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Humiliated: George Osborne tried argument and threats but the Lords ignored him [Image: Corbis].

Humiliated: George Osborne tried argument and threats but the Lords ignored him [Image: Corbis].

First, the climbdown: After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Lords, George Osborne has told us all that he meant it when he said he would listen, and now he’s going to offer help to people who will suffer from the loss of income represented by his tax credit cuts.

That’s right, he reckons he can achieve the savings he wants, and offer help to his victims. He’ll set out the ways and means in his Autumn Statement in December. Why didn’t he offer this in the first place?

Then, the counterattack: Osborne also said that the government’s defeat by the Lords means a constitutional issue has arisen, and he will address that alongside David Cameron. What he means is: He didn’t have his way, this has got him all upset, so now he wants the people who upset him to be upset too.

Presumably, this is exactly what people mean when they talk about the “politics of the playground”.

He left the threat hanging – no specifics – but already commentators are suggesting that any minor Tories who thought they might get a chance to wear ermine are set for disappointment.

Here’s Osborne’s comment: “Tonight unelected Labour and Liberal lords have defeated a financial matter passed by the elected House of Commons and David Cameron and I are clear that this raises constitutional issues that need to be dealt with.

“However, it has happened and now we must address the consequences of that. I said I would listen and that is precisely what I intend to do. I believe we can achieve the same goal of reforming tax credits, saving the money we need to save to secure our economy, while at the same time helping in the transition. That is what I intend to do at the autumn statement. I’m determined to deliver that lower welfare, higher wage economy that we were elected to deliver and that the British people want to see.”

It’s handy that he raises a point about the election there…

The Conservative Government was elected after David Cameron twice promised – on television – that tax credits would not be cut. While it is certainly true, as Baroness Stowell stated, that social security cuts totalling £12 billion were mooted prior to the election, the Conservative Party was careful never to admit where they planned to wield the axe. No mention was made of tax credit cuts in the Conservative manifesto.

So the Lords rejected a measure the government had no mandate to pursue, about which the Prime Minister had, intentionally and with malice aforethought, deceived the public.

Isn’t it the Conservative Government that has acted unconstitutionally?

Going into it all a bit deeper, Osborne’s claims fall flat. The Lords votes might have been questionable if they had been blocking a manifesto commitment, but they weren’t; if they did not normally block secondary legislation, but they have; or if they were amending a budget measure, but they weren’t. The government could have put tax credits into their Finance Bill but chose not to.

There is, however, reason for the Lords to be ashamed.

All this fuss over a tax credit cut of £1,300 for three million families, and the action that the Lords have taken, serves as another slap in the face to people on long-term sickness or disability benefits who have been subjected to cuts in the amount of benefit they receive, changes to the assessment system in an attempt to claim that they are “malingerers” who are “faking it”, sanctions and unfair decisions that have led to far greater loss of income and even – in more cases than have yet been mentioned – loss of life.

Where was all the outrage when changes to their benefits were passing through the House of Lords?

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