East Ham MP Stephen Timms claims Tory conference has scared the poor

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- Credit: Archant

I spent a day in Glasgow during the referendum campaign. It was disturbing. Most voters I spoke to wanted to stay in the UK, but I met quite a few who didn’t. The main reason? They didn’t want a Tory Government. One said to me: “Who wants to be part of a country where the next Prime Minister could be Boris Johnson?”

Those fears will have been re-doubled by last week’s Tory Conference. After the 2010 election, the Conservatives promised to eliminate the deficit during this Parliament. In fact, there was hardly any economic growth for three years after the election, and the deficit will only have been halved. So at their Conference they set out ideas for further cuts, including a two year benefit freeze from 2016. Ten million households would be hit, including five million working households claiming tax credits.

Millionaires received a big tax cut when the top income tax rate was reduced earlier this year, but average real wages have fallen £1,600 per year since 2010. The bedroom tax has pushed tens of thousands into rent arrears. Private rents and energy bills are rising fast, and a million people had help from a church-based foodbank in the past year. Most households below the poverty line are now working households. Cutting their income further would make their struggle even harder.

That is why I so welcome ideas set out in Manchester the previous week by Ed Miliband: a steadily rising national minimum wage, to £8 per hour by 2020, so that everyone in work benefits from economic growth; incentives to employers to offer the higher ‘Living Wage’; a freeze on energy bills while we re-organise the energy market to inject real competition; and more house building and longer private tenancies to ease pressure on those renting privately. More from Stephen Timms


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