I often think that in politics that there are two ways of dealing with problems. You can either try and predict them, and plan as best you can so that you have a good chance of managing them. Or you can wait until they happen before confronting them and trying your hardest to get them under control.
This Government seems to prefer the latter option. Despite the calls from academics, charities, opposition politicians, voters and their own back benches, this Government is determined to ignore the warnings and the cost-of-living crisis until it becomes totally unmanageable. In Parliament, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated at the lack of awareness of just how bad things are getting for people right across the country.
There is a huge amount of pressure piling up on the people of Stockport. You’ve got energy prices shooting up, fuel and food shortages, rising inflation, and increased National Insurance contribution. All coming at the same time as the end of furlough, the suspension of the triple lock and the slashing of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift (something that will push 500,000 people across the country into poverty overnight).
It is a perilous situation, and the Government must act swiftly to address it. In Stockport, it’s estimated that over 34,000 people are affected by income deprivation, and 25% of children live below the poverty line. Across Greater Manchester that figure is closer to 41%.
Behind each shocking statistic are families and individuals who are terrified about what the future holds and are relying on the Government to help. It’s important to note that income deprivation doesn’t just affect individuals in the present moment, it also heavily impacts the opportunities of families and children for years to come. To put it bluntly – failing to address the cost-of-living crisis now will have long-term effects that scarper the chances of ever effectively ‘levelling-up’.
We are emerging from the worst domestic crisis in the post-war era, and we can get through it, but people in Stockport must be properly supported. A good welfare safety net, an increased minimum wage, fair taxation, and a grown-up conversation about the possibility of nationalising energy companies are just some of the measures the Government must consider if we are to avoid another 1970s-style winter of discontent. Exceptional times call for exceptional governments, and it’s time that ours stepped up to the plate.