Chancellor George Osborne gave himself and the Tories an undeserved pat on the back on Monday of this week, in a speech at Tilbury Port, Essex.
Behind the headline focus on creating jobs and Osborne claiming to have “the only plan in town” he offered nothing but giveaways for the bosses and nasty scapegoating of benefit claimants and migrants.
Osborne gloated about having made “the biggest cuts to personal and business taxes for two decades”.
“This week you will keep more of the money you earn. This week your business can keep more of the money it makes,” he said.
The bit about business is true, with new cuts to an already low corporation tax and business rates coming into effect this week.
But the increase to the personal allowance that Lib Dems and Tories are fighting to take credit for actually does less for lower earners.
Many workers will find their gains wiped out by the benefit cuts that Osborne was also keen to talk up.
“We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work,” he said.
“Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job—some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.”
After a raft of attacks on benefits last year, even more come into effect with the new financial year this week.
These include tightening the restrictions on unemployed people claiming benefits, and forcing unemployed people who have already been through two years of the Work Programme to go through further placements or daily job centre visits.
Separate funding to help mitigate the effects of last year’s council tax benefit cuts is also being axed.
The Guardian newspaper reported this week that 83 councils are going to pass the cut onto the poorest households – affecting more than 670,000 households.
And as many as half a million people could have been taken to court over council tax arrears since the cuts went through.
As well as demonising the unemployed, Osborne shamelessly played up the myth of immigrants putting a strain on benefits. He announced new demands on people to prove they can speak English.
“It is ridiculous that people who didn’t speak English, and weren’t trying to learn it, could sit on out of work benefits in this country,” he said. “Starting this week it will be even harder to get benefits if they’re not even attempting to learn it.”
Even the bosses’ European Commission and Osborne’s own father-in-law Lord Howell have recently criticised the government’s “nasty” immigration clampdown and dishonest claims.
But the politics of division and scapegoating are the Tories’ only response to growing frustration at the cost of living crisis that millions of workers have been plunged into since they took office.