The moment on BBC Question Time when the illusion that the Tories give a damn about working people was shattered once and for all

Rare it is when the real world manages to penetrate the cocoon in which our political system and political class exists – which is why when it does it gives us pause to think, really think, about the state of our society and the centrality of politics to it.

On the last episode of BBC Question Time the real world not only penetrated the aforementioned cocoon, it did so with the impact of a Cruise missile.

When the woman in the audience, identifying herself as a Tory voter at the last election, almost broke down in the process of skewering Tory minister Amber Rudd over the government’s scheduled cuts to tax credits, despite promising not to during the election campaign, she articulated the almost sociopathic cruelty of this Tory Government in a way that a mountain of written polemic and speeches never could.

If anybody was still in doubt when it comes to the human wreckage that David Cameron and his crew are intent sowing over the next five years, the pain that was etched on that poor woman’s face as she described the impossible financial predicament she is facing surely clarified the issue once and for all.

This Government has turned its guns on the poorest and most economically vulnerable in our society, intent on rolling over their lives like a juggernaut as it continues with an austerity programme which is not only economically illiterate, it violates every moral principle worth having. While cutting the income threshold above which tax credits end, from £6,420 to £3,850, may in their eyes help to bring the deficit down – which in fact it will not given the knock-on and detrimental impact on demand that will ensue – the human cost involved absolutely negates it. Millions of children living in low income families will have to go without even more than they already are, which in 2015 is nothing less than an indictment.

The idea that the introduction of the National Living Wage will counterbalance its impact on the three million families who will see their annual incomes cut by £1000 is risible. For starters, though it is being introduced in April next year the National Living Wage is being rolled out in incremental stages and the full £9.00 per hour rate will not come fully into force until 2020. Working families will fall through the gap created as a consequence, unable to pay their rent, utility bills, and still put food on the table. It is tantamount to punishing people for the crime of being in low paid employment when low paid employment is all there is.

In the perverse worldview of the likes of George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith, welfare is a measure of how flabby, soft, and morally deficient a given society is, ergo the larger the welfare bill the worse it is for the country and its economy. The truth, however, is the very opposite. Rather than a measure of how flabby, soft and morally deficient a given society is, the welfare system is an indicator of how caring, compassionate, and morally just it is.

In a civilised society the economy is a servant of the needs of the majority of its citizens, while in uncivilised Tory Britain the economy is a tyrant; its primary role not to protect the most vulnerable or those who fall on hard times, but to punish and hound them to the depths of despair.

But even placing to one side for a moment the human and moral aspects, economically these cuts will have the egregious effect of weakening, as mentioned, an already sluggish aggregate demand, thus deepening a crisis of under consumption among the least well off. Businesses will suffer as a consequence, particularly small and local businesses, which means unemployment will increase and economic growth will continue to stagnate.

Here let us be clear. This cut to tax credits, as with the rest of the Government’s austerity programme, has less to do with economics and more to do with an ideological commitment to the interests of the rich and most well off. Key to ensuring their interests are prioritised is cutting public spending in order to pay for the tax cuts that they do not need – for example, the cut to inheritance tax. Just so long as this small and narrow constituency are okay then all is right in Tory wonderland. And for proof that the wealthiest in Britain are doing well under the Tories, just take a look at the Sunday Times Rich List, which came out in April. It revealed that the richest people in Britain have seen their wealth double over the past decade, immediately begging the question: Economic crisis, what economic crisis?

The woman in the Question Time audience, almost reduced to tears with the pain and fear of what the cuts to tax credits will mean for her and her ability to provide for her children, provided us with a long overdue jolt over the human suffering which the Tories are doling out to millions of British families with such insouciance. “Shame on you!” she shouted at Amber Rudd on the panel, causing the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to cast her eyes down in the manner of someone who’d just been exposed for defending the indefensible.

In years to come, when people look back at this period in our history, and mull over the legacy of David Cameron’s government, this short but powerful protest against injustice will tell them everything they need to know.

11 comments on “The moment on BBC Question Time when the illusion that the Tories give a damn about working people was shattered once and for all

  1. jim mclean on said:

    I have always been amazed at the modern Tories ability to pursue programmes that are essentially “class war”. If Labour were to initiate any form of targetted punitive taxes on the middle 30% of our three tier society the MSM would be up in arms.

  2. john Grimshaw on said:

    This is spot on John. I was expecting a reactionary debate on QT given the top table and that it was in Dover but whilst there were Kippers in the audience especially one or two young ones the vast majority were anti-Tory. There at least two activists from my Union one of whom is challenging for Vice President from the left. She said that there were some UKIP people behind her who were being very unpleasant about refugees and immigrants and we’re certainly not on message with Farage’s attempts to make UKIP respectable.

