With the news that the Tories want to scrap Tax Credits, it is interesting to remember the conflict caused within his own party a few weeks ago when Cameron said that middle class Tax Credits would be stopped. This therefore, looks as though the Tories have pragmatically decided that instead of appearing to attack the more comfortable in society, that they will instead take the sometimes-crucial means of support away from the poor as well. Polly Tonybee is right when she says that policies such as scrapping the Tax Credits will make social inequities more engrained, and that in order to tackle the social problems they attribute to our 'broken society', they have to, as Tonybee puts it, "run hard up a down escalator to stop a natural pull towards inequality growing greater." My only problem with Tonybee's article is that she does not rebuke the concept of 'broken society', the sub title where she predicts they won’t fix 'broken Britain', acts as an endorsement of the flawed and unhelpful concept.
So why scrap Tax Credits then? Well the Tories claim that the principle of Tax Credits is all wrong. I mean of cause that totally rings true don’t it. I mean obviously, increasing the inheritance tax threshold is so much more principled, isn't it? Of cause it isn't. However, we are talking about a hardnosed Tory party, who try to appear as though they have changed and actually have a sense of connection with those who are considerably more disadvantaged than the majority of their MPs. Theresa May tried to justify the stance on Tax Credits by claiming that the Tax Credits had actually masked instead of helped tackle poverty. Whilst I agree that the Tax Credit system can unfairly help the better off families, a lot of the time they help people stay above the level of subsistence, and act as an all-important bridge from poverty. The Liberal Democrats rightly call for Tax Credits to be ended for high earners, but have also rightly not called for the whole of the Tax Credit system to be abolished as the Tories now have. Abolishing it would cut much needed help for lower earning income families. It would be more acceptable for the Tories to do this, if they actually had some useful policy to tackle poverty, but all they do is flap their arms in the air complaining about how run down our society is, with no real means to solve the problems other than blaming the individuals.
A major problem of the Tory party, is that their policy ideas always lack any real substance. For example, May says:
“Solving poverty is also about aspiration and skills rather than giving people extra financial help. And solving it is about tackling educational failure, antisocial behaviour, debt problems and addiction, and of course it’s about work.”
The first part of the quote reminds me of some kind of natural selection argument that Herbert Spencer would be proud of. Let us have a big experiment where we cancel any real financial help for people on low incomes and leave them out in the social markets to try to carve their own living. If they have 'natural' skills and ability they will rise to the top, if not, they will fall down and die out anyway. A crude and awful summary of what natural selection arguments in terms of human ability advocate, and sadly, what she is saying reminds me of them. Whilst she recognise the issues that need to be addressed in the second sentence, the Tories have no structural policies to tackle these problems, and instead say all this is due to individual ability and aspiration. They don't consider the structural limitations that those who are disadvantaged face.
The Tory HQ later after May's speech, showed further conflict and mayhem in the Tory party, as they said that they did not want to abolish Tax Credits. Well that is either a stark U-turn, or a complete division amongst the Tory party - obviously, the latter is the case. It is just a further sign of what Mandelson dubbed the Tories' 'two-faces', as they say one thing in public and believe another in private. What also has to be said regarding May's speech is that her use of figures seems to be a complete massage and fabrication of reality. For an interesting outline of how flawed her figures are, I recommend you read the Poly Tonybee article.
What this shows is that the Tories are a party who say they are the voice of the many and not the few, but that in practice they are really the cold Tory party they always have been. They obviously will be elected next year, but I feel that all these conflicts and debates, whilst being ignored by the public for now, will come back karmatically at them some time when in power.