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The Guardian’s and Mirror’s front pages are overblown, but…

By Peter Hoskin
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It’s not just Easter Monday and ConservativeHome’s eighth birthday, readers – it’s also “the day Britain changed”. Or at least according to the Guardian it is. That’s how their front page headline reads. And it gets even weightier in the standfirst. A “new world heaves into view this week,” apparently. It is “the reference point from which everything else will be measured”.

Why so serious? The front page of the Daily Mirror has more. A cartoon shows David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher and Nick Clegg looking on as George Osborne hammers a nail into a coffin, and on the coffin a scrap of paper reads “RIP Welfare”. This is about the policies – from the benefit s cap to the legal aid cuts – that are being introduced over the next few weeks.

It is, of course, all rather overblown. Is this the reference point from which “everything else” will be measured? Is the welfare state dead? Err, no. For starters, as Iain Duncan Smith was keen to point out over the weekend, “all those on benefits will still see cash increases in every year of the Parliament”.

But that doesn’t mean that we should, in turn, downplay what’s happening. I mean, just look at the handy list of policies that the Guardian has produced – there are some very significant entries on it. The benefits cap, which the Tory leadership regards as one of its clearest dividing lines with Labour, is being introduced in four London boroughs. The universal credit, which could turn out to be the Coalition’s most important policy, is being trialled in Manchester. This is genuinely big stuff.

And, what’s more, beyond the policy there are the people. Claimants will notice that many of their benefits are being uprated by 1 per cent a year rather than by inflation, just as some litigants will notice that they no longer have access to legal aid. And they’ll keep on noticing: according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, over 60 per cent of the benefit cuts are yet to come. If this is an issue now, then will be an even greater one around the election.

In which case, it is important that, against the lazy hyperbole of the left, the right doesn’t sink into lazy hyperbole of its own. Talk of “strivers” and “scroungers” is not only – as Greg Clark MP has pointed out – intellectually inadequate, but it also deserts the moral underpinning of IDS’s reforms. There is much that the Coalition is doing for people, rather than against them – whatever the Guardian says.


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