“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”
– Adam Smith
If one doubted whether the Conservatives actively despised the young, the unemployed, and the vulnerable in Britain, those doubts were quelled yesterday by a terrifying budget announcement from George Osborne.
Although some hailed the Budget as a success, particularly Osborne's pledge to introduce a £9 Living Wage by 2020, the Chancellor is not a silver-spooned socialist, and the Budget as a whole is anything but progressive.
Indeed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysed Osborne’s Budget and concluded that the Chancellor will actually take more money from the poor than the rich. IFS director Paul Johnson stated that, “Given the array of benefit cuts, it is not surprising that the changes overall are regressive – taking much more from poorer households than richer ones.” A damning verdict indeed considering that Cameron and his MPs seek to shake off the ‘nasty party’ tag, and have done so for some time.
Matching the Tories’ demeaning rhetoric towards those on benefits, hefty cuts were announced to housing benefit and tax credits. Rather than propping up the ‘hardworking people’ mentioned with reckless abandon these days, the Tories will make the lives of those who are actively looking for work miserable.
Osborne’s contempt also seemingly extends towards the young. Indeed, his National Living Wage proposal does not actually kick-in until one reaches the age of 25. Moreover, the abolishment of university maintenance grants will mean that the next generation of students, particularly from poorer backgrounds, will be weighed down by even greater financial burdens (this while the Conservatives brand themselves as the party of ‘social mobility’ and ‘aspiration').
Maintenance grants have helped me during my ongoing university career. I come from a single income family, and have been educated within the state school system. Given that my family was in no position to support me financially, I relied on the grant as well as income from part-time jobs in order to ensure that I could live comfortably at university. For reasons beyond me, Osborne has decided that less affluent students should be punished with more debt, while the privileged pay their way through the Bank of Mum and Dad. Despite some superficial manoeuvring, the Conservatives are as nasty as ever.
For those who are disabled, looking for work, young, in education or on benefits, it’s going to be an incredibly tough five years. With an opposition that is currently divided and weak, I find myself in a rather negative frame of mind about how myself, and countless others, are going to see through the next five years comfortably. This regressive, cruel and unnecessarily bleak budget is personified in one image. The man responsible for pushing many disabled people to the brink, Iain Duncan Smith, punching the air in glee as Osborne’s malignant budget spelled disaster for broad swathes of ordinary Britons.