Tory MP Heidi Allen broke down in tears during Tuesday’s House of Commons debate on Universal Credit after hearing fellow MP, Frank Field, describe the impact of Universal Credit changes on his constituents.
Field’s stories, which included a constituent who he had attempted to persuade not to commit suicide, and another family whose child had cried with hunger, were undoubtedly heart-wrenching. But many have since questioned why, if Heidi Allen is so full of compassion, she is in the Tory party.
A fair question. A recent report by academics at Oxford, Cambridge and University College London, has put the total fatalities owing to the Tories’s austerity politics since 2010 at 120,000 – what they quite rightly refer to as “economic murder”.
But Allen, who was elected as Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire in 2015, puts this down to being a “Compassionate Conservative”. Speaking in an interview earlier this year, Allen states:
I’ve said that from the beginning. It’s outrageous really that somebody who stands up to protect the poor and the vulnerable should not be a Conservative. That is utterly, utterly ridiculous.
We can be economically disciplined but care for people as well.
Compassionate Conservatism was a concept first pushed by David Cameron, who was desperate to modernise the party’s image and move away from its “nasty party” image.
But let’s be clear. The only compassion found in Allen’s voting record, and that of the Tories, is for the interests of super rich.
Allen has consistently voted for reducing the rate of corporation tax, consistently voted for more restrictive regulation of trade union activity, consistently voted against higher taxes on banks, consistently voted against laws to promote equality and human rights, and consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas!
This is what Compassionate Conservatism really amounts to. Fine words, noble sentiments, but, concretely, the same hateful, anti-working class policies that the nasty party has always been known for.
Allen’s maiden speech back in 2015, where she was applauded for “bravely” criticising the Tories’ plans to cut tax credits, epitomises this shallow philosophy. For all her hand-wringing, she could not even bring herself to vote against the proposals, instead voting in favour of economic murder. Her appalling voting record on welfare claimants is on full public view here.
Frank Field – bane of pensioners
This isn’t to let Frank Field off the hook either. Field has played an appalling role in overseeing draconian attacks on living standards. This is hardly surprising since he seems so firmly wedded to the toxic, and now debunked, idea of austerity.
Speaking last year about cuts to pensions, Field explains:
The welfare state is underpinned by an implicit intergenerational contract. Each generation is supported in retirement by their in-work successors. But a combination of factors has sent the balance out of kilter. It is now the working young and their children who face the daunting challenge of getting on in an economy skewed against them.
Homeownership, taken as a given by many in my generation, is out of reach for too many aspiring young people today. At the same time as tightening their belts, they are being asked to support a group that has fared relatively well in recent years.
This “race to the bottom” logic ignores the fact that British pensioners are already among the lowest-paid in western Europe, receiving just 38% of their average wages. This is compared with Holland and Austria where the figure is 90%, and Spain and Italy were pensioners receive 80% of their average wages.
The problem is not that the balance of an “inter-generational contract” having “fallen out of kilter”. The problem is the Tories and their murderous austerity agenda.
But this is not the first time that Field has helped to deflect blame from the Tories either. In 2012 Field, along with his Tory friend Nicholas Soames, issued a report that described immigration as the central problem for our already overstretched services. Predictably, this statement was picked up by The Sun and The Daily Mail as a means for stoking up hatred against immigrants.
Also predictable is Field’s outspoken criticisms of Labour’s socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Even during preparations for the 2017 General Election, at which Corbyn made spectacular gains, Field took every opportunity to publicly undermine Corbyn, even laying out a strategy for a post-election coup.
None of this is surprising when you know something of Frank Fields’s background. Field was a close personal friend of the hated Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and, today, sits on the advisory board for the pro-privatisation think-tank Reform. In 2008, Field was included in the Telegraph’s “Top 100 Right Wing Thinkers”.
Frank Field and Heidi Allen must be condemned for their voting records, but also for seeking to gain political capital from a misery they are both complicit in creating.
Spare us your crocodile tears. Cuts, whether carried out beneath a smile or a sob, amount to the same thing: economic murder.
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