Recent Conservative Party Articles

Two big reasons a Tory-Lib Dem coalition is unlikely after this election

by Sunny Hundal     April 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Nick Clegg clearly wants another coalition with the Conservatives. And I’m fairly sure Cameron recognises the necessity of carrying on their tolerable relationship. And a lot of people in Westminster assume the two will be joined at the hip when negotiating post-election.

But I don’t think it will be that straightforward.

Firstly, it won’t be easy from the Conservative side. Theresa May and Boris Johnson want their shot at being leader of the party and neither have time to waste. Neither want to wait another five years either, when more of the recent crop of Tories will want their shot.

Tory leadership hopefuls could make the argument to colleagues that another coalition would undermine the Tory party and force them to break more promises. Besides, Cameron has shown himself incapable of winning elections outright, so why not get rid of him and get a proper leader who will win in 5 years time? – they will say.

Many Tories, who will not want the straightjacket of another coalition, will find that a seductive pitch and may reject another coalition.

Secondly, its not a done and dusted deal from the Lib Dem side either. For a start, Clegg has to get approval from his fellow MPs and party members, and that won’t be as straightforward this time.

There will be far more hostility from Lib Dems this time, for good reasons. These are some points made to me by Steffan John (@steffanjohn) over Twitter. I’m quoting him directly without embedding tweets to make it look cleaner:

1) Maths for majority isn’t there.
2) Even if a small majority was, no national interest in unstable government with 4yr leadership contest.
3) 2010 had financial crisis backdrop and 4) threat of swift re-election. Neither there this time, so less pressure on Lib Dems
5) 2010 had common ground on civil liberties, localisation, constitutional reform, environment, raising tax thresh. All gone.
6) Labour not hated as it was in 2010; Tories far more Right-wing now. LD won’t support again, esp. as Lab-LD-(SNP) is possible

Steffan John is a Lib Dem and makes some good points.

And here is Vince Cable’s former SpAd Giles Wilkes

There is, I think, a real chance Lib Dems will reject a coalition with Cameron, especially if there are signs of hostility from Tory MPs (stirred up by May and Boris).

That clears the way for Miliband to be Prime Minister, with Lib Dems choosing to either work in a coalition or sit on the sidelines, while the Conservatives choose their next leader.

Cameron is playing up his Christianity because of gay marriage, not poverty

by Sunny Hundal     April 17, 2014 at 3:35 pm

At the End Hunger Fast vigil yesterday evening, which marked the end of a 40-day-fast to raise awareness of rising poverty, several people read out Christian prayers. In their prayers they called on the government to deal with rising poverty and act like a Christian for once.

I don’t think this is what they had in mind though:

Britain should be unashamedly “evangelical” about its Christian faith and actively hand churches and other faith groups a greater role in society, David Cameron has insisted.
In a declaration of his personal beliefs, he said he had experienced the “healing power” of religion in his own life and insisted that Christianity could transform the “spiritual, physical, and moral” state of Britain and even the world.

The bizarre thing is that Tory commentators think this is something to do with criticism Cameron has had about the rising number of food banks, and from Christian leaders for doing little about it.

I think that’s unlikely.

Cameron’s problem isn’t bleeding heart Christians abandoning him over rising poverty, but conservative Christians abandoning him over the gay marriage vote.

Tory commentators seem to have (deliberately or inadvertently) swallowed the line that this is about poverty, but I doubt that very much.

The Tories are in the process of shoring up the core vote so that they can make a wider pitch just before the election. Right now its all about welfare, immigration, ‘scroungers’ and anything else that will bring back the voters who have abandoned Cameron since 2010.

Conservative Christians are a large part of that core vote, and they were uniformly angry over the gay marriage vote. Cameron is trying to bring them back. Rising poverty has little to do with it.

Cameron added young people to his list of Britain’s scapegoats

by Guest     October 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

by Matt Whittley

Operation divide and rule has been in full swing since the Tories came to power in 2010. Working hard but struggling to get by on a low income? Blame your unemployed neighbour, or the immigrant down the street, or those fat-cat public sector workers with their bloated salaries and pensions.

In his conference speech, Cameron added young people to his list of scapegoats when he implied that they are in their droves leaving school, getting knocked up and opting for a life on benefits, as he outlined his plan to remove housing benefit for those under 25s not in employment, education or training.

