When even Tracey Crouch’s sympathetic words on tax credits provoke left-wing fury, there is no hope for real welfare reform in Britain. And no hope for the Labour Party, either
Had Conservative Sports Minister Tracey Crouch known about the outrage that would be whipped up by her interview in The Spectator before she gave it, she would quite possibly have chosen to go without the glowing portrait by Isabel Hardman in order to avoid the deluge of left-wing bile which immediately followed.
Unfortunately for Crouch, there is no telling which harmless phrase or action will send the modern British Left into a full-on social media jihad, and so she has had to spend the better part of today apologising for offending the Poor and Vulnerable.
Here is the part of Crouch’s Spectator interview with Isabel Hardman that caused so much left-wing outrage:
But given Crouch knows what it means to struggle to make ends meet, isn’t she worried about the cuts to tax credits that will hit families not unlike the one she grew up in? She’s happy to defend these controversial reforms that have agitated so many of her colleagues. ‘I think it’s about communication,’ she says, adding:
‘We will be discussing this, and I’m sure that DWP are looking at all of these issues, in great detail but I think at the end of the day one of the kindest things that we can do is try to help people to support themselves and work around their finances: some of my most heartbreaking cases are those that come to me saying that they are struggling and then you go through with them their expenditure and income – I’m not generalising at all, I’m talking about some very individual cases – and actually they just haven’t realised some of the savings that they need to make themselves, you know it can be… things like paid subscriptions to TVs and you just sit there and you think you have to sometimes go without if you are going to have people make ends meet.’
Fairly innocuous stuff, no? Just look at all of the caveats, provisos and exemptions in Crouch’s words:
“I’m not generalising at all”
“I’m talking about individual cases”
“Some of my most heartbreaking cases”
“One of the kindest things we can do”
There’s no reasonable way that you can read Tracey Crouch’s words and come away thinking that here is some callous, unfeeling elitist who thinks that people are poor through their own fault. There just isn’t. Tracey Crouch is hardly some monacle-squinting, golden pocketwatch-twirling Monopoly man, looking down on the working poor from a lofty aristocratic perch and finding them wanting.
And yet that’s exactly how her interview is being spun by the perpetually outraged Left. The Daily Mail provides a good sampling of the preening, self-righteous virtue signalling which followed Crouch’s interview. First Labour pile on:
Shadow Treasury minister Rebecca Long-Bailey said: ‘Another day and yet more evidence of out of touch Tory MPs insulting working people in low pay in what has been a further torturous week for George Osborne on tax credits.
‘It’s outrageous for a serving minister to claim that working families simply need to ‘go without’ in order to make ends meet. Losing £1,300 a year isn’t about cutting back on luxuries, it’s about families being able to pay the bills.’
And then come the Lib Dems, twisting the knife:
Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton said: ‘This is hypocrisy at its worst. For a Tracey Crouch, someone on a ministerial salary, to turn around to the people who are going to be hit by her Government’s heartless cuts to tax credits and tell them it’s now their fault for not budgeting properly shows just how utterly out of touch the Tories are.’
I re-emphasize: Tracey Crouch was talking specifically about poor budgeting decisions made by certain individual constituents, emphasising multiple times that she was not generalising from the examples that she gave. And yet still we are treated to this hand-wringing mock horror from the Left, as though the Sports Minister had called for all tax credit recipients to be sent to the workhouse.
When the entitlement culture runs so deep that a government minister who grew up relatively poor cannot give true personal testimony about the importance of budgeting, or cite real-life examples of those struggling on low incomes who had not considered every option for reducing their outgoings, what hope can there possibly be for meaningful welfare reform?
What chance can there ever be of lifting people out of the benefit trap, into entry level employment and then onward and upward in self-sustaining careers when as honest and humble an MP as Tracey Crouch cannot even make a factual statement about her constituent cases without being vilified by left-wing activists?
Unfortunately, the reality of modern Britain is that too many people work hard in very low-paying jobs which are only financially viable when topped up by government tax credits. Gordon Brown can splutter and roar all he likes about the supposed virtues of his benefits brainchild, but the cold hard reality is that tax credits promote a form of welfare dependency.
Yes, it’s more noble form of dependency because the recipient is working – often very hard – for their low wages. But dependency means coming to rely on something day-to-day in order to maintain a certain standard of living. People rage against the Evil Tories for daring to consider tax credit changes in their effort to restore fiscal sanity to Britain, but have no words of condemnation for the moralising New Labour government who made millions more people dependent on welfare in the first place.
When I grew up poor in Essex, we didn’t have a Sky TV subscription. We didn’t even have a colour television until I reached secondary school in the 1990s – I watched Neighbours and Newsround in black and white. These things were not the essentials of life, much as I would have loved them, and so we went without.
Fast forward to 2015 and a Netflix subscription is no more necessary now than an expensive Sky subscription was in the early nineties. So why, exactly, was Tracey Crouch wrong to call attention to cases where those on low incomes had not considered cutting down on unnecessary expenditure?
As Julia Hartley-Brewer notes in the Telegraph:
In reality, the only people who are out of touch with how ordinary people live are Labour MPs like Rebecca Long-Bailey, who appear to think that Sky TV is some kind of inalienable human right to be funded out of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.
Everyone has to make choices about what they can and can’t afford to spend their money on. Tracey Crouch was simply pointing out what every ordinary family in Britain knows: you have to cut your cloth according to your means.
But you can’t say that any more, according to the Left. To acknowledge the basic economic truth that poor people cannot purchase unlimited luxury goods is grossly offensive – not to the millions of low paid people who already strive to live within their means, but rather to those who do not, and the Labour politicians who cheer for their “right” to never have to collide with fiscal reality.
The government’s approach to tax credits is flawed, and considering other areas of continued state profligacy (universal pensioner benefits, for example) there is no great reason why tax credit recipients must swallow such a harsh dose of George Osborne’s fiscal medicine upfront while others slip by unchallenged. And Labour might have a realistic chance at forcing an important, beneficial concession from the Chancellor on this topic, if only they could stop the bickering and infighting long enough to organise themselves.
But when Labour MPs charge mindlessly into battle against the Conservatives (especially a self made Tory Minister like Tracey Crouch) in defence of the Universal Human Right to subscription TV, of all stupid things, they make no serious point, they win no new allies, and they help precisely no one.
But then that’s the Labour Party and the modern British Left in a nutshell. Noisily hating the Tories and whining about fairness but not doing, saying, thinking or proposing a damn thing to hold the current government to account or make anyone’s lives permanently better.
Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.