Instead of higher wages, the British public has so far only encountered higher prices. Inflation has mounted faster at no time since 1997, and the rising gasoline prices globally puts additional strain on people’s lives, making energy more expensive than anywhere else in Europe.
While other governments, in Spain and Italy, ensured that families in difficulty were protected against rising costs, the Conservatives did not offer such leniency. Three million British households already live in fuel poverty, forced to choose between heating and eating in winter. After the Conservatives raised the energy price cap in October, that number is expected to rise by half a million.
Mr Johnson nevertheless claims to have put a kinder face on British conservatism. He speaks enthusiastically about “leveling up” and “supercharging” the communities left behind. But the behavior of his government suggests otherwise.
At September 30, he ended a program that compensated people for up to 80% of income lost during the pandemic. And on October 6, the Tories will cut Universal Credit, Britain’s comprehensive welfare program, by £ 20, or $ 27, a week – just when more people depend on it than ever before. The the biggest single discount to the welfare state in British history, it is expected to push an additional half a million people below the poverty line, including 200,000 children. (A new announcement winter hardship fund worth £ 500million, or $ 678million, won’t do much to soften a cut 12 times its size.)
This grim confluence, from fuel shortages to spiraling poverty, has been described by many as a perfect storm. Yet the metaphor erases the active role that the Conservatives – and in particular, the Prime Minister – have played in orchestrating these disturbing conditions. The dreary winter to come is their making.
But Mr Johnson is unlikely to bear the consequences of his actions. His government, resting on a large majority, remains secure. And for him, crises are always opportunities. A shapeshifter master, freed from any sense of responsibility or honesty, he thrives in conditions of adversity. The rest of the country will not have that chance.