Boris Johnson's lack of moral compass means Tories can't find right solutions to cost-of-living crisis – Christine Jardine MP

Being an MP is possibly not good for my blood pressure. Particularly at the moment, and especially with my family history.

Rising inflation, energy bills and taxes are combining to create a real problem for many people (Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Rising inflation, energy bills and taxes are combining to create a real problem for many people (Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Every time I think about the current cost-of-living crisis, I can hear my Mum’s and my Gran’s voices talking about the times when there was no work in Glasgow.

When the shipyards had orders cancelled in the Depression and poverty took hold in the tenements that characterised the city.

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One grandfather was a shipwright carpenter, the other a plumber. Both families would have felt it.

I have a memento from then. A ukulele I am told that my paternal grandfather took with him busking.

The case is a bit battered, but I won’t part with it and not just because it’s a reminder of a time we hope never to see again. It carries so many memories of my childhood.

But because it’s a reminder of what is important in life and what previous generations endured.

Which is why I cannot get my head around the fact that this government is more concerned with its internal civil war than the cost-of-living crisis facing the people they are supposed to serve.

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It is not, as they insisted recently in parliament, coming down the line. It is here and it is now.

We have inflation at its record highest level in the last 10 years, a stealth tax that the government introduced by freezing the tax threshold, and a hike in national insurance, all of which are making a bad situation worse.

And by that I do not mean the ever-mounting series of crises at the centre of a government apparently tone deaf to the clamour from the country. A cabal that appears lacking in essential qualities we should be able to take for granted. Trust. Care. Opportunities.

All of those things a government is supposed to have at its core. They should lead to actions that advance the lives of not only those who put their faith in them but, in some cases more importantly, the people who didn’t.

The questions that people want answered just now are about why this government has not been listening to and acting on what they are calling for.

How they will heat their homes? Feed their children? Keep the lights on? That is what they care about.

In the past, the public, in the main, may not have cared about Westminster in-fighting. Seen it as a frustrating distraction, perhaps. Something which didn’t have any effect on day-to-day life.

It is different just now, however, when the behaviour from your government betrays their lack of any moral compass. When every action seems to prove that they are unaware of what is happening in the country. They are detached from it.

And that is the crux of my frustration. I, my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats and many elsewhere on the opposition benches, see only too clearly every day the issues that our constituents face as a result of the cost-of-living increase, inflation and energy prices going up.

And there is still the economic impact of the pandemic on our local businesses and independent traders, who provide vital income not just to our communities, but to the people who work for them. Selective hearing as well as selective vision, it seems from the Conservatives.

Two years ago the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, promised us that the government would do whatever it took to get us through the crisis.

If he is truly serious, then he has to start addressing not just the problems of business but of the families for whom the crisis is far from over.

What we need now is targeted support for the most vulnerable households for whom soaring gas prices and inflation, at its highest for a decade, will make for a difficult and miserable winter.

They need to protect our elderly from rising costs by uprating their state pensions in line with Bank of England forecasts of six per cent inflation to come.

The Universal Credit boost of £1,000 has to be reinstated to make sure the most vulnerable households have the support that they need to survive.

And the Warm Home Discount should be doubled from £140 to £280 to help people for whom this year’s gas prices are a threat to their well-being and extend it to all those on pension and Universal Credit.

But the Conservative government has also betrayed all of our trust in breaking its manifesto promises on tax, which will add to the burden already falling on those least able to carry it.

So they should end the stealth tax that they introduced by freezing the tax threshold and the hike in national insurance. But how to pay for it all?

That is where a moral compass is useful. That is when a government aware of the burden being carried by those already weighed down would look to those who have benefitted to help.

There are companies, and individuals who have made massive extra profits both from the pandemic, including through government contracts, and the surge in gas prices.

That wealth is what we should be mining with a one-off, short-term windfall tax to ensure that those who have profited use it to help those who have been hit hardest.

It’s not socialism, it’s not an economic revolution, it is simply a way of spreading the burden.

We have all been through the mill and for many of us there is a tough, cold winter ahead.

Hardship is something many previous generations have endured and we need to do what we can to protect this one.

For that, we need our government to remember what is important, lift their heads and look beyond their internal mess.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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