1. POVERTY OF AMBITION
Resignations from a ‘Social Mobility Commission’ are not the sort of thing that will get discussed down the Dog & Duck pub. But the walk-out yesterday of two former Cabinet ministers – Labour’s Alan Milburn and Tory Gillian Shepherd – hints at the cross-party unease at Theresa May’s failure to live up to her steps-of-No.10 mission to combat the ‘burning injustices’ that haunt Britain. The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson concludes: “No 10 is guilty of losing interest in this hugely important agenda”.
And when you add in headlines such as the new Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report on 700,000 more pensioners (yes, pensioners) and children living in relative poverty, the wider narrative risks turning into the one both May and David Cameron worked so hard to avoid: ‘same old Tories: the Nasty Party hasn’t changed’. The line-to-take from the DWP is that half a million fewer people are living in ‘absolute poverty’ as opposed to ‘relative poverty’. Yet Ryan Shorthouse, director of liberal Conservative think tank Bright Blue, says the axe has fallen “disproportionately and unnecessarily” on working-aged benefits since 2010.
Shorthouse added that ministers should restore the work allowances in Universal Credit (which could be the next U-turn in the spring). And with Christmas coming, Uni Credit continues to be a high risk policy issue for the Tory brand. The Mirror reported this weekend that its roll-out was indeed being delayed in some areas that include David Gauke’s, Iain Duncan Smith’s, Damian Green’s and Theresa May’s constituencies. HuffPost reports that cancer charities have attacked the way Uni Credit assigns ‘work coaches’ to patients with terminal illnesses. And as the JRF poverty report today shows, George Osborne’s 2015 four-year freeze in benefits continues to bite. For all his talk of social liberalism and ‘we’re all in this together’, Osborne calculated that working class voters’ loathing of benefit ‘scroungers’ would justify his hard line. Yet it seems it’s the ‘working poor’, many…