cooper, the shadow Equalities minister, from the impartial House of Commons Library, suggest that 94 per cent of the net cost of cutting the deficit will come from women (according to survey evidence about whether benefits and tax credits are paid into women's or men's bank accounts), and only 6 per cent from men.

Any chancellor would have a hard task in persuading the British people that the sacrifices demanded in tough times are fairly shared. But George Osborne has made that task three times harder. First, by cutting too far and too fast in the first place. Second, by the error in cutting the top tax rate yesterday from 50p to 45p in the pound. And third, by lacking the dignity of his office.

He has the unfortunate appearance of a young man who is too clever by half, playing at politics. Some of this is not his fault. But sometimes he does not help himself. Last year, he quite deliberately and without evidence said that his shadow, Ed Balls, was "clearly involved" in attempts to manipulate inter-bank interest rates under the last government. Last week, he failed to resist the temptation to comment on the case of Mick Philpott, calling for a "debate" on "subsidising lifestyles like that". It was, as Paul Vallely writes today, an "easy option"; but it was too easy, too naked an attempt to use the anger roused by an unpleasant and untypical case to divert legitimate criticism of government policy on welfare.

That kind of cynical politics – and the Prime Minister joined in, saying that welfare "shouldn't be there as a sort of lifestyle choice", as if anyone had advocated such a thing, or that having 17 children were the norm – will do the Government no good. It was never likely that ministers could persuade people that the cuts were fair so long as they stuck to their top-rate tax giveaway, but their attempt use the Philpott case to demonise benefit claimants generally was crass in its ineffectiveness.

And we say "ministers" rather than "Conservatives" because, of course, this government is a coalition. Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat former minister, writes today that her colleagues must choose between a country that is "more cohesive, more sympathetic, more neighbourly, or one more divided, more brutal and more selfish". As she says: "That is the responsibility and the privilege of power. Ministers should use it wisely."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat