economy, society, UK Politics

Working poor, poverty and strikes: work doesn’t pay like the Tories say


Beside controversial cuts, if there is one major economic policy that Chancellor George Osborne can be credited with, it is his view that work should be rewarding, lifting British people out of poverty. Aiming to reduce deprivation and boost the skills of individuals, the Chancellor and myriad other Conservatives have placed the creation of a successful workforce as key to economic rejuvenation. But many people are being failed, the Tories forgetting their core principles of supporting those who work the hardest. Economic hardship is still commonplace, but the livelihoods of ordinary workers are being pushed into the background.

It would be unfair to suggest that the government hasn’t attempted to tackle the issues of widespread unemployment on a national scale. Since David Cameron’s 2010 General Election campaign, by playing to the failings of Brown’s Labour government the Tories have been hot on the heels of those who receive endless cash hand-outs, favouring work as a way out of poverty. Overall, unemployment has fallen, and despite warnings of an inevitable slowdown in coming months, the national economy has markedly improved from its position after the 2008 recession.

I’m sure that even the most politically unengaged would recall one of British politics’ most defining slogans of the past six years – the ‘long-term economic plan.’ The repetition of this phrase in every context imaginable leaves your ears ringing. It is clear that the Chancellor and his Conservative comrades believe in a strong national economy for international success. Britain is currently the ninth largest economy in the whole of Europe, and has unquestionably been one of the fastest growing in the West. And the more macroeconomic focus of this Tory party economic plan does make sense, to an extent. A stable and powerful national economy has been proven to cement a nation’s politics and safeguard its citizens.

But the Tories’ focus on the national economy as a whole seems to be creating more harm than good for some. Their strategy has a profound flaw. Many continue to wade in financial strife. Just because big business receives a boost does not mean that a similar effect will be felt by ordinary people in a ‘trickle-down’ effect. Despite reports of national economic success, the ordinary British citizen is being left out of the picture. For some, incomes may be growing, and livelihoods becoming more sustainable. But national economic success is still not translating into success for all.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that Britain’s steady economic rejuvenation is not completely aiding the average voter. The rate of working poor households in Britain is still high, with a 70% increase in London alone over the past 10 years. Further to this, the Guardian last week reported that 1 in 3 people across the nation have experienced poverty in recent years. Still, budget cuts are damaging public sector job opportunities, and departments progressing slowly, gravely underfunded. Past months have even seen several appeals from police forces for volunteers in order to keep our streets safe. Strikes have continued to spring up all over the nation, most notably with those of the junior doctors, but also with those of public transport workers and teachers. The lack of affordable housing across the country, with a focus only on mortgages instead of rentable social housing, further accentuates the problems that many Britons face.

Perhaps on blueprints and when praised in IMF reports, the economic welfare of Britain is increasing quickly and the country is becoming sustainable. This is, of course, a fundamentally good thing. The largest problem is, however, that the government is failing to make sure that every citizen feels long-lasting effects.

Public discontentment with the Tories’ economic plan is growing and Osborne’s strategies must be questioned. Maybe Iain Duncan Smith was right, who vehemently condemned the government approach, forgetting ordinary Brits and instead looking too much to maximising the national economy. This week, polls have shown that public approval of the Conservative party’s economic plan has plummeted over the past twelve months. This was only emphasised further by large-scale public and parliamentary rejection of George Osborne’s budget just over a month ago. If British people are failing to make enough money in acceptable jobs, if public services are making pleas for volunteers, if poverty is a slippery slope to an inescapable pit, and if measly wage rates are provoking strikes, the message is clear. Work does not pay, and the Tories are failing.

The Conservative party is thus failing to aid the ordinary people whom it once claimed to wholeheartedly support. The stalwarts of our population, whom were at the heart of its campaign six years ago, are fast becoming insignificant. The Tory economic strategy is now less about the lives of ordinary people – a problem that has already seen the party sacrifice cabinet ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith, and will continue to diminish its backbench support, crucial with a small majority. As the core principles of the Conservative party are coming into question, the Tories’ lack of attention towards those who truly work the hardest is showing.