UK Politics

Cuts - Mind your language

  • 12 December 2012
  • From the section UK Politics
  • comments

Do you remember that old song "You say tom-ar-to, I say tom-ay-to" ?

It ended, you may recall, with the line "Let's call the whole thing off!"

Westminster is now locked in a similar battle over language. One decision has seen to that. It's the Autumn Statement decision to cap - or should that be cut? - the benefits - or should that be the tax credits? - of shirkers - or are they really strivers?

The language you choose may determine who wins the battle over fairness. One reason for that is that spelling out the actual policy - a rise in benefits for people of working age by 1% which, since it is below inflation, represents a cut in real terms over the next three years. Try fitting that in a soundbite or a headline or a TV news graphic.

The prime minister believes that Labour's decision to oppose the cap/cut is one they'll regret. Today he dubbed them the "party of unlimited welfare." He believes his decision to curb welfare bills is popular and will be seen as fair when public sector workers are also getting a below inflation 1% rise.

Yesterday Ed Balls spoke about "cuts to tax credits and benefits". Today Ed Miliband claimed the government was introducing a "strivers' tax".

He says the Tories' language gives a false impression since many working families are hit by the measures in the Autumn Statement.

Today he pointed to IFS figures which suggest that more than 60 per cent of families hit by the tax and benefit changes are in work and, in particular, to stats that show that the average one-earner couple will be £534 a year worse off by 2015 even after the rise in the personal tax allowance.

Labour have calculated that there are over 6,000 of these families who will lose out in every Tory constituency.