Religious leaders have urged the Government to think again about a bizarre “two-child rule” which is set to tip thousands of families into poverty.
It’s a good example of a failing the Conservatives have exhibited since they took power in 2010 - a tendency to mess around with the benefits system without thinking through the consequences for the people affected.
Families are only going to get Child Tax Credit, or the equivalent payment in Universal Credit, for the first two children they have.
And you can see what the Government is trying to do.
Many people limit themselves to having a family they can actually afford. They may find it annoying to watch another family produce more children, and then simply claim more cash from the benefits office.
But the reality is that families who depend on benefits to get by are not living in luxury. Their Child Tax Credit payments don’t let them buy a mansion to live in, and axing the payments won’t make the rest of us rich.
Some families with three or more children find themselves claiming benefits after their incomes fall unexpectedly, due to a parent dying, or losing their job or becoming disabled. That could happen to any of us.
What’s more, there are families where parents work extremely hard but just don’t earn a lot.
The change is expected to mean an extra 200,000 children grow up in poverty. So it really is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It will do more harm than good.
Religious leaders have written a letter warning: “It is a grave concern that there are likely to be mothers who will face an invidious choice between poverty and terminating an unplanned pregnancy.”
They include the Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, along with the Bishops of Coventry, Lichfield, Worcester, Aston and others. The letter was also signed by representatives of the Methodist church as well as Muslim and Jewish leaders.
It’s good to see religious leaders uniting and taking a stand. And they’re right.
But Tories should also pay attention for selfish reasons.
A lot of people are excited about the direction Jeremy Corbyn has taken the Labour Party. The UK has the opportunity to vote for an unambiguously socialist party with a real chance of forming a government.
It also means there is a gap in the centre ground. Labour is no longer attempting to appeal to the type of voters who liked Tony Blair (as far as I can see, many of Mr Corbyn’s supporters take pride in disowning the governments led by Mr Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown).
Conservatives should see this as an opportunity. They should be trying to appeal to “moderate” or “centre-ground” voters, who currently have nowhere to call home.
It wouldn’t guarantee winning the next election. Maybe the country wants the type of radical left-wing politics that Mr Corbyn offers.
But there are centre-ground votes up for grabs. Conservatives won’t get them by attacking the poor.