Rishi Sunak and Liz-Truss. File
Jess Phillips, The Independent
It’s been a funny week in Birmingham. It started with the climax of the Commonwealth Games. The sun shone and royals, dignitaries, athletes and volunteers danced along with rock and pop royalty. Hearing our voices and seeing our streets on national TV in a carnival of pride and excellence was intoxicating. We felt as if anything was possible, the future was bright.
As always though there is a tale of two cities. Away from the fanfare, as the week ran its course the news broke that for people already feeling much more than just a pinch, energy bills will rise to over £4,000 a year. The confidence shot in the arm that the Games gave us was going to need a booster programme fast.
Immediately, terrified constituents were getting in touch. We were no longer talking to them about different schemes available and giving them energy-saving advice. Now, people are saying they simply can’t pay. It’s not that my constituents are joining in droves the resistance campaigns to refuse to pay bills, but there isn’t a choice when you just can’t afford it. Everyone is scared of debt. People know only too well how it can spiral once you miss a payment. Even before this calamity, every week I was fighting off bailiffs from people whose initial infraction was less than £20.
This week has shown me that no one is safe from this crisis. My constituents are no strangers to setting up food banks and handing out nappies, or buying kids hot meals. I hate that this has become standard in huge swathes of our country. When did we all get so used to the idea of abject poverty?
One constituent wrote to me this week: “With the rise in expenses it’s a matter of time before working families like mine are going to struggle in a major way. So far I haven’t been able to save anything since the last cost rise and am now spending what I had put aside for a house deposit just to continue to live.” Another wrote, “I no longer use the heating, it’s too expensive. The cost of filling up the car has gone up to the point that now I rarely go out. How will I cope when the winter comes?”
Meanwhile in the alternative universe of a Cheltenham conference room and various right-wing TV studios, we have Liz Truss wittering on about how she is against windfall tax on the soaring profits of gas and oil companies. She says it is anti-business to expect those who could afford to put a gold boiler in every room of their homes to share that wealth with their struggling customers. I wonder if Liz Truss is clever enough to realise that profits come from customers and when they are using their savings to buy pasta, that too might not be very good for business. And we simply can’t wait for emergency Budgets only when they are convenient for the Tory party — people are terrified and struggling now.
Throughout this growing crisis, the Labour Party has led the way in all of the changes and then watched as the government slowly cottoned on to reality. It was right to call for a windfall tax to help with bills and it was right to demand that VAT be waived. And it is absolutely right that the Labour Party in office would get rid of this country’s historic negligence of poorer people.
As this crisis has ramped up over the last year, the Labour Party called again and again for more to be done. We are now at a point where only big bold ideas, bravery and courage to weather the storm will do. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are not even on the field — and the country knows it.