Within hours of Osborne’s budget, Graeme Ellis, a lifelong Tory voter, quit the Party and sabotaged its Conservative Disability Group website. More spectacularly, Iain Duncan Smith walked out of the Cabinet two days later, describing its cuts as ‘morally indefensible’. Several others, including Zac Goldsmith, were asked to stand down as patrons of disability charities.
Chancellor Osborne’s £4.4 billion cut to benefits for disabled people has caused mayhem inside the Tory Party - but that is nothing compared to the fury felt by disabled people and their supporters. It came on top of a £30 a week cut to Employment Support Allowance and last year’s closure of the £320 million a year Independent Living Programme. These will still stand even if the latest cutbacks are being abandoned - and even then, only to be replaced by other welfare cuts.
It was all to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest, in particular a £630 million reduction in capital gains tax, which Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was quick to announce he would reverse. Osborne’s slashing of corporation tax is equally unjustifiable. It might make some sense if the UK rate were substantially higher than in other countries, but it’s already the lowest in the G20 and won’t attract more investment. These are straightforward giveaways to big business. Worse, by widening the gap between these tax rates and that of income tax, Osborne has created new loopholes for tax avoidance across the UK. It’s not the first shambolic budget from a Chancellor whose ideologically driven commitment to austerity has meant he has once again missed most of his financial targets and failed to lift Britain out of the economic doldrums. If this is a recovery, it’s a curiously jobless one, as new research shows that the real unemployment rate is around 12% – twice the official rate – and in some areas it’s double that. Meanwhile, academisation is being forced on all state schools, despite an estimated £560 million shortfall in the money needed to achieve this, at the same time as the Education minister wants to kick all parent governors off school boards – presumably to make way for corporate input. None of this tackles the crippling teacher shortage and other problems facing our schools.These attacks will be fought tooth and nail and we should be optimistic about success. This is a weak, deeply divided, increasingly unpopular government with a slim majority, which grassroots pressure and Labour’s tactics have already forced into some embarrassing climbdowns, for example on Sunday trading, the Trade Union Bill and weakening the Freedom of Information Act.
The Tories’ deepening divisions, less than a year after being elected, raise the issue of whether they can last the full five year term. With Labour edging ahead of them in the polls, the sooner they implode the better!