7 October 2010
Rupert Read is a Green councillor on Norwich City Council:
The Tories are laughing all the way to the ballot box. This cut in child benefit for the rich is proving a political masterstroke.
That sounds an extraordinary thing to say, given the sustained attacks they are suffering, but their response is to say: "Look, with this deficit we have to make tough choices; and it is only fair that the richest 15 per cent give up this benefit so that there is more money to go round." This episode is enabling the Tories to identify themselves with fairness, and remove the impression that they are all about helping the rich.
Meanwhile, all the attention on those poor parents earning anywhere between £45,000 and infinity is taking attention away from what really matters about this: the impact on the welfare state itself. An iconic universal benefit has been taken away from the rich. This will universalise the principle of means-testing for state benefits, and loosen any remaining sense of "buy-in" that the rich have to the welfare state.
Before we know it, we will be looking at taking away NHS provision from the richest, on the grounds that they can afford private healthcare. That would be bad for us all. The poorest welfare states are those which are designed only for the poor.