«You know what some people call us? The nasty party». Those words were spoken by the Prime Minister Theresa May, then her Party's Chairman, at the 2002 Conservative Party Conference. Never has a more true statement been spoken with regards to the Tory Party. They were back in 2002 and still to this day are the Nasty Party. The Chancellor Philip Hammond's budget has demonstrated that truism once again. Strangely for a party that likes to think of itself as the champion of entrepreneurs and small businesses the Conservative Government of Theresa May has been quite happy to clobber the self employed with an annual increase of 240pounds in National Insurance contributions. When Mrs May entered Downing Street back in the summer of 2016 she made great hay out of the fact that her Government would put working people at its heart and strive to help those struggling, or just about managing. Now, many of those who are struggling are self-employed from plumbers and workmen running their own businesses to taxi drivers and other entrepreneurs. I do not understand how taking 240 pounds a year from these people will in any way help them and ease their struggles.
Then, there is the even more egregious issue of the «Death Tax». Probate fees, which concern the administration of a person's death were previously capped at 215 pounds. Now, thanks to the odious Philip Hammond and Mrs May that cap has been removed and death charges could go as high as 20,000 depending on the size of a person's estate. This, in addition, to inheritance tax. It would seem in Tory Britain and the UK of Theresa May one cannot even die without having to pay a charge. What next? A tax on the air we breathe? Philip Hammond is clearly out of his depth. He was the most abysmal Foreign Secretary, an utter light weight and know nothing on the world stage, completely devoid of substance, charisma and style. He was an utterly incongruous and inappropriate choice for Defence and Foreign Secretary having had no academic or professional credentials and experience in the field of international relations. So, for someone who looks stereo-typically like the arch account bean counter you would think he would at least have an intellectual talent for numbers given his lacklustre performance at the MoD and FCO. Yet it would seem from his first budget even he does not possess the required intellectual wherewithal of the more prosaic and dry number crunching Treasury. Or perhaps, like most Tories, he simply does not care.
There is nothing new here. As John Stuart Mill once said of Conservatives: «Not all conservatives are necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives». Britain is now one of the most expensive places to live in in the West. When I tell American friends that sales tax in Britain or «Value» Added Tax is a staggering 20% unlike the roughly 9% in the States, their mouths drop to the floor. How can British people allow themselves to be charged so much tax on goods and services which are needed for day to day life? That is a very good question. Then there is not just the cost of goods and services one purchases on a day to day basis but also the monstrous rental sector where rents are so out of control that they can eat up half a person's monthly wages, perhaps even more. No surprises here it was the Tory Party in the 1960s which abolished rent controls. In addition to the extortionate cost of renting, the mortgage sector is just as bad with home ownership out of reach of many who would like to get on to the proper ladder. Particularly in the south of England and London, unless you are earning in your own right over 100,000 pounds there is simply no real possibility you would be able to afford getting a mortgage unless you had financial help from parents or an inheritance from deceased relatives.
Meanwhile since the Tories returned to power in 2010 they have slashed social security for the most vulnerable to its bare-bones. If you find yourself in the unfortunate and deeply distressing position of being out of work the law states that the Dickensian amount of 70 pounds a week is adequate to live off. 70 pounds a week! Then there is housing benefit which does not cover the full cost of the rent involved. Iain Duncan Smith's bedroom tax was truly vile. As have been the cuts to disability allowances and George Osborne's attempted hatchet job on working families tax credits. The British State pays less than 300 pounds per month to an adult out of work on Job Seekers Allowance and yet pays 300 pounds per day for some of the most wealthy and distinguished people in the country, members of the House of Lords to simply clock in and clock off at their place of work.
The Tories constantly mouth how they are the party of hard working people; committed to helping those working middle class families who are struggling to make ends meet get a better deal. This rhetoric is never-ending and each Tory Party leader plays it over and over again like a cracked record. But the reality of life under the Tories is that it is the Tory Party who targets purposefully working middle class families to balance the national books whilst leaving untouched those who can afford to shoulder the biggest burden of all. Under successive Tory Governments whether they be in the 1980s, 1990s or the current regime Tory policy has deliberately made life more expensive and more difficult for the least well off. State pensions should be worth much more and of higher value today if it had not been for the actions of a Tory Government which broke the link between increases in the state pension and earnings, instead linking pension growth to inflation. There would be no social housing crisis today in England if more social homes had have been allowed to have been built instead of blocked by Tory Governments. VAT was below 9% before the Conservative Government of 1979 set about hiking it higher and higher to the grotesque 20% the Tories raised it to by 2010. The cost of child care in the UK, alongside the cost of transport, food, electricity, oil, petrol, clothes, social activities like going to cinema etc etc. is the most expensive of any country in the West. Yet wages have simply not kept up with this appalling increase in prices and taxes. Ironically, once again it is the Tory Party who professes to be the party of limited taxes, yet the tax burden on each individual in the UK is set to rise to its highest since 1986, another period of time when the Conservatives where in power.
What to make of all of this? Certainly there is a jarring inconsistency between the words of Tory MPs and Ministers and their policy actions. Theresa May, like her Tory predecessors before her, while speaking of making life easier for the many hard working struggling families, is actually doing the exact opposite, making life much, much harder for those people. This is why out of all the major British political parties it is the Conservative Party which is the most untrustworthy and two faced. With the standard and quality of life in Britain continually eroding and decades of poor investment and poor management and planning in public services and national infrastructure coming to the full fore the Conservatives have finessed a strategy of bait and switch resulting in the greatest national displacement activity seen in many decades.
The Tory Government have had two responses for the cause of the reason that the cost of living in Britain is extortionate; that public services such as healthcare, social security and education have not been properly invested in and run over decades; that the property market both rental and mortgage is absurd and out of control; that taxes have risen without commensurate improvement in national infrastructure; that wages have not grown; that public debt is out of control. Rather than taking responsibility and ownership of the incompetence, inefficiency, and short term policy making and thinking alongside the callous indifference of successive (mainly Tory) British Governments of the last four decades; the Conservative Party has decided to tap into the deep seated fear of foreigners that exists in the British psyche and have blamed all the ills of the country on immigrants and the EU. And it has worked. Despite the challenging economic and social situation of life in Britain these days, with over 1 million people needing to rely on food banks, there seems to be an awful lot of very wealthy people unfazed and unaffected by these problems such as the Copeland by election. One thing Theresa May had been clear on despite her track record of lying regarding immigrants and the EU and that is that the Tory Party are most certainly and probably forever will be the Nasty Party.