Osborne hits the unemployed and poor students

A new seven day wait before people can claim benefits and a freeze in student maintenance grants will hit the poor hardest.

George Osborne was careful in his Spending Review to avoid spelling out who would lose from the £11.5bn of cuts he announced. As Ed Balls asked in his impressively fluent response, will there be fewer police officers, fewer nurses, fewer Sure Start centres? Will free museum entry end? We weren't told today. 

But the Chancellor made no attempt to disguise two of the biggest losers: students and the unemployed. In the case of the former, Osborne announced that maintenance grants would be frozen, a real-terms cut of £60m that will fall hardest on low-income undergraduates and that entirely undermines the government's commitment to social mobility. 

In the case of the jobless, Osborne announced that he would introduce "a new seven day wait before people can claim benefits."  It will delight the tabloids, but it's hard to think of a more callous policy. As charities regularly testify, benefit delays are the biggest reason for food bank referrals. Forcing claimants to wait a minimum of seven days, with every chance of further administrative delay, will inevitably force thousands more to turn to emergency support. 

Even after handing the highest earners an average tax cut of £100,000, the Chancellor again had the chutzpah to claim that "we're all in this together". But after today's announcements, it's even more dangerous to be poor in Osborne's Britain. 

George Osborne leaves 11 Downing Street in London on June 19, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

David Cameron shows Labour how to do it

Leftwing rhetoric masked rightwing reality in Cameron's conference speech.

“The tanks are in the kitchen,” was the gloomy verdict of one Labour staffer to a speech in which the Prime Minister roamed freely into traditional left-wing territory.

But don’t be fooled: David Cameron is still the leader of an incredibly right-wing government for all the liberal-left applause lines.

He gave a very moving account of the difficulties faced by careleavers: but it is his government that is denying careleavers the right to claim housing benefit after they turn 22.

He made a powerful case for expanding home ownership: but his proposed solution is a bung for buy-to-let boomers and dual-earner childless couples, the only working-age demographic to do better under Cameron than under Labour.

On policy, he made just one real concession to the left: he stuck to his guns on equal rights and continued his government’s assault on the ridiculous abuse of stop-and-search. Neither of these are small issues, and they are a world away from the Conservative party before Cameron – but they also don’t cost anything.

In exchange for a few warm words, Cameron will get the breathing space to implement a true-blue Conservative agenda, with an ever-shrinking state for most of Britain, accompanied by largesse for well-heeled pensioners, yuppie couples, and small traders.

But in doing so, he gave Labour a lesson in what they must do to win again. Policy-wise,it is Labour – with their plans to put rocketboosters under the number of new housing units built – who have the better plan to spread home ownership than Cameron’s marginal solutions. But last week, John McDonnelll focussed on the 100,000 children in temporary accomodation. They are undoubtedly the biggest and most deserving victims of Britain’s increasingly dysfunctional housing market. But Labour can’t get a Commons majority – or even win enough seats to form a minority government – if they only talk about why their policies are right for the poor. They can’t even get a majority of votes from the poor that way.

What’s the answer to Britain’s housing crisis? It’s more housebuilding, including more social housing. Labour can do what Cameron did today in Manchester – and deliver radical policy with moderate rhetoric, or they can lose.

But perhaps, if Cameron feels like the wrong role model, they could learn from a poster at the People’s History Museum, taken not from Labour’s Blairite triumphs or even the 1960s, but from 1945: “Everyone – yes, everyone – will be better off under a Labour government”.

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