Why isn’t the UK government doing more to help ordinary people?
Britain is already in the grip of an unprecedented cost of living crisis, and the latest statistics show that more than 3 million UK households – over 13% of the entire population – are already in fuel poverty.
Yet, despite this, the UK government’s response to the global energy price hike has been to ignore successful policies implemented by the likes of France, and simply do the bare minimum – inaction which will leave numerous already financially-strained Brits hundreds of pounds out of pocket, and undoubtedly result in many more being pushed over the edge.
So what on earth are Boris Johnson and his government playing at?
Firstly, in order to understand why certain politicians make the decisions they do, it’s essential to understand the history of the party they represent and the ideology that underpins it.
The Conservative and Unionist Party, to give them their full name, was founded in 1834 as a successor to the Tory Party, during a time in which ordinary people were literally fighting, and winning, to get the vote.
Before this time, only the very rich were allowed a say in who ran the country, and the two main political parties – the Tory Party and the Whigs – only needed to represent the interests of this wealthy elite in order to win votes.
Historically, the Whigs represented the interests of aristocratic families, whilst the Tories represented the interests of the Capitalist class, such as factory owners and landlords.
However, during the early 1800s, ordinary Brits began rising up – they had had enough of the rich literally lording it over them, and fought to force change.
Starting with the Great Reform Act of 1832, Parliament gradually began to allow more and more ordinary people the vote – culminating in the 1928 Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act which finally extended the vote to women.
As the franchise slowly began to widen, both the Tory Party and the Whigs were simultaneously forced to expand and popularise their policies in order to appeal to the interests of these newly enfranchised voters – with the Tories rebranding as the Conservative Party, and the Whigs morphing into the Liberal Party, and later the Liberal Democrats.
However, in 1900, after the franchise had been extended to all men, a newcomer party emerged – a party formed out of the growing Trade Union movement in order to represent the interests of ordinary working people: the Labour Party.
From the 1920s until the modern day, Labour and the Conservatives have essentially become the two “main” parties in the UK – with Labour historically representing the interests of the working class and the lower middle class, and the Conservatives representing the interests of the upper middle-class upwards.
This upper-class focus can almost always be used to explain the policies of the Conservative Party – and Boris Johnson’s choice to largely ignore the least well off who will be hit hardest by the energy price spike, whilst simultaneously protecting the interests of wealthy Energy Company shareholders who will make profit from it, is no different.
In addition to ideology, politics is also about priorities – and, as you may have come to realise over the last few months, Boris Johnson’s number one priority is, and always has been, himself and his own self-preservation.
Over recent months, Boris Johnson has unquestionably enraged, infuriated and exasperated just about every section of the British public.
From his government’s handling of the pandemic, to widespread corruption and cronyism, to his innumerable lies over Party Gate, Johnson’s poll ratings were plummeting so disastrously that he was seemingly on the verge of being ousted by his own backbenchers.
Yet, with Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine now dominating the headlines, the British public are seemingly starting to forget all about Johnson’s incalculable cock ups, and his poll ratings are slowly creeping back up.
However, whilst Johnson is fully aware that public opinion could easily swing against him again very quickly, he has clearly calculated that his government’s lacklustre response to the Energy Bills crisis will suffice enough of the public to see him through, and that any potential backlash would be nothing in comparison to what has gone before it.
If the Energy Bills crisis had the potential to cause anywhere near the kind of political damage to him that Party Gate did, Boris Johnson would unquestionably be prioritising a far better response.
As it is, at this current moment, Johnson feels he’s got enough political capital to prioritise ideology over popularity. However, when people start feeling the pinch, things could easily change, and Johnson could well be forced to take more action.