So, Lord Lloyd Webber, what would Jesus do about tax credits cuts?

If there’s one thing he couldn’t stand, it was the poor whining on about being hungry

Mark Steel@mrmarksteel
Thursday 29 October 2015 18:00
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Lord and Lady Webber with The Fugue, winner of the Prince Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot
Lord and Lady Webber with The Fugue, winner of the Prince Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot

George Osborne should be aware of his achievement, because he must be one of the first people to be warned he’s being too mean to the poor by a body made up of the aristocracy, people dressed in ermine and bishops.

This proves his leadership potential, similar to a burglar being so determined he’s told by his colleagues: “Hang on, George, leave them the Sugar Puffs. We can’t take everything off the poor sods.” But instead of taking credit, he’s humble enough to explain the main issue of this uneasiness about cutting the income of the poorest people, which is that it creates a “constitutional crisis”.

That’s the real pain that will be felt by the families who lose £1,300 a year. When children ask: “Why have we got to go without breakfast from now on, Mummy?” they’ll be told: “Because if we’re allowed to keep getting tax credits it would disturb an unspecified constitutional legislative protocol that may or may not have been established in 1910. Do you want to ruin that just for a boiled egg? Now remember, if you faint at school, chew on a finger.”

Some of us might wonder how you can spoil a constitution when there isn’t a constitution. He might as well say: “The House of Lords has drawn over the masterpiece I painted, and murdered my stegosaurus.” But the most important thing is he’s explained thoroughly that the cuts won’t make people poorer at all, although they will save £4.4bn.

To be fair, this is genius and if we all did it we would be much better off. To start with, we could call the electricity company and say: “I have to make essential savings, so from now on, I’ll only be paying half my bill. But don’t listen to anyone who suggests this will make you worse off, they’re all extremists.” Then you can get a trolley full of shopping from Sainsbury’s and insist you’re only giving them £2 as you have to make essential savings, but it’s fine because they’re not getting any less than if you gave them £70.

Because, as Osborne says about tax credits: “It’s ridiculous that we give with one hand and take it away with the other.” So it’s much more efficient if we dispense with the “giving” bit of that process – which, after all, is the expensive bit – and stick to the taking away, which makes everything much more manageable.

In any case, as the Government repeats about every issue, we all benefit from these savings because they create a strong economy which makes us all better off. So if you’re receiving tax credits, the most sensible thing to do is accept these cuts, then demand they take more off you, forcing you to place your floorboards on eBay and put a great aunt on the game, then you’ll be living the dream.

This is why so many lords and ladies selflessly gave up their time to vote with the Government. Lord Lloyd Webber, for example, hasn’t bothered voting for two years, because nothing in the past two years has really mattered. But this week he flew in from New York and cast his vote, because cutting tax credits to the poorest people in work is the one issue where he had to make a stand. And he’s so dedicated I don’t suppose he even checked to see whether he qualifies for tax credits himself, because for him it’s all about the principle.

He understands what it’s like to be poor better than anyone, because he became rich by writing a musical about Jesus. And if there’s one thing Jesus couldn’t stand, it was the poor whining on about being hungry, which is why he cut the loaves and fishes credits across Galilee to make the books balance.

The Chancellor has explained that most people will be better off after his proposed changes, which may be true – in the same way most people would be better off if the blind were forced to sell their dogs to dog-fighting gangs and use the money to buy sweets, then share them with everyone who could see.

But it’s understandable that the Government is so irate about its cuts being delayed, especially as it’s so fond of hard-working families. For the past two years the Chancellor has been unable to complete a sentence without expressing his affection for hardworking families. During sleep he must mutter: “Hard, they work so hard, hard the families blibber vvv families.” In moments of passion with Mrs Osborne he must shout: “Oh my God, those families work so hard.”

But the tax credit cuts affect three million people in families that do work. So their problem must be they don’t work hard enough. Instead, Osborne must be referring to families such as the Bamfords, because Lord Bamford, who voted for the cuts, is worth £3bn, having become chairman of JCB diggers after inheriting the company from his father.

And it’s exactly this sort of hard-working dynasty that deserves to be rewarded, because for too long the wealth has been in the hands of security guards and cleaners and the sort of person who can’t be bothered to get up in the morning and put in a hard day’s inheritance.

But it does seem the Tories have got in a tangle, which is why the Prime Minister keeps making statements such as: “It’s completely unconstitutional to try to prevent us from doing something we absolutely promised we would never do.”

Jeremy Corbyn asked him six times if the cuts would make people worse off, and each time Cameron changed the subject, giving answers such as: “As I have said, the Latin for chaffinch is Fringilla coelebs.”

It would be more honest if he said: “When we promised not to cut tax credits, we meant we wouldn’t cut them in Finland.”

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