THE BLOG

I Don't Live in Osborne's World

10/07/2015 15:32 BST | Updated 10/07/2016 10:59 BST

I know I started out from more humble beginnings than George Osborne, and I won't inherit a baronetcy. But now I realise I live in a totally different Britain. There is George Osborne's fantasy Britain described in his Budget speech, and then the real world we all come home to.

In Osborne-land, taxes were miraculously cut, a new living wage introduced, the government is finally on course to balance the books and a grateful nation walks happily into the sunlit uplands, thanking the Government.

Back in the real world, 13million families will be £260 a year worse off (not our figures, but those of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies). The so-called living wage unfairly excludes those under 25. And, if Osborne is as hopeless as he was in the last parliament, the Government will probably miss their target to eliminate the deficit for a second time.

So what do we do about it?

First, let's avoid the Tory trap. Opposing every cut, or only talking about the effect of the Budget on the most vulnerable, looks out of touch, ignoring the big picture. We can highlight the hypocrisy of claiming to want to help those in work, while hitting the lowest paid the hardest and we can also champion the broad interests of most working and middle class families as well. They are fundamental to our country's success and many should be part of Labour's family of voters. Many of them are also in the firing line of Osborne's budget.

Second, let's remember what Labour is about. We are pro-work, and against poverty pay. It's no thanks to the Tories that we have a minimum wage. And Labour's minimum wage applies to everyone over 21. Only the Tories would think that someone who might have worked in a shop or call centre for seven, eight or even nine years, who may have long finished an apprenticeship, isn't worth the same as their colleague who may be only a few years older. This is simple age discrimination.

Likewise, an increased personal allowances is all well and good, but if increases are exceeded by cuts to working tax credits, that hardly reinforces the message that work pays. Indeed, it weakens it.

Third, the Tories are trying to steal Labour's clothes, and portray themselves as champions of working people. They have even made moves on non-doms, apprenticeships and now the living wage. This is a victory for our arguments, not theirs. So we must resist being pushed to the fringes of the political debate. We must come out fighting, speaking for the people we represent and aspire to represent, and boldly challenge the Tories on their own terrain.

We must be the party to argues for balancing the books as the economy grows. Every pound spent on debt interest is one we cannot spend on schools, hospitals or local policing. We must be the value-for-money party because we represent many people who in bad times are only weeks from financial ruin. If you don't have much, you know the value of money. And, yes, we should be the low tax party, because, as our membership card reminds us, the Labour Party believes that power, wealth and opportunity should be in the hands of the many, not the few.

Caroline Flint is Labour MP for Don Valley and Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary