Do the Tories actually care about poor people?

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January 30, 2015 by Nash Riggins

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When David Cameron moved into Downing Street in 2010, he did so based on a platform of change. He lambasted the previous Labour government for doing little to tackle health inequality, pledged to lessen the country’s poverty divide and promised to create a fairer welfare system.

What we got was a populist war on so-called scroungers and a spare-room subsidy that docks money from terminally ill people for being allocated the wrong-sized flats. Social security rights have been stripped from migrants left, right and centre, and housing allowances for pensioners have shrunk drastically.

Face it: over the last five years, Britain’s social safety net has been reduced to tatters. We’re letting more and more of the country’s most at-risk individuals slip into deprivation. Yet even as food bank parcels continue to fly off the shelves at breakneck speed, we’re still being asked to forgo basic empathy in the name of economic growth.

This week, Mr Cameron announced that the country will be slapped with yet another benefits cap “within days” of a Conservative victory in May’s general election. Better yet, access to housing benefits will be stripped from under-21s post-haste in order to push them out of bed and into work.

Under ordinary circumstances, an attack on poor families and vulnerable young people would be considered political suicide. In 21st century Britain, it’s a sure-fire way to victory. Why?

In times of recession, it’s always easy to point the finger at poor people for not pulling their weight. After all, when everybody’s feeling the pinch, why should we be handing out free money to those that aren’t putting anything back into the system?

The only thing is, that pinch we keep complaining about is long gone.

The British economy has been out of recession for months, and Mr Cameron is on the campaign trail shouting from the rooftops that 1,000 new jobs have materialised each and every day since he was sworn into office. The UK is sitting very pretty next to our scruffy European neighbours – and so one would naturally assume that a vote for the Conservatives in May is a vote for continued financial prosperity.

But if we’re doing so damn well, why can’t we share some of that wealth?

Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t go on benefits because they want to. They’re pushed into the system by a series of intangible, macroeconomic concepts most of us can hardly begin to wrap our heads around. We shouldn’t be punishing people for our own ignorance- we should be trying to lend a helping hand.

David Cameron can preach about his fiscal credentials until the cows come home, but it won’t make a lick of difference to the 20 percent of Brits that are still sitting below the poverty line. We’re giving those people less support than ever, and the government cannot rightly claim both penury and financial sustainability simultaneously.

The Tories might have come into power with vows to improve life for the nation’s poor – but for a lot of people, it seems like things have only gone from bad to worse. If Mr Cameron wants to win the general election in May, he’d better hope none of those people show up to the ballot box.


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