George Osborne is drawing up plans to announce up to £10bn of extra cuts in welfare spending next year, according to a leaked account of a briefing to senior civil servantsAs Lib Dems we cannot let this happen. There's been speculation that there might be a deal for Clegg getting his wealth tax in exchange for the tories getting £10 billion of cuts to welfare but that had damn well better not happen. There is no equivalence between them. A multi-millionaire only being able to afford to buy one less yacht a year does not make up for, or equate to, a disabled person being left without enough money to buy food.
Welfare was hit disproportionately hard in the first round of cuts. And, because politicians and the DWP are too scared and too cowardly to touch pensions even slightly, which make up 42% of the welfare budget, and because stuff like fiddling with child tax credit pisses off middle class people who have voices to complain, the bulk of the cuts was passed almost entirely on to disabled people (12% of the welfare budget) and housing benefit simply because these were the groups of people too weak and too voiceless to put up a fight. It was an act of typically vile tory cowardice and spitefulness.
And if the DWP couldn't think of anything better to do than pick on the weakest and most vulnerable last time then why on Earth would they be any better this time? All they'll do is exactly the same thing and pass cuts disproportionately onto those with the narrowest shoulders to bear them.
Plus, to pass an additional £10 billion of cuts on to welfare, something which by definition helps the most vulnerable in society, when passing far smaller cuts on to absolutely everywhere else would be absolutely wrong. You cannot try and make the most vulnerable pay for the deficit and you cannot load those with the smallest shoulders up with the heaviest burden. You cannot do that because it is utterly immoral and wrong, and because it will end in disaster.
Already there are people starving or unable to afford to heat their homes as winter comes along. Already you have a record number of foodbanks and hundreds of thousands of some of the most vulnerable people imaginable already facing a daily struggle just to survive.
If these people, who are already barely managing, and failing in some cases, to keep their heads above water are hit with yet another blow then it will sink them with truly horrific human consequences. And when we have tragic stories of people pushed beyond all ability to cope flooding the newspapers then it will already be too late to undo the damage.
Liberal Democrats cannot allow the tories to make these additional cuts. To do so would be un-Christian, immoral, callous, cruel and plain old-fashioned wrong.
I don't believe for one second that we will allow these cuts to be made but, if somehow we do, then these cuts won't just push vulnerable people over the edge, they'll also push angry people over the edge. If Clegg thinks he has a rough time of it now with half of the party wanting him to go before 2015 let's see how he'll like it when people like me are infuriated to the extent that we're willing to speak out publicly and condemn him directly. Let's see how he likes it when people like me who have just about held our peace switch to publicly baying for his blood. And let's see how his loyalists in the party like it when we get virtually wiped out in 2014 and 2015.
Because, if we let these cuts pass then that's what's going to happen. We can weather and survive our current unpopularity but if we pour another gallon of petrol onto the fire by allowing the tories to well and truly take the boot to the poor, in violation of every principle our party was founded on, then, quite frankly, not only will we be unable to survive the storm but we'll also not deserve to survive it either.
I'm not kidding.
There are some red lines which you simply cannot cross if you believe in fairness and standing up for vulnerable people. And allowing these additional, disproportionate cuts is the biggest red line I've seen in my lifetime. Our party should cross it at its peril.