Consider the case of a 24 year old that started working aged 16 or 17, and so has contributed for 7 or 8 years but has just lost their job. Is this person not worthy of temporary support to help them get back on their feet? Are they really, after years of independence, expected to return to their childhood bedroom? And are their parents really expected to welcome them (and their grandchildren, if their child has had kids of their own) back with open arms?

What about the 20,000 young people who, 12 months after graduating, are still out of work? These young people spent three years working hard to better themselves. Many then took (often unpaid) internships – ‘doing the right thing’ as Cameron calls it. Have these people opted for a life on benefits?

What about those living in areas of high unemployment who are contemplating ‘getting on their bike’ to go where the work is? The logical conclusion for them to draw is that they would be better off staying in the family home and out of work. The Tories say they are on the side of hard-working people, but their support doesn’t seem to extend to those who have the audacity to have been born after 1988.

Cameron is also assuming that all young people have a loving, stable home to return to, and from his ivory tower of privilege this is probably an easy assumption to make. But what about those fleeing violent or abusive homes, or those kicked out by their parents? What about the 6,000 young people leaving care every year, many of whom rely on housing benefit as they attempt to make a life for themselves?

This policy clearly hasn’t been thought through, and Cameron may well have made a rod for his own back with this. Either he guarantees a job, training place or apprenticeship for all of the 1.09 million young people not in employment, education or training (a mammoth task), or he is seen to punish young people for refusing to take jobs, training places and apprenticeships that simply don’t exist.

Young people, who had no role to play in causing the financial crisis, won’t have been surprised by Cameron’s announcement to strip them of their social security. This from a government that has trebled university tuition fees, abolished the Educational Maintenance Allowance and presided over an economy in which 21% of young people are now out of work.

Of course we need to support those young people who have become cut adrift from society and help them into work or education. But with five people chasing every job, this government is failing miserably to create the opportunities they deserve. And demonising the young and threatening to remove their benefits won’t change that.

The Tories have a bigger problem than just UKIP

by Leo Barasi     September 16, 2013 at 9:00 am

Lord Ashcroft’s mega poll of key marginals, released yesterday, has been interpreted as showing three things:

1) Labour are doing very well against the Tories in the Tory-Labour battlegrounds

2) The Lib Dems are doing less well but still ok against the Tories in the Tory-LD battlegrounds

3) The Tories’ problems are a result of their voters defecting to UKIP

I agree with the first two interpretations, but the third looks to me to be a misreading of the data. Its extensive coverage in papers that would prefer Cameron to be more UKIP-like – the Telegraph, Mail & Express – suggests wishful thinking.

I’m going to focus on the poll of Tory-Labour marginals because that’s got more constituencies (32 vs 8) and a much bigger sample size – and it’s the one the coverage has focused on.

This is a poll of constituencies the Tories hold, so at the last election, Labour were slightly behind in all of them. Yet now the headline voting intent figure has Labour 13pts ahead*:

But UKIP’s vote is 14% and Labour’s lead is only 13pts, so that means UKIP are the reason Labour are leading in the constituencies, right?


Not even two in five of that 14% who would vote UKIP in the next election voted Tory in 2010:

If UKIP were to disappear after the EU elections and the Tories were to be reunited with their lost voters, they would gain just 5.3pts – not nearly enough to overhaul Labour’s lead. And of course if UKIP were to disappear, some of those Labour defectors could return, potentially adding 2pts to Labour’s score. Put those together and the UKIP damage to the Tories is just over 3pts: less than a quarter of Labour’s lead.

This isn’t to say Labour’s lead in these constituencies is secure. Out of the main parties it has kept the highest proportion of its 2010 voters, and of course it’s had a sizeable chunk of people who abandoned the Lib Dems after the coalition was agreed. But it also has the largest number of people who didn’t vote in 2010**:

These people have already said in the poll that they’re going to vote at the next election, but the high proportion of people who didn’t vote in 2010 is a risk if they regularly don’t turn up at elections (though some are probably first-time voters). And of course there are other reasons the Labour vote may fall.

But the idea that UKIP is the reason the Tories are behind in these key marginals is just not true – or at best it’s a quarter of the truth.

* There’s a separate voting intent question that encourages respondents to think about their particular constituency. This might be a better guide of how people will actually vote when push comes to shove, but I’m not using it here because I’d rather stick with something that’s comparable with other polls. Anyway, UKIP’s vote is smaller there and Labour’s lead is larger.

