As anti-austerity protests took place outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, David Cameron told the BBC that he had no intention of altering his government’s plans to cut tax credits, which were proposed to Parliament in the summer.
Andrew Marr, a BBC political interviewer, asked the Prime Minister if he would reconsider his tax credits policy. Mr. Cameron was clear that this would not happen. “No. We think the changes we have put forward are right and they come with higher pay and lower taxes”, he said. He also explained that he had chosen to cut tax credits so that he could maintain investment in the health and education sectors. This, he said, was a sign that the government was maintaining a centrist policy, whilst Labour was “running for the hills”.
A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has concluded that a total of 13 million families will lose an average of £240 a year, while 3 million families will lose £1,000 a year. The briefing made clear that minimum wage increases could not fully compensate workers for their losses once the cuts take effect. Even some Conservatives, such as the former minister Lord Willetts, have expressed concern at the scale of the cuts. The Sun on Sunday has also come out against the policy and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, addressed the issue in his own conference speech, referring to an election pledge not to change the tax credits system as “a shocking broken promise.”
Mr. Cameron appeared relaxed and confident during the interview, which may have something to do with the fact that he is the first leader of a Conservative government to address his party’s conference in 19 years. He even made light of the prospect of his Chancellor, George Osborne, succeeding him, joking that front-runners don’t always win.
The atmosphere surrounding the conference hall was, however, anything but calm, as anti-austerity protests took place outside the venue and allegations of violence were made. Greater Manchester Police said that 60,000 people took part in the TUC-organised event, which was convened to attack the measures contained in the Trade Union Bill and attended by the celebrities Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church. Although the protests were largely peaceful, two journalists alleged that they had been spat on as they attempted to enter the venue. Michael Crick, who works for Channel 4, even posted a photograph to substantiate his claim. A picture has also been circulating of a conference delegate who appeared to have been hit with an egg.