Instead of higher wages, the British public has so far only faced higher prices. Inflation is rising faster than at any time since 1997, and rising gas prices globally are putting more pressure on people’s lives, making energy more expensive than anywhere in Europe.
While other governments, in Spain and Italy, had ensured that struggling families were protected from rising costs, conservatives offered no such clemency. Three million families in Britain are already living in “fuel poverty”, choosing between heating and eating in the winter. After the Conservatives raised the cap on energy prices in October, that number is expected to rise by another half a million.
However, Mr Johnson claims to have given British Conservatives a nicer face. He talks with excitement about “upgrading” and “turbocharging” the communities left behind. But his government’s behavior suggests otherwise.
On September 30, it ended a program that compensates people for up to 80 percent of income lost during the pandemic. And on October 6 the Conservatives will cut Universal Credit, Britain’s universal welfare programme, by £20, or $27, a week – just when more people than ever depend on it. The single largest reduction of the welfare state in British history is expected to push an additional half a million people below the poverty line, including 200,000 children. (The newly announced £500 million, or $673 million, Winter Suffering Fund would do little to mitigate a 12-fold cut in size.)
Many have described this dreary confluence, from fuel shortages to mounting poverty, as a “perfect storm.” However, the metaphor erases the active role played by the conservatives – and, in particular, the prime minister – in coordinating these ominous circumstances. The coming gloomy winter of their making.
But Johnson is unlikely to bear the consequences of his actions. His government, based on a large majority, remains secure. For him, crises are always opportunities. A shape-shifter, unburdened by any sense of accountability or honesty, thrives in conditions of adversity. The rest of the country will not be so lucky.