On the benefit cap
I take no pleasure in the need to cut benefits in real terms, which is what capping the increase in many state benefits below the rate of inflation effectively does.
Capping people's income is not something which should be an end in itself or any grounds for celebration.
The problem is that while the economy is taking a long time to recover from recession, the incomes of all too many of the people in work who actually pay the taxes which fund those benefits is also flat. Millions of low paid workers who are paying tax to support the welfare state have also had pay rises below the rate of inflation.
It would neither be fair and right, nor in the long-term interests of any group in British society (including those who happen to be on benefit at the moment) if the real value of benefits were protected while the living standards of low paid workers who pay taxes to fund those benefits were not protected.
This would be unsustainable for two reasons - firstly it sends out entirely the wrong signals about the need for people to find work. And secondly, with government spending still far higher, even after the cuts made to date, than is sustainable, Britain simply cannot afford such a policy
These caps might not have been necessary, or at least would not have had to be so tough, had the previous government not left behind a situation where they were spending four pounds for every three raised in tax. And where in consequence the national debt had doubled to 1.2 trillion pounds, and Britain was spending more in interest payments to service that debt than on schools. There are no good options to deal with the sort of mess those never-to-be-sufficiently-damned fools Gordon Brown and Ed Balls left behind - there are only bad options and worse ones.
The coalition has reduced the deficit by a quarter, but it is still unsustainably large and must be brought down further if we are not to leave our children an intolerable burden of debt. Those who argue that we can afford to keep spending risk putting Britain into the same sort of mess that Greece is in now.