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How does Labour deal with a popular George Osborne?

June 28th, 2010

Are incapacity benefits the new battle-ground?

While so many were, it seems, watching the football or discussing the aftermath, the chancellor was giving more details of his plan to attack the country’s massive welfare bill in order to find savings.

This has made the front pages of only three of the papers but the scale of his plans is enormous. The idea is to protect as much departmental spending as possible by trying to find big cuts in the £190bn annual welfare benefits bill. The incapacity one, which provides £11bn a year of support to 2.6m people is the first to be singled out.

Osborne is obviously feeling super confident following the polling reaction to the budget and the immense rise in his personal ratings. ICM found 53% saying he was doing a “good job” compared with 39% only a week ago.

He is also maximising the fact that Labour is leaderless and he knows as well, as seen in the Express headline, that the notion of acting against “welfare cheats” seems to resonate.

So how are the Labour Leadership Five going to approach the changes and the fact that Osborne seems to be getting so much public support? Does this present an opportunity for one or more of them to take on an issue that impacts on so many people?

The reality is, of course, that if Osborne is to find his savings then many households, particularly at the bottom of the income scale, are going to be a lot worse off.

And are the Lib Dems going to be happy with changes on this scale? They’ll certainly be pleased to move on from the VAT increases where they’ve taken such a battering.

A few months ago I feared that post-general election politics was going to be boring. It ain’t.

Mike Smithson