Gordon Brown: ‘Poverty will be higher under May than Thatcher’

Former Prime Minster Gordon Brown used a speech in Kirkcaldy to warn against rising child poverty rates under the Conservatives. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Former Prime Minster Gordon Brown used a speech in Kirkcaldy to warn against rising child poverty rates under the Conservatives. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

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Levels of poverty will be higher in the UK under Theresa May than they were under Margaret Thatcher, Gordon Brown has said.

The former prime minister accused the Tories and the SNP of putting their “dogmatic positions” over tackling poverty and inequality.

In a campaign speech in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in which he made no mention of Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Brown said voters were caught between the “extremes” of the two parties when social justice should be the key issue of the General Election.

He highlighted “shocking” forecasts from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggesting that a record 15.7 million British citizens will be in poverty by 2022, with five million children affected.

Mr Brown said: “That is more poverty than even under Mrs Thatcher. Mrs May’s Britain will have more poverty and inequality than even the poverty we saw in the Thatcher/Major years.

“She says she wants to unite the country, she will create a country that is more divided economically and more socially polarised than at any time in our history in the last 50 years.”

Mr Brown said the same projections suggest the total number of Scots in poverty will reach 1,200,000 in the next five years, with 320,000 children impacted.

He accused the nationalists of taking “no action” and pursuing “the same policy as the Tories” on issues such as topping up child benefit, child tax credits and pension benefits.

He said: “The SNP like to lecture others about moral responsibility where it is issues over which they’ve got no control. It’s time they accepted moral responsibility for concerns or problems over which they have control.

“When they have the power they refuse to act, they refuse to take responsibility, they simply want to blame someone else.

“It’s an obsession with independence that prevents them taking the action that is necessary to deal with the issues that concern the everyday lives of people in Scotland.”

The former prime minister argued that the SNP were “the same as the Tories” and had “failed” to deal with education, health and the economy.

“Here we are, two extremes at this election. We’ve got a Conservative party that’s obsessed about Europe and forgets about the needs and aspirations of the Scottish people.

“We’ve got a Scottish National Party that’s obsessed about independence and not taking into concern the direct needs and aspirations of the Scottish people.

“We have these two extremes and these two parties that think their unwillingness to compromise and holding fast to their dogmatic positions, I would call them, is their unique selling point to the Scottish people.”

In a nod to Labour’s current poll ratings, he said: “Politics goes in cycles. You can be up one minute and down the next.

“You can be the darlings of the media one day and the very same media are calling you the enemies of the people the next day.

“You can be up, you can be down but you know the testing time is when things are difficult, the testing time is when things are challenging and that’s the time when we can show what we can actually believe in and what really matters.”

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