Gordon Brown has issued a stark warning to the government, telling them to expect a “national uprising” if benefits are not increased in line with inflation.
The issue has already prompted a Tory backbench revolt and prompted signs of splits within the Truss government after the PM suggested she could scrap former chancellor Rishi Sunak's commitment to increase benefits in line with inflation, instead increasing them in line with earnings.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Brown said it would be “immoral” not to uprate benefits in line with inflation, which has soared in recent months to levels unseen in generations.
Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have so far not ruled the real-terms cut to benefits, as the pair seek out ways to shave billions off government spending following last month’s tax-cutting mini-budget.
Brown said such a move would be “unfair” and “unequal”.
He said: “It’s divisive because we’re not in this together any more. It’s anti-work because 40% of those who would suffer are people on low pay in work. It’s anti-family because five million children would be in poverty.
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“And I think most of all, it’s immoral. It’s asking the poor to bear the burden for the crisis that we face in this country and for mistakes that other people have made, and it’s a scar on the soul of our country, it’s a stain on our conscience.”
Brown said the majority of the public would be against it, warning: “There will be a national uprising if this goes ahead because it is nothing to do with making the growth policies of the government work, it is simply making the poor pay the price.”
On Tuesday, leader of the House Penny Mordaunt became the most high-profile member of the Truss top team to back calls to uprate benefits with inflation, straining the limits of cabinet collective responsibility.
Truss ruled out sacking her former leadership rival for speaking out on the issue, one of several problems to dominate the conference as MPs piled pressure on the chancellor after successfully forcing a U-turn on plans to scrap the 45p top rate of tax.
The prime minister’s first conference as leader and prime minister has been overshadowed by the row over the mini-budget, while Tory MPs have had their confidence shattered by a huge Labour lead in the polls.
Truss has also been described as ‘incompetent’ by Britons, in a poll for JL Partners, while a YouGov survey found that she is already more unpopular than Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn ever was.
Just 14% of the public now say they have a favourable impression of the PM, compared with 26% who said so between 21-22 September.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) now see the PM in an unfavourable light, including more than half (55%) who see her very unfavourably.
That gives her a net favorability rating of minus 59, depths not plumbed by Boris Johnson, who hit minus 53 in July or Corbyn who fell to minus 55 in June 2019.