When on Black/ White Wednesday we lost our reputation for competence we were truly sunk as a party (until now). If Labour loses its reputation for fairness then it will head for as bleak a time. That’s the political importance of Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice agenda (although, of course, the agenda is much more than political). It’s tanks-on-Labour’s-lawn-time. Chief tank driver today is George Osborne. Overnight he’s launched a dossier that documents the extent to which Britain is becoming unfair under Labour – it wins widespread attention, including in The Sun and Guardian. Labour hate these attacks. Just like the 10p tax fiasco they hit at the party’s core self-image. This weekend’s Observer reported Labour "fury" at the suggestion that they weren’t the party of fairness anymore.
The full Tory dossier can be read as a PDF here. In his introduction to An Unfair Britain Mr Osborne highlights four main trends:
- 900,000 more people in extreme poverty than in 1997 and the gap in life expectancy is greater than in Victorian times.
- Stealth taxes have fallen most heavily on the poor. Mr Osborne asks: "Is it fair to reward enterprise and effort, yet for someone earning £100 a week, for every extra pound they earn they take home just 6p?"
- Failure to undertake schools reform means that the gap between the poorest and richest pupils is widening.
- A shift of burdens from today’s Britons to the next generation: "Rising public borrowing and economic incompetence is putting unfair burdens on future generations."
Most of Unfair Britain is a new presentation of existing data but it does contain one important new finding, quoted by Nicholas Watt in The Guardian: "Osborne claimed that this year’s 4.2% increase in the guarantee credit – a minimum income for poor pensioners – would be "eaten up" by inflation, which hits pensioners harder. Inflation for pensioners is between 5.2% and 5.6%, meaning that a couple will lose £98 this year and a single pensioner £90."