Yvette Cooper claims another Tory PM for Labour: Robert Peel

The Tory love-in continues as Cooper praises Peel's "powerful principles".

Listening to Labour, one could be forgiven for wondering why anyone should have opposed the Conservative Party in the 19th century. After Ed Miliband's paean to Benjamin Disraeli yesterday, Yvette Cooper used her conference speech to pay tribute to another past Conservative prime minister - Robert Peel. The shadow home secretary said:

Down the road from here in Piccadilly Gardens stands a statue.

Sir Robert Peel, son of Bury, founder of the British police over 180 years ago.

Peel established powerful principles. Ed, you could call them One Nation principles – just a few decades earlier than Disraeli’s Free Trade Hall speech.

He said, “The police are the public, the public are the police.”

Able to uphold our laws not because of coercion but because of consent.

British police are not guards they are guardians.

Like Miliband, she invoked the Conservatives' past in order to damn their present.

Whatever happened to the party of Peel?

People used to think the Tories backed the police and supported law and order.

Not any more.

Weak on crime, weak on the causes of crime – that is David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

Elsewhere, channelling The Communist Manifesto, Cooper delivered the best line we've heard on "pleb gate".

So come on Conference, let’s bring on the plebiscite.

Plebs of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but this Government.

One trusts that Boris Johnson, who in his speech last year called for those who swear at the police to be arrested, is already preparing his own bon mots.

Yvette Cooper praised Robert Peel for establishing "powerful principles". Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.