‘LET me say to him (Tory chancellor Osborne) I certainly think for the sake of this country that it is time for him to go,’ shadow chancellor John McDonnell said yesterday in Parliament.
McDonnell called for Osborne’s resignation during a heated debate after he was granted an urgent question regarding the government’s U-turn over cuts to disabled people’s benefits. It was in last week’s budget that disabled people were told that their benefits would be savagely cut to pay for tax breaks for the rich.
In the wake of a public outcry over the proposed measures, the government was forced to make a U-turn and announce that the cuts to disabled benefits will not go ahead. In Parliament yesterday, despite repeated calls for the chancellor to apologise he refused.
McDonnell continued: ‘A long term budget that lasted three days? It is a budget that is built around short term political tactics that have backfired spectacularly. What a failure. Incompetent politics that have blown up in the Chancellor’s face.’
Calling once more for Osborne’s resignation McDonnell said: ‘Let me make it clear, in my view and I believe in many others, the behaviour of the chancellor in the last eleven days calls into question his fitness for the office he now holds. I also believe it certainly calls into question his fitness for any leading office in government.
‘What we have seen is not the actions of a chancellor, a senior government minister, but the grubby, incompetent manipulations of a political chancellor. The reason that I refer back to fitness for office is because many of us know the distress that has been caused to so many people over the last three weeks.
‘Disabled people and their families have been sick with worry about the threats to their benefits. By Friday of last week the chancellor was under so much criticism he needed to find someone to blame. So I think that in one of the most despicable acts we have witnessed in recent political history, the chancellor sent out his spin doctors to try and lay the blame on the former secretary of state of work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.’
In the wake of the scandal Duncan Smith quit, citing the reason for his resignation that the cuts to disabled people’s benefits were ‘indefensible’. McDonnell concluded: ‘This was a disgraceful act of betrayal of one of his own cabinet colleagues to save his own political skin and his leadership hopes.’
Labour shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, Rachel Reeves, told Parliament: ‘On Friday afternoon a couple came to visit me at my surgery. Mr Ford is in a wheelchair, unable to feed himself, dress himself, do anything for himself. They live on £559 a month, plus £63 a week carers’ allowance. They still have a mortgage to pay. They have clocked up 80 years of National Insurance Contributions between them.
‘And they asked a simple question: “How are we meant to cope?” They were in a real state of stress. So will the minister now please apologise to those people.’ Osborne stubbornly refused, saying: ‘I have already said we are not going ahead with those changes and I have addressed these issues.’