Monday, October 04, 2010

Yep, we're all in this together

Having arrived in Birmingham yesterday for the Party conference (my own party this time, rather than Labour), I've been rather restricted in my blogging and tweeting thanks to my phone dying and laptop refusing to pick up wi-fi. Both problems are thankfully now sorted, so here I go...

I got to the main hall to hear George Osborne's speech, and found a seat up in the choir, which afforded me a bird's eye view of the back of the Chancellor's head as he delivered his keynote address. The headline, trailed this morning, was the withdrawal of child benefit from higher rate taxpayers, a move which it is difficult to argue against (some people I spoke to hadn't realised there was no threshold already). But the significance of the move, I think, was to signal very clearly that the now familiar phrase "we're all in this together" is not just empty rhetoric - the burden of tighter public spending control will indeed be shared by all.

There's a lot of talk amongst journalists about Conservative MPs rebelling against what is seen as an attack on middle England. But it occurs to me that the leadership will not be too concerned about such stories. If the Daily Mail tomorrow makes a fuss about better-off households losing out, the message given to the wider public will be that the Coalition is not just hitting the poor (Labour's chosen caricature), but spreading the pain. Other measures, such as the limiting of total benefits payable to individual households, would be harder to defend without wealthier households also losing some benefits. In politics, a reaction is often essential to prove a measure is serious.

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