** The tables don’t show exactly what proportion of those “Other/Didn’t vote” were non-voters in 2010 (they need to be weighted by turnout), but the raw numbers suggest they’re overwhelmingly non-voters and that more than half of those who didn’t vote in 2010 but would now, would now vote Labour.

The government has partially retreated on the #gaggingbill

by Nigel Stanley     September 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

In the news cycle, late Friday afternoon is reserved for embarrassing admissions, U-turns and other things you want to say as quietly as possible.

That explains the timing of the government’s announcement that they are making significant amendments to what has become known as the gagging bill. To quote from the Cabinet office press release:

‘After discussions with the NCVO and others, and in order to make the point as clear as possible whilst maintaining the reforms to electoral law, we now propose to revert to the situation as set out under existing legislation, which defines controlled expenditure as expenditure “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”.’

Of course careful examination of small print will be necessary and this is a quick initial response, but it looks like a significant retreat. No-one has ever said that activities such as the TUC Congress or a TUC demonstration need to be regulated under current law that uses this existing definition. The worry with the Bill’s original wording was that it no longer tested just the intent, but had a vaguer definition which included subjective judgements about an activity’s effect.

But this change does not make the Bill acceptable. Part 3 still wraps unions up in unnecessary red tape, breaches the privacy of trade unionists and may impact industrial action ballots – already about as legally regulated as it is possible to get.

Part 1 that supposedly regulates lobbyists does no such thing. Its only purpose in life seems to be to tick a box in the coalition agreement.

And Part 2 still limits what the majority of people would see as legitimate campaigning by non-party groups, even if they are not things the TUC does as we would need a political fund so to do.

There were always three objections to Part 2. The first – the vague and broad definition of what counts as “for electoral purposes” – appears to have gone. But that leaves sharply reduced limits (up to 70 per cent) on what third parties can spend both nationally and in constituencies. And in toxic combination with that, more activities will have to be costed and put towards that cap. At present obvious election campaigning such as leaflets and adverts count against the cap, the Bill will include many more activities, policy work, rallies, transport and even media work. Staff time involved in these much less easy to define tasks will have to be fully costed too, as this counts against the cap, even though political parties do not have to count the cost of their staff time against their much bigger cap.

Most people see limits on big money in elections as a sensible way of stopping them being bought. But the government has made no case for the new limits and definitions, and they will have a big impact on broad and popular campaigns with a clear electoral focus such as work to reduce support for extremists and possibly local campaigns such as those for or against infrastructure investments. Yet the Cabinet Office are clear that the new caps will stay:

It is important to reiterate that the Bill will still bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences.

My reading of the Bill has always been that it was meant to smuggle in a surgical strike at trade unions and campaigns that the coalition parties fear under cover of pretend lobbying rules. But it was so badly drafted it brought together a huge civil society alliance. Today’s climbdown restores the Bill to its original intention, and it should still be withdrawn.

As TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says today:

“The poor drafting, muddled justification and expert condemnation that brought together perhaps the biggest ever coalition in public life made this retreat inevitable.

“But the problems with this Bill have not gone away as it still limits campaigns against extremist parties, breaches the privacy of trade union members and fails to open up lobbying. If ministers think that opposition will now melt away, they have another think coming.”

Cameron’s tragedy is that he fails in even understanding the point of leadership

by Chris Dillow     August 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

David Cameron is a terrible advert for Oxford PPE. He's long been ignorant of economics – as his prating about the "nation's credit card" and the "global race" attest – but his defeat last night suggests he knows little about politics and history too.

It's a cliche that this was a failure of leadership. I suspect, though, that it was a failure to even see what leadership is. Leadership is the art of getting people to follow you when they don't have to; if they do so because they must, you're not a leader but a boss.

But leadership in this sense is not just about speechmaking and doing the right thing. It's about getting dirty, and using the darker arts of politics.

One such art is timing. If your position is strong, you should act. If it's not, you should wait. Had Cameron waited until the UN inspectors have reported, his case would have been strengthened by reports of the incendiary bomb attack on a school.

But there's another failure. Leadership also means identifying potential oppenents and cajoling them – maybe nicely, maybe not – into supporting you. And at this, Cameron has long been poor. Fraser Nelson says he's "aloof."

And only a few months into his permiership one Tory sympathizer wrote:

There is little affection for Cameron on the Tory benches. His regime is chilly, even aloof. MPs who cross him know that they are unlikely to be forgiven. Slowly, the numbers of the disaffected and dispossessed are growing.

