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The national poll carried out for Prospect by YouGov has delivered an astonishing result: 74 per cent of people think that Britain spends too much on welfare and should cut benefits. That represents a revolution in attitudes in just a few decades, never mind in the century since the beginnings of the modern welfare state.

Does that represent a hardening of hearts? Is it a nationwide lurch to the political right? Not really. People are not against the welfare state itself. They clearly regard the principles of the system put in place in 1906, and developed by William Beveridge 70…

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