The politics behind Osborne’s Spending Review

The Chancellor’s benefit cuts are designed to clear the Labour-voting poor out of London.

Like Gordon Brown before him, George Osborne is a highly political chancellor. Whenever possible, his measures are designed to meet both economic and electoral imperatives. The Chancellor's overarching project, as Benedict Brogan writes in today's Telegraph, is to construct a Tory majority between now and polling day.

Again like Brown, Osborne is also his party's chief electoral strategist and he does not share David Cameron's instinctive fondness for coalition government. He is determined to see the return of one-party Conservative rule.

The best example of Osborne's political and economic objectives working in tandem is the recently announced cap on benefits. The policy is not just a populist measure, designed to reassure the Daily Mail-reading classes, it is an act of supreme electoral engineering. The £500-a-week cap will trigger the largest population movement since the Second World War, as the poor are forced out of inner London and pushed into the suburbs, where rents are cheaper and living costs lower. The decision to charge new social housing tenants at least 80 per cent of the market rate will have a similar effect.

As a matter of social policy this is noteworthy enough, but, as I've argued before, for the Conservatives this is also a measure pregnant with political motives.

I noted then:

The Tories believe that the flight of poor, mainly Labour-voting families from inner London will allow hitherto unwinnable seats to fall into their lap. Many in the party are still aggrieved over their failure to win constituencies such as Westminster North (Joanne Cash) and Hammersmith (Shaun Bailey) – seats they felt were there for the taking.

Since I wrote those words, Conservative figures have openly acknowledged their political intentions. Bailey, the candidate defeated in west London, was recently heard to remark:

If you have a group of people that think that one government will advocate for them and one won't, of course they'll vote that way. And that's the fight for the Conservatives 'cos that's why inner-city seats are so hard to win – because Labour has filled them with poor people.

One unnamed Conservative minister was quoted as describing the policy as "the Highland Clearances" – and not unfavourably.

Conservative strategists believe that their poor performance in seats with large numbers of ethnic-minority voters and/or large concentrations of social housing was one of the main reasons they failed to win the last election. The cap on benefits is part of the party's supreme effort to overcome this defect.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Responding to George Osborne's tax credit U-turn should have been Labour's victory lap

He changed the forecast, we changed the weather. But still it rains.

The Labour Party should have rested on its laurels in the Autumn Statement. While Gideon name checked his Tory colleagues for their successful lobbying, he should have been reading out the names of Labour members who changed his position.  I'll let the Tories have the potholes, (even though it was in Labour manifesto) but everything else was us. 

He stopped his assault on tax credits. Not because he woke up in his mansion in a cold sweat, the ghost of Christmas Future at the foot of his bed, ringing out the names of the thousands and thousands of children he would plunge into poverty. Nah, it's not that. It's as my sons might say "no way George, you got told!" The constant pressure of the Labour Party and a variety of Lords in a range of shades, supported by that media we are all meant to hate, did for him. It's the thousands of brilliant people who kept the pressure up by emailing politicians constantly that did it. Bravo us, boo nasty George!

As Baron Osborne thanked the Tory male MP for his brilliant idea, to spend the Tampax tax on women's services, I wanted to launch a tampon at his head. Not a used one you understand, I have some boundaries. He should have credited Paula Sheriff, the Labour MP for making this change. He should have credited all the brilliant women's groups, Yvette Cooper, Stella Creasy, Caroline Lucas and even little old me, for our constant, regular and persistent pestering on the subject of funding for refuges and women's services. 

On police cuts, his side should not have cheered him at all. We are now in a position when loud cheers are heard when nothing changes. So happy was his side that he was not cutting it, one can only conclude they really hate all the cutting they do. He should not have taken a ridiculous side swipe at Andy Burnham, but instead he should have credited the years and years of constant campaigning by Jack Dromey. 

I tell you what Georgie boy can take credit for, the many tax increases he chalked up. Increases in council tax to pay for huge deficit in care costs left by his cuts. Increases in the bit of council tax that pays for Police. Even though nothing changed remember. When he says levy or precept it's like when people say I'm curvy when they mean fat. It's a tax. 

He can take credit for making student nurses pay to work for free in the NHS. That's got his little privileged fingers all over it. My babies were both delivered by student midwives. The first time my sons life was saved, and on the second occasion my life was saved. The women who saved us were on placement hours as part of their training, working towards their qualifications. Now those same women, will be paying for the pleasure of working for free and saving lives. Paying to work for free! On reflection throwing a tampon at him is too good, this change makes me want to lob my son's placenta in his face.

Elsewhere in Parliament on Autumn Statement day Jeremy Hunt, capitulated and agreed to negotiate with Student Doctors. Thanks to the brilliant pressure built by junior doctors and in no small part Heidi Alexander. Another disaster averted, thanks to Labour.

I could go on and on with thanks to charities, think tanks, individual constituents and other opposition MPs who should have got the autumn cheers. We did it, we were a great and powerful opposition, we balanced the pain with reality. We made Lord sorry the first Lord of the Treasury and his stormtroopers move from the dark side. We should have got the cheers, but all we got was a black eye, when a little red book smacked us right in the face.