Tax Credits: Cameron & Osborne's poll tax?

It’s mid-December. The tree stands in the corner of the room, the presents underneath.

Who's that at the door? Why, it’s Postie, with another delivery of seasonal cheer.

More cards to pin on the wall? A voucher from your Aunt? And what’s this? A letter? Maybe it’s from Santa. 

“Regrettably, your tax credit entitlement will be cut from April 2016.

Merry Christmas, George Osborne.

PS, thanks for voting for us in May, pip pip.”

Amber Rudd had no answer to the criticism she faced on TV last week — the Government has chosen to fight a battle that could do it real and lasting harm.

A quiet, subtle climbdown could ease the pressure. But instead the Treasury’s gone on the attack, turning the £15-billion claimed savings from tax credit cuts into 200,000 nurses.

Which might work if we were about to recruit an extra 200,000 nurses. And nurses weren’t among those losing out.

David Cameron never explicitly promised that he wouldn’t cut tax credits. But he certainly wanted you to come away with that impression during the election campaign:

The gamble is that, by 2020, the new national living wage will have made up the losses millions face next year, and that angry memories fade with time.

But that doesn’t always happen. Black Wednesday came 6 months after John Major’s 1992 election victory, but shattered the Tories’ reputation for economic competence for years afterwards.

You can find plenty of people on all sides of politics who think the tax credit system is insane. Ludicrously complicated, and ultimately bailing out low-wage private-sector employers from the public purse.

But there's less support for cuts now, with the hope that future changes might restore lost income in time for the next election.

It's a brave move for a party to loudly proclaim it’s on the side of hard-working families, then take money off those same families six months after winning their votes.

True, the Conservatives have doubled their poll lead over Labour since the election. But the cuts haven’t started to bite yet.

The opposition is so busy with in-fighting it’s incapable of co-ordinating a proper campaign against the cuts. But that could change.

Dozens of Tory MPs are being deluged with angry complaints from constituents who fear they’ll lose out. One-by-one, they’re being called in to have their arms twisted to follow the Government line.

The poll tax cost Margaret Thatcher her job, and had to be scrapped. Gordon Brown had to admit to screwing up when he sneakily abandoned the 10p tax rate. 

Politicians hate admitting they've got something wrong. But sooner or later, the government will have to ease the impact of these cuts. Political reality will demand it.

For am ambitious Chancellor who's desperate to be Prime Minister, sooner would definitely be better.