Contrast this with two great American leaders – Abe Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson. Their success rested on not so much on them taking the moral high ground – the best that can be said for LBJ's "moral compass" is that it wasn't quite as defective as Nixon's – but on their ability to twist arms, and appeal to low motives.

Their precedents are, I think, relevant. Both men faced parties which were loose and fissiparous, which is the condition of today's Tories. Not only are they intellectually divided – for example on both social and economic liberalism – but they are also socially so; the Cabinet might be full of public school millionaires, but the backbenches aren't.

His long failure to close this gap means that Cameron lacked both the ability to convert potential rebels and the trust which was necessary to induce people to follow him on what would have been a speculative venture.

In this sense, there's a tragic aspect to Cameron. He has thought of politics as (by his own lights) a noble venture – as when he pushed through gay marriage and in his desire to stop crimes against humanity. But politics isn't just that.

Sometimes, to win a moral crusade you need immoral means. Leadership isn't about being like Martin Luther King, but being like Lyndon Johnson. 

What Jacob Rees-Mogg knew before he went to dinner with Traditional Britain

by Guest     August 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

by Gerry Gable

Last night I was interviewed on Newsnight over the revelation that the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg had been the guest speaker at the annual dinner of the far-right Traditional Britain Group in May.

I explained that I had forewarned the MP, explaining the nature of the group. Despite the TBG’s claim to be “perfectly normal conservatives”, in reality it gathers together far-right extremists including antisemites, racists, fascists, national socialists and members of the British National Party and the breakaway British Democratic Party.

You can read more about the TBG in our story here yesterday and articles from Searchlight referenced in it.

Among the TBG’s young fogies is a violent young man called Matt Tait who readers may recall was part of a gang of BNP thugs who beat up two Asian youngsters during the 2010 general election campaign in Barking, east London.

A few days before the TBG’s annual general meeting in London on 18 May, Searchlight had learned from two of its undercover team that Rees-Mogg had been invited to address the dinner the night before. I spent three days trying to speak to both Rees-Mogg and the chairman of the Conservative Party to warn them that accepting the invitation would be very damaging.

The day before the dinner Rees-Mogg phoned me and we had a polite discussion. I have been asked since whether I thought he was ill-informed or naïve. I firmly believe that he is one of the least naïve MPs in the Commons, but it would appear that other that what I told him, no one else he consulted was able to give him any hard information about the TBG. That is odd to say the least because in a book published in 2011, The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right 1945-75, Dr Mark Pitchford said the Conservative Party’s central office had a department to monitor such groups. They probably still do.

Rees-Mogg is very much a genuine traditional Tory and told me, after listening to my explanations about the people running the TBG, that he had given his word that he would speak at the dinner, and did not wish to break his promise and let them down at such short notice. I emphasised that I thought his presence would be used against his party and himself.

It appears that later that day he spoke to Gregory Lauder-Frost, the TBG’s vice-president, and told him he had spoken to me and was thinking of withdrawing. Lauder-Frost, a serial liar, used the “red” card, saying I was a communist, as was Searchlight, and was not a reliable source, so Rees-Mogg confirmed his attendance. Today’s Times reveals that he also spoke to Simon Heffer, the right-wing journalist and biographer of Enoch Powell, who has himself addressed the TBG.

Our sources told us that during the dinner Rees-Mogg realised all was not well politically so he confined his speech to traditional conservatism and said nothing that could be construed as support for the TBG and its more extreme views. The TBG itself said yesterday: “Only one person present asked about immigration levels etc and Mr Rees-Mogg gave an assimilationist response.”

That night and over the following days, people at the dinner engaged in animated phone and online discussions, many saying the invitation to Rees-Mogg was a bad decision (by tforge tech everette). In the June-July issue of Searchlight we reported that he had spoken but many considered his speech was a let-down and he had not endorsed their extreme views.

The BBC Newsnight team yesterday wanted me to do an interview with both hands tied behind my back. I had given them everything we had written about the TBG, including profiles of many of its key figures, and informed them that we had never received even a hint of any legal action. Nevertheless the BBC would let me name anybody associated with the TBG.

It would have been more helpful if the BBC had shown some balance. This is perhaps part of the same trend in BBC current affairs that gave the criminal leader of the English Defence League the softest possible interview on Newsnight two years ago and more recently on the Today programme. 

