It is nice to hear Sir John Major’s criticism of his party’s handling of Universal Credit – but doesn’t it strike you as cynical that he is being heard saying it now?
It is as though the Conservative Party is staging a set-piece – here’s a grandee of the party, a former prime minister no less, calling on the current regime to be less “unforgiving” to the less-fortunate.
And we’re supposed to believe that Theresa May and David Gauke will listen.
The idea, one imagines, is that we’ll only notice they haven’t done anything a few months – and a few more thousand deaths – down the line.
Sir John Major has branded the Tories’ flagship welfare reform “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.
More than a dozen Tory MPs have urged ministers to pause the roll-out of the policy amid concerns that claimants could face delays in receiving money.
And Dame Louise Casey, the ex-head of the government’s troubled families team, warned it was like “jumping over a cliff” for people with no spare money.
Government figures show 23 per cent of new claimants do not receive their first full payment within six weeks, which has been linked to rent arrears and other debts for claimants.
A report reveals that among Universal Credit claimants who pay rent, 41 per cent are in arrears, with 82 per cent saying it is for the first time.
The study, carried out for the Department for Work and Pensions and revealed by the Sunday People, also shows large numbers are forced to borrow, with seven per cent turning to doorstep lenders and five per cent taking payday loans.
Almost 30 per cent rely on a loan from family and friends.
Calling for a review, Sir John wrote in the Mail on Sunday that though the overhaul is “theoretically impeccable”, it is “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving.
“It is time for the Conservative Party to show its heart again, which is all too often concealed by its financial prudence. We are not living in normal times and must challenge innate Conservative caution”.
This Writer would very much like to see a Venn diagram showing how the percentages mentioned above intersect. How many people are in all the categories mentioned?
While the very poor are being forced to depend on loan sharks who charge huge interest rates, Sir John has been encouraging the government to take advantage of the very low rates available to it, to get the UK back on a firmer footing.
Sir John suggested that the Government could take advantage of low borrowing costs to fund investment in the country’s future.
“We must persuade the Treasury that – while the cost of long-term borrowing is low – there is an opportunity to vastly accelerate public development of infrastructure and, in particular, housing.
“Useful initiatives have been announced but we need to go further. if this increases public debt we should – and could – accept that (as I believe the markets will) provided annual revenue expenditure is kept under control.”
Doesn’t this demonstrate the madness of the Conservative government’s behaviour? The government of the UK won’t borrow, at historically low interest rates, for the good of the nation, but is instead forcing its most vulnerable citizens into debt and despair at the hands of the heartless.
Sir John’s appeal for the Tories to show their own heart only highlights the fact that his party only displays any kind of compassion at all when its members are desperate to cling on to power and think they might lose it.
For the official line on Universal Credit and its contribution to the UN’s decision that the UK is guilty of grave and systematic violations of the human rights of claimants (in particular, people with disabilities), here’s David Gauke running away from Steve Topple of The Canary.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has asked when – in the light of the latest developments, the government is going to act.
Now Sir John Major is calling for a rethink on universal credit, "messy, socially unfair & unforgiving". When will the Govt act?#Marr
— Debbie Abrahams (@Debbie_abrahams) October 8, 2017
I think we can all answer that question for her: NEVER.
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