“The Conservative Party has changed. Rich or poor, from north to south, there is an alternative to Labour.”
So says David Cameron, in a week where the Tories are desperately trying to claim that their party is somehow different to the party that made working class people’s lives a misery throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Many Tory policies are dressed up as ways to “help” working class people who have been “abandoned” by Labour.
But the Tory party is the same nasty party it has always been.
That was made clear last week when it launched an attack on the unemployed and the sick.
The Tories want to use medical assessments to force those on incapacity benefit into work.
They say that at least 500,000 of the 2.6 million claimants are capable of working.
These policies will leave many people recoiling in horror. Not surprisingly, they make no sense. The theme of the conference was “Get Britain Working”.
But the Tories are saying that they will cut £25 a week from incapacity benefit claimants’ benefits.
This is the difference between incapacity benefit—currently £89.90 a week—and jobseekers’ allowance—£63.40 a week.
So those removed from incapacity benefit won’t be “getting back to work”—they will simply be forced to exist on even lower benefits.
And the public sector spending cuts that the Tories want to implement will result in the slashing of thousands of jobs.
The Tories say they will use the savings to fund a draconian “back to work” programme run by private companies. The scheme will benefit the bosses, not ordinary people.
So David Willetts, the shadow universities and skills minister, spoke of young people who are “so alienated from education” that they can’t go into an apprenticeship immediately.
The solution, he says, is to get them to do work that may lead to an apprenticeship or a job—presumably in the meantime they will be working for free.
What’s more, the Tories will pay bosses to take on workers.
So unemployed people will have to work for no wages. The bosses will be paid for the strain of taking on unpaid workers.
The Tories are still the party of the bosses. Kenneth Clarke, the shadow business secretary, spoke about the need for “tax incentives” and the need to “get rid of red tape” to help business.
And what has been Labour’s response to all this? To say that most of the proposals are already government policy.
So Labour has said that it is already using the private sector to get people off benefits.
It has plans in place to force 10,000 medical assessments a week on incapacity benefit claimants—and boasts that the Tories won’t be able to do any more than that.
It is a measure of Labour’s betrayal of working class people over the last 12 years that, even when faced with the Tories, so many people will still find it impossible to stomach voting for the Labour Party.