This was cross-posted from the Searchlight blog today, where there is a longer version.

The Traditional Britain Group listens to a conspiratorial view of racist dystopia

by Guest     August 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

by Adam Carter

“In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man,” said Enoch Powell in one of the most offensive parts of his 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. This deep-seated racist fear about a future in which the role of ‘the white man’ is diminished by black immigration has become a standard trope in the paranoid rhetoric of the extreme right.

It can be seen in full-length racist tracts such as Jean Raspail’s virulently anti-immigrant novel Camp of the Saints (1973) and British nazi godfather Colin Jordan’s novel Merrie England 2000 (1993), and it informed the speech by Dr Frank Ellis at the Traditional Britain Group (TBG) dinner celebrating the centenary of Enoch Powell in London on 16 June.

Ellis was addressing about 40 supporters of the TBG in the upmarket East of India gentlemen’s club in St James. A former lecturer in Russian and Slavonic studies at Leeds University, Ellis was suspended, and then took early retirement, following a furore over controversial comments he made linking race with IQ in 2006.

His inflammatory speech would not have been out of place in any fascist gathering of the past thirty years. It presented a bizarre conspiratorial view of history in which contemporary Britain is in the grip of “liberal totalitarianism” and “multiculturalism … has emerged as the threat to the integrity of nation states to replace communism”.

The “new totalitarians” (as in all the best conspiracy theories Ellis doesn’t identify who this shadowy group is) have, through insanely clever ideological manipulation, supposedly taken over all the main institutions in the UK including Parliament, the Church of England, the media, the police, the education system and the armed forces.

The consequences of this alarming conspiracy are that supposedly “millions of immigrants” or “aliens” are bringing “Third world problems” and criminality to the UK.

Ellis then embraces a dystopian vision where immigration and “race war” ruin the UK: “Mass immigration, legal or illegal, is the single biggest threat to this country and at the time of speaking it is slowly and relentlessly destroying us … The political caste in this country, people charged with the defence of our country’s interests and very existence, have exploited the cult of multiculturalism as a way to destroy this ancient creation called England.”

Despite its extremist sentiments – and this idea of a conspiracy using immigration to destroy Britain has always been a core part of fascist, not Conservative, rhetoric – thespeech was well received by the audience of young fogeys and elderly traditionalists and has since been posted on the TBG’s website.

As we reported in our May 2012 issue, the TBG was revived (by its own account) in 2007 with a younger leadership and has become an important meeting point where an older generation of experienced militants such as Gregory Lauder- Frost, Lord Sudelely, Sam Swerling, Adrian Davies and Stuart Millson mingle with a younger group of activists many of whom recently graduated from university and are using social media to spread the reactionary message.

Its new chairman Louis Welcomme, who works as a marketing executive for a company supplying recruitment software in Norwich, graduated from Newcastle University in 2009 and has been credited as the driving force behind the revitalisation of the group. He is helped by Liam Stokes, the TBG secretary, who lectures in game and wildlife management at the Lackham Campus of Wiltshire College and writes a monthly column for the Shooting Gazette.

TBG committee members include Henry Hopwood-Phillips based in London, who wrote a response on the TBG website to our original article and has also been writing regularly on the Tory Reform Group blog – despite the fact that the inclusive ‘one nation’ policies of that group are far removed from the reactionary anti-immigrant propaganda of the TBG – and Calum Heaton-Gent, a vice-chairman of Sheffield University Conservative society.

Searchlight can also reveal that one of the younger activists attending TBG events in the past is Matt Tait, a former British National Party council candidate and Bletchley organiser, who is also a prime mover in the New Right meetings, often reported in Searchlight, which regularly bring together racists, antisemites and Holocaust deniers.

Former BNP North East regional organiser Kevin Scott seems on friendly terms with Welcomme and posts regularly on the TBG Facebook page. TBG has announced a joint meeting with the Quarterly Review on the theme of “Another Country – Whatever Happened to Traditional Britain?” on 20 October in central London.

Quarterly Review is a conservative cultural magazine which has tried to rival The Salisbury Review as the leading exponent of thoughtful (although sometimes controversial) reactionary Conservatism. Quarterly Review is edited by Derek Turner, the former leader of the Irish nazi group, the Social Action Initiative, who once referred to himself as “your neighbourhood nazi”.

