Cameron vows to learn budget fiasco lessons

British prime minister refuses to apologise for £4.4bn in cuts to disability benefits

British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne.  His disability cuts in the budget proved the final straw for welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned on March 18th. Photograph: AFP Photo

British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne. His disability cuts in the budget proved the final straw for welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned on March 18th. Photograph: AFP Photo

 

David Cameron has promised to “learn the lessons” of his government’s budget fiasco but, like his chancellor George Osborne, refused to apologise for proposing £4.4 billion in cuts to disability benefits.

The proposed cuts, which have now been withdrawn, triggered the resignation of former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and what appeared to be a major political crisis.

At Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, however, Mr Cameron was cheered loudly by Conservative MPs while disabled people protested outside the chamber, chanting “no more deaths from benefit cuts”.

“When you are faced with having to take very many very difficult decisions, including very many spending reductions as we were after becoming the Government after 2010, you do not always get every decision right. I’m the first to accept that, to admit that and on every occasion that happens it’s very important you learn the lessons,” the prime minister said.

Corbyn list

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MPs were divided into five categories: core group, core group plus, neutral but not hostile, core group negative and hostile group.

Among the 36 categorised as “hostile” were Labour’s mayoral candidate in London, Sadiq Khan, and the party’s chief whip Rosie Winterton.

Although Labour insisted that Mr Corbyn was unaware of the list, Mr Cameron teased him about it mercilessly, to the delight of Conservative backbenchers.

The prime minister received another boost when London mayor Boris Johnson, who is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, was accused of talking “mountains of nonsense” about Europe to the Treasury committee.

The committee’s chairman, Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, challenged a number of claims Mr Johnson had made about the EU  and accused him of taking “a very partial, busking – really – humoresque approach” to a very serious question for the UK.

Mr Tyrie described one of Mr Johnson’s claims, about EU rules on the size of coffins, as “a figment of your imagination”, adding that any reasonable person would conclude that he had exaggerated and misrepresented EU rules.

Impact of leaving

He cast doubt on the level of support among business people and within the City for Britain remaining in the EU.

“I’m struck by how shallow the enthusiasm for the EU seems to be amongst its supposed backers. It’s interesting that when you dig into these people’s opinions, they are much less strongly held than you might suppose,” he said.

“What has struck me in private conversations which I occasionally have with leading bankers about this is how finely balanced they see it to be. Most of them will candidly say they don’t believe it will do any damage to London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre. That is the overwhelming picture I get.”