Cameron’s u-turn is worse for democracy than Lords’ crisis

Prime Minister David Cameron appeared on a special Question Time just days before the General Electo

Prime Minister David Cameron appeared on a special Question Time just days before the General Electon. - Credit: PA

This week’s politics has been dominated by the debate about tax credits and the fallout from the House of Lords’ decision to effectively pull the handbrake on the government’s attempt to cut what amounts to a benefit to the working poor.

I share the government’s concern that an unelected group of essentially retired politicians and political advisers given a consolation prize after failing to make it to the House of Commons can change government policy.

However what is more damaging to the perception of democracy in this country is the way the government has pursued the policy of cutting benefits to the working poor after the Prime Minister apparently denied this would happen just a week before the General Election.

Speaking on the BBC’s special Question Time Mr Cameron was asked: “There are some people that are worried about you cutting child tax credits, are you saying absolutely as a guarantee that you’d never have it?”

Mr Cameron said: “First of all child tax credit we increased by £450.”

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David Dimbleby followed this up with: “And it’s not going to fall?” The Prime Minister replied: “It’s not going to fall.”

Now I don’t know if Messrs Cameron and Osborne are going to claim that the cuts being planned are to tax credits as a whole, not to CHILD tax credits.

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If that is the case then they really are playing with words to a ridiculous degree – and to a degree that will go down very badly with those who are suffering.

Because the whole point about tax credits is that they are paid to families, and are targeted at those on the lowest wages.

Teaching assistants who earn £11,000 a year cannot afford to lose £1,350 in tax credits – and the extra money they are going to get by raising the minimum wage and lowering tax thresholds is not going to compensate them

If they are told: “It’s not your CHILD tax credits that are being cut, it’s your other tax credits” it’s not going to make a blind bit of difference to the family’s budget. It’s going to be clobbered anyway.

Does the government think that families use Child tax credits to buy children’s shoes and other tax credits to pay for parents’ bus tickets to work? Get real!

Frankly when the Chancellor first came up with the idea for cutting tax credits, he should have been taken to one side by the PM.

Mr Cameron should have whispered in his ear: “Look George, I know cutting tax credits would save billions, but I did make a pledge on a primetime television show and I don’t want to look like Nick Clegg on tuition fees!”

In fact Mr Cameron’s situation is worse than Mr Clegg’s because the former deputy PM could argue he was forced into the u-turn as the junior member of a coalition.

Mr Cameron has no one to blame but himself for his u-turn on tax credits.

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