Prime Minister Theresa May has apologized to Tory MPs for the humiliating general election result. In order to win back support among voters, she says the Conservatives’ much-hated austerity program will be scrapped.
Since being elected into government in 2010, the Conservative Party has followed a policy of fiscal belt-tightening by way of implementing cuts to welfare services, education and the National Health Service (NHS), and by imposing pay freezes on public sector workers.
Now sources tell the Times that May “accepted that voters’ patience with austerity was at an end.”
“There’s a conversation I particularly remember with a teacher who had voted for me in 2010 and 2015 and said: ‘I understand the need for a pay freeze for a few years to deal with the deficit but you’re now asking for that to go on potentially for 10 or 11 years and that’s too much.’ That is something that Jeremy Corbyn was able to tap into,” May’s newly appointed chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, told the BBC.
Measures to reverse the damage would see the Tories agree to what are currently considered Labour’s economic pledges, a swing that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters see as one of the leader’s great victories of the election.
“This has been brewing over the weekend: Tories, uniformly, have been saying that the manifesto is dead, May is going to have to spend, something to take the fire out of Corbyn’s base. So, this is an achievement. Having converted Labour to an anti-austerity position, Corbyn has now forced it on the Conservative Party,”Corbyn biographer Richard Seymour said.
Figures published last year by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed that 2,380 people had died between 2011 and 2014 after being declared “fit for work” and stripped of their disability welfare payments by the government’s capability assessment.
It is also believed that May’s potential new allies, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), are not fans of Tory austerity. Their manifesto was openly opposed to the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ and was keen to protect welfare support for the elderly, including universal pensioner benefits and the state pension ‘triple lock.’
Not everyone is pleased to see the end of austerity, though. The axman-in-chief, George Osborne, who was David Cameron’s budget-slashing chancellor from 2010 to 2016, has railed against a U-turn in an editorial for his newspaper, the London Evening Standard.
He warned that spending more could damage the Conservatives’ “economic credibility,” weakening May’s position in Brexit negotiations.
“Spending plans don’t have to be set in stone but the government would be advised to maintain the fiscal responsibility that has underpinned Britain’s economic success these last seven years. The government already has enough on its plate. A loss of economic credibility would make those problems a whole lot worse,” Osborne said.
The MP-turned-newspaper editor, who was sacked by May in 2016 when she took power, has plainly enjoyed the PM’s electoral misfortunes.