As the latest YouGov poll suggests, Labour has failed to land any significant blows on the coalition over its assault on welfare. In part, this is because the government’s changes to child benefit and housing benefit are supported by the majority of the electorate, and in part it’s because Labour has failed to identify a consistent line of attack.
But today’s TUC study showing that 63 per cent of the £15.9bn welfare and benefit cuts will hit working families should aid the party’s cause. The analysis suggests that working households will suffer a loss of about £9.4bn, nearly twice the level of losses for non-working households.
George Osborne has consistently emphasised those meaures that target workless families – an attempt to marginalise Labour as the party of “benefit scroungers” and the “undeserving poor”. The TUC study offers Ed Miliband solid ground from which to rebut this charge.
The other line of attack that Labour should repeatedly deploy, as Yvette Cooper did so skilfully in the wake of the child benefit announcement, is that the coalition’s measures are anti-family.
An unusual number of benefit cuts – the abolition of baby bonds, the three-year freeze in child benefit, the abolition of the health in maternity grant, the withdrawal of child tax credits from higher earners – hit families hardest.
If it is to win a hearing from the electorate, Labour must avoid appearing to be the party of sectional interests and launch a defence of the hard-pressed majority.