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The chancellor’s maths are finally outrunning his politics. If he doesn’t U-turn he’ll have to keep hitting striving families again and again
Over the past five years the biggest question in British politics has been this: how might George Osborne’s cuts be stopped? In a decade that will be defined by austerity, this remains the problem that underpins all the others in our politics. Suddenly, we’ve been given a possible answer.
Many lessons can be drawn from the debacle over cuts to tax credits, and the remarkable past fortnight – in which the Sun took up arms against the party it helped create, in which a desperate mother shouted “shame on you” at the Tory she’d voted into government, and the habitually sedated House of Lords stumbled into rebellion.
It’s not that Osborne, the tactician’s tactician, has made a rare misstep – or any of the other conclusions reached by our cabal of over-sophisticated and under-attentive political commentators. What we’re seeing is that, after half a decade, the chancellor is finally reaching the point at which his cuts have to go so deep and so wide that they can no longer be denied or plausibly defended. The irresistible force of implementing year upon year of austerity means the Conservatives have to start hurting and offending their own supporters. This is the point where Osborne’s maths finally outruns his politics.