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Anne Marie Waters
Tuesday 1st June 2021
It’s not news that there was a significant shift towards the Conservatives at the recent local elections in England. Much of this can be attributed to what the public sees as a strong and robust response to the coronavirus pandemic. The furlough scheme and vaccinations in particular are viewed by millions as the best possible reaction by the government. Added to this was the nightly coverage the government received by the media. It was a great coup for the Tories. However, what is not so much on the public’s mind – it seems – is the tax increase that is coming, and what this will mean for their pockets as the economy is squeezed when the furlough scheme ends in September.
A further reason that the Tories did so well is the floundering of Labour. Many British people are becoming poorer and poorer; many of those live in Labour controlled areas and see the Tories as a chance for change. Labour’s famous “red wall” (the parts of northern England that have been safe Labour seats for generations) is collapsing. The Tories took some of these seats in the general election of 2019, and repeated this in 2021 by taking the long time Labour controlled seat of Hartlepool in a Parliamentary by-election held on the same day as the locals. There is genuine poverty in Hartlepool and it’s highly probable that many thought the Tories could (and would) tackle it.
According to a report in the Big Issue magazine, 14.5 million people in Britain were living in poverty prior to the coronavirus crisis. This rose by around 700,000 as a result of the pandemic and its fallout.
The report also claims that 1 in 6 working households are living in poverty. In other words, people are going to work, but still can’t make ends meet. It’s not solely an issue of unemployment. To make things worse, rents have increased by an incredible 48% in the last 25 years. I have written about the causes of this housing crisis (or perhaps more accurately, population crisis) here.
The food charity Sustain UK claims that 8.4 million people in the UK live in ‘food poverty’ and this has increased during the pandemic. Trussell Trust, the largest food bank network in the country, gave out almost 50% more food parcels in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period the previous year. In fact, in the UK at present, there are more food banks than there are branches of McDonalds!
Furlough scheme or not, vaccines or not, this is not a strong economy and the Tories are every bit as responsible for it as Labour. Disillusioned Labour voters are now increasingly putting their trust in the Conservatives, and they will be disappointed to say the least.
In Hartlepool, the dramatic shift to Conservatives won’t change the situation of the poorest in this town; a town where 1/3 children live in ‘low income’ families and with the third worst record for child poverty in the North East. High levels of poverty create a higher level of dependency on state help, much of which is placed on the shoulders of local authorities. To take Hartlepool as an example, its funding from central government (a Conservative government) has been cut by 2/3 since 2010 when the Tories took control centrally. In order to make up this short-fall, and provide the support needed for those in poverty, local council taxes have risen and will continue to – making yet more people poorer.
This situation is by no means exclusive to Hartlepool. It is repeated in every part of the country.
In his 2021 budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the highest tax increases for 28 years. These tax hikes will come when everyone can least afford them – as we try to recover from economic catastrophe as a result of the Tory government’s “lockdown” response to the pandemic.
While all of this takes place, immigration continues to soar – 363,000 new people arrived here in 2020. Illegal immigration also continues to soar, with 100s entering through southern ports every week. These illegal migrants are being escorted in to the UK by our so-called Border Force, and are being housed in hotels while British people are struggling to put food in their mouths.
This is all happening under a Conservative government.
It’s obvious why people want change, but sadly, switching from Labour to Conservative won’t deliver it. These two parties have held power in Britain for as long as any of us have been alive, and the poverty, the injustice, the sheer mismanagement hasn’t changed in all that time.
It’s also obvious what is genuinely needed; an understanding that these parties are not the answer, and under their leadership, the UK will continue to sink further and further in to ever greater poverty. All of the available evidence confirms this to be the case.
Anne Marie Waters
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