26 April 2008

Has the Conservative party changed? No longer the nasty party but centrist and caring and kinder; for example, determined to tackle child poverty?

This matters for families in Cornwall: I have explored child and family poverty among some in parts of Cornwall several times on this mudhook website.

Begin by looking at the record. This is the party that sat back when last in government while the proportion of children in poverty doubled; that since has opposed Labour’s introduction of the minimum wage; that periodically fumes about lone mothers and tells us marriage (between one man and one woman) will save the planet. This is the party that cut the link between the state pension and pay rises, thereby costing pensioners dearly – something Labour is putting right and which will benefit thousands of people in Cornwall, as has the minimum wage.

The Conservatives are the party that gave us privatised expensive water and privatised expensive trains. This is the party whose government approach to welfare was to bayonet the wounded. Its record on poverty is appalling.

At present the Tories are weeping publicly for those losing out in the Labour government’s 10 pence tax folly or villainy. Last year when Frank Field moved an amendment in the Commons to assess the impact of the abolition of the 10 pence rate and to mitigate any adverse effects, the Tories abstained. No Tory tears then.

Now look at this, perhaps a glimpse of Tory future. The other day on the launch of a reactionary childcare report it both welcomed the report and promised the party would consider its ideas. At present £1.5 billion of help is targeted on low paid working mothers; the reactionary, regressive ideas that the Tories are considering are to give all mothers, working or stay-at-home, poor or comfortable, and, yes, including the very rich, a flat rate tax-free payment of about £55 a week. This would cost around £5.4 billion and be paid for in part by abolishing the £1.5 billion of the childcare part of the working tax credit and the one-off sure start maternity grant; that is, money which at present goes to the poorest working mothers, including those in Cornwall. I don’t know where the rest of the cost will come from, widows’ mites perhaps.

The idea, then, is to take from the working poor and give to the comfortable and well-off: and this is what the Tories promise they will consider. The very thing that they now denounce the 10 pence folly for. To me this looks like the same old Tories after all.

Equo ne credite.

You can read more about these reactionary ideas at:

The cost of caring Guardian 22 April 2008

The Tories are eyeing up a plan to take money from the poor to give to the middle classes Times 23 April 2008

Policy Exchange parental care allowance

PS 28 April 2008:
And perhaps contrary to my views, here’s a joint initiative.

Equo ne credite, Teucri. Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentis (Do not trust the horse, Trojans. Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when they are bringing gifts). Laocoon warning the Trojans, in Vergil’s Aeneid 2.48-49.