Opinion: ‘Voters are getting tired of cruelty’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Sunday, 17th October 2021, 3:15 pm

If you want to stimulate an economy, give money to the poor. The poor are more likely to spend the money they receive on goods and services; the wealthy are more likely to take any additional money and put it in an account somewhere or invest it.

While that money may be invested, that is a secondary effect; money in the hands of the poor goes directly to firms, and the poor improve their standard of living as a result.

This fact appears to have escaped the Conservative government. They enacted a cut to Universal Credit, even though some of their own MPs are opposed to it. This is a particularly bewildering change given rises in the cost of living, in particular, energy.

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The government’s response is almost Dickensian: they believe that the poor should merely work harder to make up the difference. A sample quote suggested that “there are other ways in which you can go and generate money for your family”. However, many people on Universal Credit are already working. Furthermore, working often incurs costs such as transport: now that petrol prices are skyrocketing, the return on many professions is less than it used to be. It is outrageous to say that one should merely work harder or have fewer children (a suggestion which does nothing to support those already born). Far from levelling up, this government’s policies are pushing everyone down.

Yet, we were treated to a spectacle of indifference at the recent Conservative Party conference.

We are told that sunlit uplands lay ahead. Maybe for a few, but a long, difficult winter looms ahead for most. People will be faced with the choice of “heat or eat” or worse. The idea of a “high wage” economy will remain elusive if those wages are merely the product of inflation. Meanwhile, somehow spin, bluster and nonsense are supposed to be a substitute for a warm home and a full refrigerator.

People voted Conservative for a variety of reasons: I doubt they did it to make their lives and that of their neighbours worse. I don’t think they did it to have the government pump the news full of nonsense while the most vulnerable in society suffer the effects of price rises and cuts to vital benefits. The Conservatives care about headlines: they no doubt will arrange for enough lorries to ensure turkey deliveries for Christmas. But then what?

An era’s theme is often a reaction to what preceded it. People were willing to embrace radical change, like Brexit, because the previous era of austerity had failed to deliver tangible improvements to living standards. Seen in this context, voting for disruption is logical.

We have hit the limits of this era; I see it when I meet constituents in my ward.

They want a government that is conscious, stable and driven by facts. Disruption can easily tip into chaos and misery. We got a taste of it when queues formed at petrol stations. We see continued disorder in the government’s thinking.

The country’s mood is shifting, and it is tired of cruelty, particularly to the poor, as a policy.

Until the day comes for the voters to again have their say, Labour will continue to advocate for policies the country needs: soberly considered, focused on stability, disinterested in headlines and targeted on results. We will do so both in Peterborough and nationally.