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It is a commentary on Conservative Members that, when the House discusses invalidity benefit, they try to shout down anyone telling the truth about the dangers to it.
My message to the Prime Minister is that he may be able to eliminate compassion from everything that goes on in 10 Downing street. He may even, by a temporary legislative diktat at Westminster, abandon caring and compassion in his legislation. But he will never persuade the British people that caring and compassion should not be right at the centre of social policy in this country.
This is a Government who made promise after promise to win the previous election. A promise not to devalue was broken. A promise of an immediate post-election recovery starting on Friday was broken. The promise that every teenager would have a job or training, broken; the promise of tax cuts year on year, now broken; the promise of no rises in VAT, broken; the promise that they would balance the books, broken; the promise that there would be no spending cuts, now broken; the promise that national insurance would not go up, broken. Ten broken promises that mean that the Conservative party will never be trusted again.
This is the Prime Minister who, as Chancellor, created all the necessary conditions for continuing recession and who subsequently, as Prime Minister, has sacked a Chancellor whose main offence was that he had only obeyed orders—a Prime Minister who gave the orders and even now assures us that they will not be changed, a Prime Minister who has no strategy whatever, and a Prime Minister who, when pressed on all the difficulties that face our country and economy, pleads only that we should trust him, when the record shows that he has no credibility.
This is a Government with no industry policy because they are short-termist, no policy for the homeless unless it can capture tomorrow's headlines, no interest in pensioners unless an advertising agency tells them that it matters, no policy for the long term because it is not on the agenda of their party posters, and no strategy for the unemployed because they have simply written them off as voters. What is clear now from the debate is that no strategy for economic and social recovery exists within the Conservative party. What is clear is that the whole Tory party now doubts whether the Chancellor and the Prime Minister can get a strategy together.
The Chancellor said that we were in a dreadful hole. The former Chancellor says that the Conservative party deserves to lose without a strategy. There is only one change that can benefit Britain—it is to change the Prime Minister and the Government, and it should happen now.