  3. #1 “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” (The German Ideology Part I, Karl Marx)

    It’s just so great to see when these are under serious challenge as they are at the moment, in large part in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory.

  4. Many years ago, a man in India was looking for a safe place to cross a river. Knowing the danger, he did not want to try this out with his young son with him.

    As luck would have it, he met a tiger and the tiger offered to look after his son whilst he found the safest place to cross the river.

    The man gave his son over to the tiger and went off to find the safe crossing place.
    When he came back, the tiger was still there but there was no sign of his son.

    He asked the tiger where his son was and was dismayed when the tiger explained that he had suddenly felt hungry and ate him.

    “I trusted you!” said the man with great anger and sorrow.

    The tiger got really indignant at this and said in response:

    “But you knew I was a tiger when you gave him me to look after!”

  5. Tony,

    I know what you’re getting at here but I disagree.

    Sadly, since QT, there has been too many on the left, Richard Seymour especially springs to mind, who’ve turned their guns on the woman, along the lines of she is getting exactly what she deserved for voting Tory.

    Not everyone who casts a vote for the Tories is irredeemably evil or mendacious, and nor should they be chastised unto death, as some seem to believe.

    Just as you can’t blame a mushroom for growing in the dark, you can’t blame working class people whose class consciousness has been denuded to the point of non existence after three and more decades of Thatcherism. Our culture has been shaped by those decades, as has much of our outlook.

    The Daily Mail, the Murdoch Press, they wield more power over people’s ideas and opinions than we care to admit at times, I think. Her contribution on QT was all the more powerful because she was a Tory voter. Btw a Tory voter and Tory supporter is not automatically the same thing.

    This woman, and thousands like her, is who we need to be recruiting, not critcising for having learned a harsh lesson in the error of their ways.

  6. There are Tories and Tories. Check the wiki for the biography of the Tory minister, Amber Rudd, for an epitome of class privilege. I gather from yesterday’s Guardian that the questioner, I don’t remember her name, is a divorced mother of 4 of modest background, who’d done the entrepreneurial thing and opened a small business, a nail bar, but relies on tax credits to make ends meat. She said yesterday that she’s attracted by Corbyn’s Labour Party but thinks that his anti Trident stance (underlined by becoming CND Vice President today) is wrong.

  7. “Sadly, since QT, there has been too many on the left, Richard Seymour especially springs to mind, who’ve turned their guns on the woman, along the lines of she is getting exactly what she deserved for voting Tory.”

    Yes, it’s clearly a vital task to drag defeat from th e jaws of victory.

  8. sussexlabourleft on said:

    The name of the woman in the BBC TV Question Time audience in Dover who spoke about tax credits was Michelle Dorrell.

    If you have not seen it, this is a brief You Tube recording of Tory Minister Amber Rudd’s remarks and Michelle Dorrell’s heartfelt response:

    This is the Daily Mirror’s report of it:

    The more Tory voting workers and self-employed that can be won over to supporting Labour, through their own anticipated and actual experiences, such as Michelle Dorrell’s one, the more Labour chances of winning marginal Tory held seats can be improved.
    Corbyn and McDonnell need to continue proposing anti-austerity policies, such as promising to reverse the Tory tax credit cut, and build on this potential support for Labour.
    This is a link to a Labour List article on it:


  9. I never said that people deserve their misfortune but I do say that people need to stop and think. David Cameron said he wanted deep cuts in welfare spending but refused to say where such cuts would be made. That should have set alarm bells ringing.

    It is good to see that McDonnell has pledged to reverse the cuts but this should have been sorted before the television interviews. Failure to make such a pledge would have given the Conservatives the confidence to press on with further cuts.

    Politics is about making choices and if Michelle Dorrell wants those cuts reversed then the money has to come from somewhere. Scrapping Trident would go a long way to fill that gap.

  10. #8 Spot on.

    #9 “…that should have set alarm bells ringing.” Why should it?

    The ideas of the political left have become increasingly marginalised in recent years. Frequently we’re just talking to each other and preaching to the converted. When people start to come in our direction we should be welcoming and happy that people other than our own little circle of lefty mates are starting to see the light.

    And on trident, we haven’t even won that argument within the ranks of the labour movement so why not cut this woman a bit of slack ffs mate 🙂

  11. nattyfoc on said:

    Ive no sympathy for this ME FIRST moron lets hope shes bankrupted something she certainly wished on others!