Boris Johnson to urge caution on tax credit cuts for lowest paid


Boris Johnson will warn the Tory leadership to protect the lowest paid as it reforms welfare amid growing calls for George Osborne to rethink cuts to tax credits.

Millions of working households are expected to be left out of pocket as tax credits are slashed ahead of planned rises in the minimum wage and further cuts to the personal allowance.

In his final speech to Conservative Party Conference as London mayor, Mr Johnson is expected to tell activists they must use the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader to truly seize the mantle of the party which helps all people succeed.

The conference fringe has been dominated by discussion of who will succeed David Cameron as Tory leader, with Mr Johnson widely perceived as falling behind other rivals at the same time as the Chancellor cements his state as the firm favourite.

Speaking at the Manchester conference, Mr Johnson is set to join Tory calls for a fresh look at tax credit changes.

He is expected to say: "We must ensure that as we reform welfare and we cut taxes that we protect the hardest working and lowest paid.

"Shops workers, cleaners, the people who get up in the small hours or work through the night because they have dreams for what their families can achieve - the people without whom the London economy would simply collapse."

The mayor will continue: "(These are) the people Labour is leaving behind and then there is an even more important requirement.

"If people are to feel bound in to this system then there must be hope and aspiration, and above all there must be opportunity and it is here that we Tories have a massive advantage.

"Because if Labour is once again becoming the party that pointlessly bashes the rich it is we who give everyone the tools to make their own lives and their own successes."

Mr Johnson is due to appear alongside Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate to replace him in City Hall at May's mayoral elections.

He will tell activists how he believes the Richmond Park MP can conquer an insurgent left - insisting his two defeats of Ken Livingstone show the way to beating Mr Corbyn's energised left wing.

Tory delegates have faced a gauntlet of angry protests and abuse around the entrance to their Manchester conference since gathering on Sunday.

Mr Johnson is expected to say: "I know these people, my friends. They are the London Labour Party - tankies and trots with interesting vests and militants with vested interests.

"They are the people who idolise the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and believe the only problem with socialism is that it has never been properly tried.

"I know them because we have fought and beaten them twice and the reason I first wanted to get into that fight eight years ago is that I am fundamentally opposed to that style of politics."

Mr Johnson will say the left believes in "divide and rule" and is expected to add: "Where there is a grievance, they foment it; where there is sectarianism, they take sides.

"Where there are racial or religious or ethnic divisions their instinct is always to accentuate and to balkanise and of course there is one conflict they relish above all others, and that is economic class war."

Mr Johnson's planned remarks on welfare reform will follow a growing row both inside and outside Tory ranks on tax credit cuts, which have already cleared the Commons.

Mr Osborne has rebuffed critics of cuts to tax credits, insisting it was failure to control public spending that would be "economic cruelty" for working families.

He hit back after David Davis joined Tory demands for a rethink, warning that the squeeze could prove as damaging to the party as the poll tax was under Margaret Thatcher.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that 13 million families will lose an average of £240 a year when the cuts come into effect in April, while three million will lose £1,000 or more.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt sparked fresh controversy when he told a fringe meeting tax credit cuts are a "very important cultural signal" as Britain seeks to match the work ethic of Asian and American countries.