Opinion

Paul McNamee: The working majority won’t be silenced

"While there is clever government rhetoric on being the party for the workers, the reality tells a different story"

Tax credits could change everything. At present, the discontent over the upcoming in-work credits cut is bubbling. However, it shows no sign of simmering down.

The reasons are clear. There is a desire by the government to bring down the cost of welfare. They argue it’s too high and that focus must be on removing people from dependency and into employment. There is, of course, merit to this argument. The bill is high and the positive benefits of work go well beyond simple financial reward. This is not an uncommon point of view.

The government claims that their move to slash in-work assistance is mitigated by their push to introduce a higher threshold before tax is deducted, and a higher minimum wage. Which is great, if it were all true.

The cut to in-work help harms those on low incomes in work

The reality, which is becoming clearer, is that a mooted living wage is some way off for many. And that the cut to in-work help harms those on low incomes in work – the people who want to do right, to stay employed, to feel the benefits of being part of a labour force.

Many of these people, outside of Scotland, believed the Tories when they said they could be trusted with the economy and that they wouldn’t cut tax credits.

But while there is clever government rhetoric on social justice and being the party for the workers, the reality tells a different story.

Such is the confusion that Frank Field, the Labour MP who is never scared of adopting an opposing view if he sees value in it for the greater good, is part of the mounting challenge to the cuts.

As chair of the work and pensions select committee, a parliamentary body that examines spending of Department for Work and Pensions, he is launching an inquiry into the effects of the tax credit slash.

He isn’t holding back, accusing the chancellor of trying to “bamboozle” the public. Incidentally, Mhairi Black, the SNP’s star newbie – recently tipped for leadership – sits on that committee too. She will not be keen to let things slide.

Politicians will debate, some will oppose, some will back changes. Some, like rugby-loving Boris, will make noises about opposing but his reasons are not clear – for the good of the low paid or the good of Boris’ leadership bid?

This is just dandy but it won’t really impact on the people set to lose money. The voices of those whom George Osborne identified as ‘strivers’ will be the voices that bring about a reckoning. Forget unfocused mobs throwing unfocused vitriol at cafes or political conferences. The quiet, urgent and very real upset felt by working men and women who sense they are being punished for doing the very thing they were encouraged to do – they will be voices to listen to. And when the silent majority stand up, they won’t be quietened.

It feels like this is just the start.

If you have any comments please email me at paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com, tweet @pauldmcnamee, or send a letter to The Big Issue, 43 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HW

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