The Tories find the growth of the housing benefit bill over the last 10 years unacceptable. They say it's unfair claimants can live it up in mansions and penthouses while the rest of us struggle to pay the rent or keep up with the mortgage. And they (justifiably) attack the Blair/Brown ancien regime for allowing private landlords to gorge themselves on taxpayers' cash. But the Coalition's solutions - to cap housing benefit and reduce it by 10% for Jobseekers' Allowance claimants on the dole for more than a year - betrays their class instincts.
The Mail, backed with choice quotes from the Quiet Man, says housing benefit cuts means a £10 or £20 shortfall in rents for the low paid and unemployed who depend on them. Far from leading to a social cleansing of London and the South East - something even a buffoon like Boris Johnson recognises - the Tories and their press allies believe the market will adjust and rents will come down. It absolutely isn't an attempt to clear out people who are likely to vote Labour. No siree.
I have a hard time believing the Tories. If they were only interested in getting the housing benefit bill down surely it would make more sense to introduce a rent cap. Administratively it wouldn't be any more complex than the measures they're already seeking to implement. It would quickly adjust the market instead of waiting an age to correct itself. In a snap taxpayers would cease subsidising landlords, and most importantly no one runs the risk of losing a roof over their heads.
This option doesn't even appear to have been considered by the government. That should tell you all you need to know. This is their attempt to do a Shirley under the guise of welfare reform.