Just a month has passed since Theresa May's pledge of “creating a fair society” and building “a country that truly works for everyone, not just the privileged few”. Fast forward just a matter of weeks and the doom and gloom reality is that living standards are set to be ‘worse than after financial crisis’ and ‘the worst since the last war’.
Quite the polar opposite then, which mean her negligible words hold little promise for low and middle-income families who are predicated to feel the most pain in the next few years. Averages wages are now set to be lower in 2021 than they were in 2008 after a disastrous decade of Tory rule with the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies slamming the “dreadful” failure to improve living standards as the worst since World War II.
“One cannot stress enough how dreadful that is – more than a decade without real earnings growth. We have certainly not seen a period remotely like it in the last 70 years” Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said.
After the end of World War II, the voters wanted an end to wartime austerity and no return to pre-war economic depression. They wanted change. Well, it seems change is upon us; just not as we would wish. Weaker outlook for wages and looming benefit cuts are set to leave the poorest third likely to see incomes drop, all because the government insists on pressing ahead with welfare cuts in an attempt to close the budget deficit as soon as possible. Hardly a ringing endorsement of The Rt Hon Theresa May’s own words?!
Chancellor Philip Hammond admitted in his Autumn Statement that there would be “some pressure” on family finances and cautioned that he was preparing for the danger things could be worse. Asked about debt spiralling towards a record £2 trillion, Mr Hammond said: “It’s not out of control, it’s larger than we would like it to be” adding it would now take “a couple of years longer to get to budget balance”.
Mr Hammond's promise to balance the books "as soon as possible" in the next parliament was "rather woolly" said the IFS boss.
So, it’s ok for the Government to tell their voting public to balance their own books when it comes to money, save rather than spend and to criticise those who need to borrow just to make ends meet. Shameful that they give little in the way of empathy when it comes down to the stark reality of what being in a difficult financial position actually means?
No wonder Mr Hammond can keep a straight face in the knowledge he is now expected to borrow a staggering £122 billion more over five years saying, “To me it makes sense…. to build a little bit of a reserve so that if there is a slowdown next year, we’ve got enough capacity to support the economy….to ensure that the economy can get through any headwinds it encounters."
Funnily enough, the same logic is applied by those who borrow money just to live – it makes sense to them and they want a reserve that gives them some support!
So, we wonder which motivational propaganda poster will be rolled out to keep the masses in check as inspirational thought to boost our morale; “Keep Calm and Carry On” ironically produced by the British government in preparation for the Second World War or the American version "We Can Do It!"? Or maybe those struggling financially will be inspired by thoughts of thrift and live off wartime classics such a mock turkey, Spam fritters and Lord Woolton pie.