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:

  1. 900,000 more people in extreme poverty than in 1997 and the gap in life expectancy is greater than in Victorian times.
  2. 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?"
  3. Failure to undertake schools reform means that the gap between the poorest and richest pupils is widening.
  4. 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."

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