Gaby Hinsliff writing in last Friday’s Guardian talks of the emotional detachment of frontrunner Liz Truss – widely tipped to be the next Prime Minister. Displaying about as much empathy as a bowl of custard Truss, according to Hinsliff, shows “a curious emotional detachment, or inability to factor into her calculations how things feel to other people, which is only now being exposed”.
I’m not sure I would stop at Truss. The whole Cabinet seems either oblivious or blind to the tsunami that it is about to hit the country.
According to the Child Poverty Action Group by January 2023 over half of households in the UK (15 million) will be in fuel poverty. Their research shows this is not evenly spread ranging from 47.5 per cent in London to 71.7 per cent in Northern Ireland. It will soon affect nearly 90% of single parents with two children or more.
Last week Uswitch, a comparison website for home services, suggested that household energy debt is standing at an all-time high at nearly three times higher than it was in September last year. Drawing on research conducted online by Opinium from 19th to 22nd July 2022, Uswitch estimate that six million households owe an average £206 to providers with a further eight million households having no credit balances at all. That means a staggering 14 million households with no protection from hardship this winter.
On August 26th the energy regulator Ofgem will announce the new price cap due to come into force on October 1st. MoneySavingExpert are predicting a rise of 70% – basing this on the latest prediction from analysts at Cornwall Insight. They estimate that households will be paying £3,359 a year on typical use and that this will rise to £4,266 a year for the three months to March 2023.
To put it into perspective a pensioner with no other financial means will be facing the prospect of seeing 50% of their income going on gas and electricity.
So bad is it that some places are now thinking of not just having food banks but warm banks – places for people to go to give them some respite from freezing. Bristol and Aberdeen already have warm bank measures in place. Other cities will follow.
Factor in inflation – expected to rise further and peak at just over 13% at the back end of this year according to the Bank of England – and you can begin to see the size of the tsunami.
The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates March to May 2022 showed that growth in employees’ average total pay in real terms (adjusted for inflation) over the year fell by 0.9%. Regular pay (excluding any bonuses) fell by 2.8%. Although note professionals such as lawyers or bankers enjoyed double-digit wage rises while people on the lowest incomes were paid annual increases of just 1% in the last year. The CEBR, quoted in the Guardian, describe it as a “tale of two labour markets” where the “highest earners now enjoy annual pay growth of 10%, while lowest earners see just a 1% rise”.
This is the shameful state that Britain is in after 12 years of Tory rule. A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows poverty is deepening in the UK. John Heywood writing for Yorkshire Bylines quotes the Resolution Foundation estimation of a further 1.3 million more people could be pushed into deep poverty over the next year (including 500,000 children).
And the hapless Liz Truss? Her response at the Darlington hustings last week when asked about the cost-of-living crisis was to blame some of the media of trying to “talk our country down”.
If that’s the policy response from the future Prime Minister then God help us all. But in particular, help those currently struggling because their options are narrowing by the day.
Gordon Brown came out fighting telling Sky News he was seeing poverty in his hometown of Fife “that I did not expect to see ever again in my lifetime.” This week he called for the energy price cap to be scrapped writing in the Guardian that “time and tide wait for no one. Neither do crises”.
This is indeed a crisis and we need emergency measures to address it.
Labour has been banging on about this for ages and today stepped up their attacks on the government with some heavyweight cost of living measures. But make no mistake the lack of action is from the Tories NOT Labour. They are the government and they own this mess. The woeful lack of acknowledgement never mind action from this government, and those wishing to lead it, tells you all you need to know. This is the state of Britain in the 21st century and the Tories should be hanging their heads in shame.
I really don’t care if its Truss or if its Sunak who wins the leadership. They are all culpable and should be nowhere near running a sandwich shop never mind a country.
For more on the alternative Labour should present to deal with the tsunami about to hit Britain, see ‘Should we nationalise energy to tackle the cost of living crisis?‘