It is a funny thing to want the Conservative government to do better and be more popular. It is not something that sits particularly easily with me for obvious reasons. I found it annoying when Rishi Sunak’s name and face appeared on menus in my local restaurants during the “eat out to help out” scheme, so I don’t find myself rooting for them very often.
However, this week I find myself feeling so scared for the welfare of my constituents, I have no choice but to hope for something better from the government. My constituents are about to be hit with the worst drop in their living standards in their whole life. For some places this will mean a bit of belt tightening, for some it will cause worry and concern.
But for many of the people I represent – who were already teetering on the edge of cliff with their gas and electric bills soaring as their take home pay falls – this will be the final nudge over.
Bleak Friday has arrived. For my family it came extremely at the end of an bleak week. My beautiful, funny, kind mother-in-law Diana died very suddenly the preceding Friday. We have been in heartbreaking shock and grief. She was a WASPI woman who was promised her pension de ella, and then was left high and dry by the government; who – without time for her to plan her finances de ella – whipped away what she was owed.
She had already suffered financial hardship. She had only recently in fact been able to access her state pension – years after she should have had it.
I guess for many, the changes made because of an aging population mean a considerable saving for Sunak and his treasury. And by “some people” I mean poorer, working class people – because, you see, they tend to die younger.
In our private moments of grief and shock, as my husband and father-in-law were still in the hospital following Diana’s passing, they had a conversation about how my lovely father-in-law was going to be able to afford to live without her. Days after someone has died, you shouldn’t be sitting around worrying about electricity bills and food costs.
My parents-in-law weren’t particularly hard up. They had worked all their lives, raised their kids, went on occasional foreign trips, had one car, lived in an average home. I frequently obsess about constituents of mine who have so much less than they had. I fill in hundreds of food-bank forms every month; pack up clothes and necessities for homeless families living in temporary accommodation. I’m used to life at the hardest end.
I am not so used to the fear and worry and inevitable hardship that is now going to face all of the average, not-well-off-not-poor people like my in-laws, in my constitution.
The pensioners who have studiously budgeted, their lives will be thrown into chaos. The ordinary families living in 1930s semis who send me their new energy bills every day, while their take-home pay falls because of Sunak’s taxes – and their council tax increases, and their petroleum costs spiral. This, before they have even dealt with their food costs.
I think of all the recently-bereaved who are now not just sad, but worried about how they will pay their bills. I think of all the victims of domestic abuse, who simply cannot afford to escape – because how on earth will they be able to keep their children warm and fed on their own?
I think of all the businesses worrying about how the spiraling cost of energy means they will have to cut jobs, increase their prices and lose customers.
I think about all of this happening – all at once – and the government offering people tax hikes, energy loans to pensioners who are terrified of debt, and a £150 one-off relief payment to people who will have spent it all on just one month of electricity, before they have bought a single meal.
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The government has not met the cost of living crisis with anywhere near the urgency it needed to. Labour’s plans on energy prices would have given £600 quid to every home and relief for businesses – and it would have been paid for by a windfall on the oil companies who are not sitting around today, worrying about how to pay the bills. They are counting the profits of some very good years.
£600 would have been a massive help to my father-in-law, and a massive help to all the poorest families and all the average families in my constituency. £600 would have been a lifeline.
From today I will spend some more time with my family and other families in my constitution. We will rifle through paper bills, and sit on hold to energy companies. Sunak will, no doubt, at some time soon be able to sit in his second home in California by a lovely calm pool, while the rest of us brace ourselves for a tsunami. Cheers.