Turner was the editor of Right Now!, the most influential voice (1993-2006) on the racist fringe of the Conservative Party, which was singled out by Robin Cook, then Foreign Secretary, in 2000 in an attack on former Conservative leader William’s Hague’s inability to contain extremists in his own party.

The meeting is more evidence of TBG’s ambitions to develop from an occasional traditionalist talking shop into the de facto leading group on the right of the Conservative Party. Whether its older mentors maintain their interest and the younger activists can make the transition from student politics to achieve these ambitions remains to be seen.

This article was published by Searchlight magazine in the July 2012 issue. It is re-published here with permission

By urging immigrants to ‘go home’ – the govt is legitimising a National Front slogan

by Sunny Hundal     July 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm

This ad campaign by the Home Office has me seething with anger.

Go Home used to be a racist slogan used by the National Front in the 70s, for anyone of Black or Asian origin.

Until recently the BNP too had a policy of forcibly deporting people of ethnic minority origin. They should all ‘go home’ Nick Griffin used to say, and he even offered money for them to do so.

This campaign is a publicity stunt. There have been long-standing schemes by successive governments to offer incentives to illegal immigrants to go back to their country of origin. They rarely work since people fear persecution or feel they could earn more money here.

In other words this van emblazoned with ‘Go Home’ is a stunt designed to generate publicity in the press and give the impression the government is cracking down on immigration. IT won’t have muchany impact on the numbers at all.

But it does legitimise and bring back an old racist slogan.

It will encourage racists to scream ‘go home’ to anyone of non-white origin… after all, the government is saying it too!

It has brought back a slogan into use that my parents’ generation hoped that they wouldn’t hear again.

Five reasons why the government’s Benefits Cap should be opposed

by Guest     July 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

by Matthew Whittley

Last Monday saw the introduction of the benefit cap, the latest of the coalition’s welfare reforms. The cap limits the amount a household can claim in benefits while out of work, regardless of need. The 40,000 families affected will lose on average £93 a week.

Some of the effects will be:

a) It might be possible for some households to scrape together the £14 a week needed to pay the bedroom tax, but those hit by the benefit cap stand no chance. It won’t take long for people to run up arrears and be evicted. Many will end up in temporary accommodation at great cost to the taxpayer.

b) Because of high housing costs, London and the South East will be hit the hardest. Very shortly we will see large numbers of families migrating north, to places with which they have no connection and know no one, because their housing benefit will no longer be sufficient to cover sky-high rents. Some London councils have already relocated residents as far away as Blackpool and Newcastle.

c) By exporting poverty out of the London, this policy will be the final nail in the coffin of mixed communities in the capital. It doesn’t take the foresight of Nostrodamus to fast forward a decade and envisage London looking more like Paris, with the affluent living in the city and the poor pushed out to the suburbs. And we know from Paris, where civil unrest occurs with alarming regularity, that segregation breeds social tensions.

d) It won’t save much money. The Treasury estimates the cap will shave off just £110m a year from a total benefits bill of £159bn. And some believe that to be an optimistic forecast. A leaked letter from the office of Eric Pickles expresses concern that ‘the policy as it stands will generate a net cost’ when the additional cost of homelessness and temporary accommodation is accounted for.

e) The cap will do nothing to bring down the benefits bill because it does nothing to address the root causes of why we’re spending so much on benefits. In London, because rents are so high, housing benefit paid to landlords now accounts for over half of all working age benefits in the city. This is a result of the chronic undersupply of affordable housing. The only way to meaningfully reduce welfare expenditure is to build more homes and create decently paid jobs.

Essentially, it’s a cynical political manoeuvre designed to box Labour into a corner and reinforce the strivers versus skivers narrative by setting the working poor against the unemployed. But we know that at least 70% of those impacted are not feckless scroungers – because they are children. The government’s own impact assessment acknowledges that 140,000 children live in households that will be capped.

And it isn’t fair because it’s a false comparison; it doesn’t compare like with like. The cap is based on average earnings, but a household with a high rent or large family earning £26,000 a year in work – the level the cap is set at – will also be in receipt of benefits, such as tax credits and housing and child benefit, taking their income above £26,000.

The cap is no more than a symbol. For someone who claims to have spent much of the last decade working to alleviate poverty, Iain Duncan Smith should know better than to use the most disadvantaged as a political football.

Matthew Whittley is a researcher for a midlands-based housing association and a Labour party member’