A Bad day to be Poor in Britain

It is a bad day to be poor in Britain.

The last five years will seem like a cake walk compared with what is to come. With a Conservative Party unhindered by the - at times no more than symbolic - shackles of coalition, this will be a country where those with the least will be forced to give up an ever increasing share of what they have to get by in the name of fiscal rectitude.

George Osborne will bring a new zeal when making the £12 billion cut to the welfare budget. Going on past performance, it wouldn't be a surprise if he goes further under the guise of rewarding “hard work.”

All while non-domiciled rich folk are allowed to go on concealing their real wealth, while cutting taxes, selling off public housing and allowing an ever greater share of inherited wealth to go untaxed. If the very rich doubled their wealth in the last decade, the next five years are unlikely to see anything that leans against that.

We haven’t yet properly recovered from economic heart attack induced by the financial crisis and we are about to enter a cyclical slowdown that will put more pressure on the government’s finances. Watch Osborne “share the burden” rather than allow those who can, to shoulder most of the cost. As he did in the last five years, he will dress up those very political choices as economically inevitable and he will attack his opponents for being reckless with money.

THOSE WITH THE LEAST WILL BE FORCED TO GIVE UP AN EVER INCREASING SHARE OF WHAT THEY HAVE IN THE NAME OF FISCAL RECTITUDEBy 2020, Britain will be a country where the state is the smallest since the 1930s. That means less public money to help those who need it the most. We’ve had £49 billion of cuts to budgets and there’s another £51 billion to go, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

David Cameron and Osborne wouldn’t dream of making up some of the shortfall with more taxation. They don’t need to because they now have a mandate to cut (it’s worth remembering that they didn’t last time and still got away with it.)

Almost 15 million people have voted for the Conservatives or UKIP, mostly in England’s shires and market towns and this seems to be the country that they want. They chose a smaller state with fewer benefits over one that aims to provide a safety net for the worse off. They see people on benefits as scroungers even when a large share of benefits go to top up low wages.

Then there is the question of the UK’s place in the world - and possibly the existence of the UK. Much uncertainty surrounds the extent to which Cameron will appease the Scottish National Party’s separatism with greater fiscal autonomy. Even more uncertainty is set to come from the referendum that the Prime Minister has promised on Britain’s relation with the European Union.

Whether that many people truly share those values or whether much of their vote came from fear of a Scottish takeover of England may never be known. Osborne convinced these voters that the financial crisis in the United States and continental Europe was caused by Gordon Brown. Many in his party and in UKIP will want him to now convince them that leaving the EU is in the UK’s interest.

For all of those voters who backed the Tories and UKIP, there are almost as many who backed Labour, the SNP, LibDems and Greens. Many are Scotland, more are in London and the other big English cities. They will need to regroup pretty quickly if the five years that follow the next elections aren’t to be just as brutal for the very poorest in the land.

Cameron said in his victory speech that the UK is “on the brink of something special” and it was a remarkable win for his party. His challenge now will be to hold the country together, not just for English and Scots, but for rich and for poor and for everyone in between.

On past performance, it's going to take something very special indeed.

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Disclaimer is a group of writers, journalists, and artists who have been brought together by their desire to tackle serious issues with a light and humorous touch. A mixture of idealists and pragmatists, Disclaimer is socially very liberal, economically less so. The editorial stance is formed collectively, based on the shared values of the magazine. Gonzalo Viña founded Disclaimer with the help of Phil Thornton who oversees the economics coverage. Graham Kirby is the editor.

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