We are often told that if we vote for the Conservatives we will get strong and stable government. Indeed they made that their lead slogan in one of the recent general elections.
How has that been working out for you? In 2022 there were three different prime ministers and 147 ministers or ministerial aides got the sack or resigned in a single year. A new record. In education they had managed five ministers by September when Kit Malthouse got the job. He lasted until October. How was anyone supposed to know who was in charge or what policies the department was following this week?
Whilst chaotic infighting ran rampant the economy went to the dogs. The things that ordinary people most notice in their day to day lives are the cost of staying in their home, the amount they have to pay for heating and the cost of their grocery bills. On every one of these indicators the Conservatives have messed up.
The party of unaffordable home ownership
The cost of servicing a mortgage is through the roof. The average tracker mortgage has gone up by over £394 every month in a little over a year. Some of that change is down to worldwide changes in the money markets. A lot of it can be directly traced to the ideological obsessions of Liz Truss. A few weeks of her reckless dash for unfunded growth was enough to panic the international finance markets and send interest rates spiralling upwards.
Private rental costs have also ballooned and the average cost of a private rental is now £1,199 every month. If you can find somewhere. If you haven’t been ejected without any good reason because the landlord thinks they can get more from a new tenant. No fault evictions are up by 76%. The Conservative theorists tell us that a lightly regulated rental market benefits everyone as the market responds quickly to need. Reality tells us that blind faith in markets fails the public. A lot of people are being forced to put up with shoddy standards in return for sky high rentals.
The option of good quality social housing simply no longer exists for the vast majority of people who need it. Council houses have been sold off way below market value for three decades because of a Conservative Party obsession with a once popular policy. The consequences have now come home to roost. Or rather there are no affordable homes and no safe and secure roost for a lot of people.
The party of sound money – for some
When it comes to heating and servicing a home the situation is every bit as bad. As I write the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil is $72.54 whist the price of a therm (100 cubic feet) of natural gas is 83.75 British pence, and the world price for a barrel of oil is $82.94. Those prices are pretty much the same as those that existed before Putin’s war began. The price that people are paying for their heating bills isn’t.
Companies that supply oil and gas have been allowed to post record profits whilst customers have faced horrible hikes in their living costs. BP has just announced that it made a profit of $5bn in only three months. The Conservatives failed to control the prices that drove such excessive profits and failed to tax the windfall gains properly but did generously subsidise the power bills of those with large houses and the large incomes that usually go with that. Hard up people who were unable to afford to pre pay their meters got little or no help at all.
The cheapest power is of course the power that you don’t need to use because you have insulated your home well. At the current rate of home insulations Britain’s housing stock will be energy efficient in around 300 years. The consequence of this profligacy with energy is unnecessarily high demand which pushes up prices and contributes to the horrible problem of excessive inflation.
The party of ideology but not pragmatism
The latest figures for inflation reveal that prices for groceries are going up by 17.3% a year. That places a horrible strain on people’s finances. Especially if you are less well-off and more of your income goes on food. Some of the causes of those price rises can be traced to events outside the control of the British government such as the Ukraine war.
Others are directly attributable to an entirely home-grown bit of stupidity called Brexit. Instead of facing up to the possibility that this might be one of the causes and taking steps to try and minimise the damage the Conservatives are ideologically incapable of accepting that there might even be the smallest of problems associated with their pet project. Once again ideological obsession is driving policy not a hard-headed assessment of the best options for the country.
Irresponsible ministers delivering lectures on responsibility
The ordinary people of this country are facing higher housing costs, higher heating bills and higher food prices at the same time as they are being asked to tighten their belts and accept real terms pay reductions. No wonder the country is experiencing the worst wave of strikes since the 1970s.
Most people can understand that there is always a shortage of money and that hard choices have to be made about what to do with it. Few can accept that the best use of those scarce resources was to give expensive pension breaks to wealthy financiers whilst the nurses who saw us through the pandemic are expected to survive on lectures about being responsible.
Covid should have proved to anyone with a fair mind that our NHS nurses are incredibly responsible people. The people who have been truly irresponsible are situated in government and it is way past time that they recognised their ideological obsessions have done serious harm to the nation they claim to care about and the huge majority of the British people want them gone.